Producer Adam McKay talks Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, on Blu-ray this week
Writer/Producer/Director Adam McKay is known for his legendary comedy masterworks, such as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Step Brothers and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, so it might surprise you to learn that he and longtime collaborator/producing partner Will Ferrell had a strong hand in ushering the R rated fantasy adventure Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters to the screen. They were there from the beginning, and saw director Tommy Wirkola's version through to the end. What we're left with is one of the funnest, weirdest movies of the year.
If you missed it in theaters, this ruckus tale, which reveals what happened to brother and sister duo Hansel and Gretel after the Gingerbread House incident (hint: they grew up to become Witch Hunters and avenge their parents' death), is finally available on a Rated and Unrated Versions Blu-ray that restores ten full minutes to the theatrical cut starting Tuesday, June 11. It's a movie for people who enjoy fast, fun, exciting popcorn movies. Its escapism at its finest. It's the kind of outing Adam McKay himself wants to partake in on a Friday night. Alone. With just a hotdog and maybe a beer. That's why he made the thing to being with. For himself.
We caught up with the legend to discuss that aspect of the movie, as well as audience's expectations when it comes to releasing new material (especially, and namely, Anchorman: The Legend Continues), and what rests in store for the impending sequel to Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, which is in production now.
Here is our conversation.
Are you still able to sneak into movies with your hotdog? Or have you sanctioned yourself off to the private screening room at home?
Adam McKay: Hey, there is nothing better than watching a movie in a crowded movie theater. Nothing will ever top that. The only problem now that I am forty-five is that my wife is very health conscious. She won't let me get a hot dog or Taco Bell. And I'm old enough to actually agree with her. That's the only fun of it that's been ruined. Usually, we go to the Arc Light, and they have the best popcorn there. So, it's not so bad.
They have some good healthy alternative food choices at the Arc Light. It's not such a bad place to go.
Adam McKay: Yeah. You can semi-navigate that menu. It's not so bad.
I just overheard you talking a little bit Anchorman. We just got off the phone with Mitchell Hurwitz, and its unbelievable the amount of hate and disappointment that people are expressing over Arrested Development Season 4. The original Anchorman was in theaters during the initial run of that show, so just as much time has passed between Old and New Arrested Development, as Anchorman and Anchorman: The Legend Continues. Are you guys prepared for the fact that a legion of 'supposed' fans are just waiting in the wings to be disappointed by, and hate Anchorman: The Legend Continues no matter what it ends up being, or how good it actually is?
Adam McKay: (Laughs) Here's the bottom line. It's the hardest thing to do a sequel to a movie, a TV show, an album, that is beloved. It is the hardest thing in the world to do. Nothing will ever match that initial first meet with whatever project you are talking about. And that's the reason we decided to do this. Will Ferrell and I never wanted to do sequels. We have always said that. We have so many ideas, why would we ever do a sequel? Then at a certain point we realized at the last minute to do a sequel to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Otherwise we'd be too old. It would be really hard. The challenge excited us. We welcome it! We are doing this with the intention of trying to get over that hump. Of the haters. Of the people that say we'll never live up to the first one. We will try. We may not succeed, by the way. That is very possible. But that's why it's intriguing. You look at all of the sequels that have stumbled or had a hard time. There are very few that have succeeded. It's a great challenge for us.
That's what I don't understand right now. The whole Arrested Development thing didn't make sense to me. It was made by an artist. A man with a vision, who delivered on his promise to make something exciting and original. Like you, I don't go into movies to hate them. If I have time to watch a movie, I make sure its something I want to enjoy. I was shocked to see that a lot of these people are incapable of doing that nowadays. It just seemed like people wanted to hate it. You have to know that there is going to be backlash against Anchorman. There's going to be a group of haters who want to hate it, and are going to hate it, and as a visionary, and as an artist, I really hope you never listen to them.
Adam McKay: I think the haters you are talking about are on a webpage, talking in a comment section. I don't think people go to a movie not to like it. Whenever I'm in a movie theater, I am there! I have spent two hours of my time to get there. I am very careful when I go to the movies, because I don't want to see anything I'm not going to like. Because I don't have the time to go. I think comment sections on web pages are a whole different category. They are designed for hate. People thoughtlessly throw it out. It's like a moment of power in print that they get to have. Long ago, I learned never to read the comment section. No good will ever come of it. (Laughs)
Now, that's what I thought. I stayed in my own little bubble watching this fourth season of Arrested Development. I really wanted to see it. I loved it. But then I emerged from my hole, and started reading real reviews. And seeing what people had to say, and I was shocked by what awaited me. I couldn't believe these people had watched the same thing I watched. These commentators that you mention have become the critics. That's what's shocking to me. And disconcerting. Everyone is yelling for something new and original. It gets delivered. But then people are angry and mad, because it's too new. It blew my mind.
