For the better part of the current century, Don’t Look Up director Adam McKay and multi-hyphenate comedian Will Ferrell came part and parcel, co-writing such contemporary favorites as Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and The Other Guys. In 2019, however, the two released a joint statement explaining that while they would “always work together creatively and always be friends,” and “recognize we are lucky as hell to end this venture as such,” their production company would split. According to an interview McKay gave to Vanity Fair, however, the two have not stayed in touch since – and it was all because McKay, quote, “fucked up”.
As it turns out, McKay was working on a HBO limited series about the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s, adapted from the book Showtime by Jeff Pearlman. Ferrell, a “huge Lakers fan,” was cast as Jerry Buss, the legendary manager of the team – but his casting was the source of doubt among some of those involved. “Ferrell just doesn’t look like Jerry Buss, and he’s not that vibe of a Jerry Buss,” says McKay in the interview, “And there were some people involved who were like, ‘We love Ferrell, he’s a genius, but we can’t see him doing it.'” Ultimately, John C. Reilly was cast in his place.
McKay “didn’t want to hurt his feelings […] wanted to be respectful,” he says, and so recast the role without telling him first. Reilly, however, did, “because he’s a stand-up guy,” says McKay. They soon announced the production company split, and according to McKay, although he’s reached out via email, he’s yet to hear back from him since. “I fucked up on how I handled that. […] It’s the old thing of keep your side of the street clean. I should have just done everything by the book,” he continues.
Their phone call to discuss the severence of the production company sounds, in McKay‘s words, tremendously frosty:
“I said, ‘Well, I mean, we’re splitting up the company,’ […] And he basically was like, ‘Yeah, we are,’ and basically was like, ‘Have a good life.’ And I’m like, ‘Fuck, Ferrell’s never going to talk to me again.’ So it ended not well.”
Ferrell declined to respond to the Vanity Fair profile, which would hardly suggest that he has warmed back to his old comrade-in-arms. It’s terribly sad to hear that their relationship, once the source of rich creative collaboration, has collapsed in such a sheer way. Keep your friends close, people. And definitely don’t recast them if you’ve asked them to play their heroes.