Adam McKay revealed that his decision to cast John C. Reilly in a project that Will Ferrell was originally set to play a part in may have irrevocably damaged their friendship for good. McKay and Ferrell are the creative minds behind some of the most enduring hits of the 2000s such as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers and many more. They went on to co-found Gloria Sanchez Productions. However, in April of 2019, it was announced by Deadline that the duo had decided to go their separate ways and were splitting up the company.
In October, Will Ferrell told The Hollywood Reporter that the reason for the split after 25 years of working together had to do with the fact that their careers were going in separate directions. While the former Saturday Night Live star wanted to just work on creative projects he was interested in, he said Adam McKay had a bigger Hollywood appetite, wanting to expand the company by attaching his name as a producer to as many projects as possible.
Will Ferrell’s reason for the split sounded simple and amicable, as well as much more in line with their initial statement declaring that they remain friends. However, a new interview that Adam McKay did with Vanity Fair makes it seem like there was something much more personal at work. McKay told the outlet that he worked behind his friend’s back to cast John C. Reilly in a role in the upcoming drama series about the 1980s-era Los Angeles Lakers that Ferrell was previously set to play. Specifically, Will Ferrell was going to play team owner Jerry Buss, despite not looking a whole lot like the real-life man. McKay stated that he and others involved in the production believed that Will Ferrell would do a terrific job, but every other piece of casting had an eye toward hyper-realism that the comedic actor simply didn’t match.
The change was made, but Will Ferrell didn’t hear about it through Adam McKay like he should have. McKay lamented that instead Reilly was the first to tell their mutual friend he’d been bumped. McKay stopped short of blaming Reilly for speaking out of turn, noting that the reason he spoke with Will Ferrell is that he’s a “stand-up guy.” Instead, McKay blames himself for not doing the polite thing rather than going behind the back of his friend and collaborator of many years.
Adam McKay concluded his thoughts on the matter on a grim note, stating that the last conversation he had with Will Ferrell was over the phone. They basically discussed their creative breakup and confirmed that they would indeed end their production company. Will Ferrell reportedly said something to the effect of “have a nice life.” McKay thought that they would reconnect pretty soon after and laugh the whole experience off, but they haven’t spoken since. He says Will Ferrell has rebuffed some of his attempts to get in touch, but noted that he too still has some axes to grind when it comes to his former creative and business partner.