Adam McKay: Its kind of true. That's a really interesting discussion. Now you are talking about something...Its consensus culture, that's what you're talking about. That's what the internet is bringing us to. Where everything is voted on. Its not the best review. It's not the five best critics. It's the total of all the critics on Rotten Tomatoes. And that's your review. That's your number. It's the amount of likes you get. Or unfriends. Or un-follows. It becomes this consensus culture. The good news is, I think it always comes out in the wash. I think, "Yeah, okay. Arrested Development may get some haters on this new season they released. In two years, it won't matter." Time always kind of tells what the real quality of something is. You can have something open up, and make a crazy amount of money, and it gets great reviews. Two years later, everyone looks at each other and goes, "What were we thinking?" In that sense, I stopped worrying. With comedy, you don't have to worry about reviews at all. They are almost meaningless. Unless you are getting three percent on Rotten Tomatoes, or one hundred percent, I don't think it means anything with comedy. We don't worry about that so much.
Like The Other Guys...My girlfriend loves that movie so much. You hear terms like Chick Flick, and I don't think those terms apply any more. Because The Other Guys, that's a chick flick now....
Adam McKay: Isn't that weird? I hear a lot of women say they love that movie. I wonder why that is? Maybe it's because of those two characters. One is a first husband, the other is a second husband...Maybe it's that dynamic? The fact that everyone loves Will Ferrell's character. He's so thoughtful. There is a masculine, feminine thing at the core there. Maybe that's part of it. I don't know why, either. I don't think those types of categories apply much any more. You see that with comedies. Like Bridesmaids. These movies that are just exploding with raw funniness. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. All of those categories seem to be blurring. Now, its actually becoming about whether the movie is original, and funny, and creative. Does it have a voice...
That's the way it should be, I think...
Adam McKay: Absolutely, it's the good stuff that's coming from regionalism, as it dissipates. The internet, and the communication, I think that's one of the great affects of it. That racism and sexism are seeming very silly, very fast.
The cool thing about Hansel and Gretel is, it really wasn't put out there that you and Will Ferrell were behind this movie so much. It was one of those things you discovered when you sat down in your seat. "Hey, these guys are behind this!" We noticed as the credits rolled. We follow your career pretty closely, so this doesn't come as a real shock. It seems like you've always been pushing towards the comic book and fantasy genre. Like, that is the natural progression of where you will end up.
Adam McKay: Yeah. That is exactly what attracted us to this. I saw Tommy Wirkola's stuff. I thought about Sam Raimi. The whole point of having a production company is that Will Ferrell and I want to do stuff other than what we do. We want to nurture stuff, and bring forward stuff that we would never get to see. I grew up a huge comic book fan. I would go to comic book conventions back in the early 80s, before anyone went. I would collect original artwork, and I had all of my comic books in bags. So I am an old comic book geek. And that's what Tommy Wirkola is, and why we hit it off together so fast. Yeah, he is the real deal. Most people do not know that Will Ferrell and I found this project, we developed this project with Kevin J. Messick, the other producer on it. We three took it from the very beginning to the very end. For precisely the reason you said, because we love these types of movies. Just fun popcorn films that kick ass. They are just so enjoyable.
Its interesting to me that you guys did get away with the R rating. We never see this type of movie arrive in theaters with an R rating.
Adam McKay: The funny thing is...I think Paramount regrets it. I think they are worried that they left some money on the table with that one. There is some discussion about how we're gong to handle that with the second one. We were a little surprised too. I have to be honest about that. It kept going deeper into it, and I kept expecting that moment to come...But to Adam Goodman's credit over here at Paramount, he never reversed on it. He promised that it could be R, and he stuck with that all the way to the end. Even at the point where there might have been some discussion about, "We should switch it!" Because of that, that is only why Tommy Wirkola is coming back for a second one. Only because the executive stood by the creative in that case.
That's what's so cool about the movie, though. You can feel that it came from a singular force, and not a committee. There were some bad general reviews about the movie, but when you looked at the genre sites, and the people that love these types of films, the reviews were all highly positive. It's a movie that does have a voice to it. Its personal, its someone who came up with the idea and went out and made a blockbuster movie out of it. That needs to be admired about the film itself. All of your guys' work has that unique stamp on it.
Adam McKay: That's exactly...I think you said it better than I can...Its this deranged Norwegian geek, and he has been given the wheel to this giant corporate money making behemoth. That, to me, is the entire fun of Hollywood. The fact that this kid was given this wheel. I'm really excited about the second one. Because he didn't steer the behemoth off the road on the first one. You are going to get to see even more slack on his leash with the second one. He is really going to get to roam free on this. I've already started to hear some of the ideas he is working on, and its pretty insane. This could be one of those instances where the sequel does go further than the first one.
What about the R rating, though? You say Paramount is questioning its decision on the first one to go out into theaters with that R rating. Do you think there will be a struggle to reign this in and give it a PG-13? Will Tommy be able to have the same voice?
Adam McKay: What we're trying to find out now...Now, with the international film market, there's the idea of releasing two versions. Which I have no problem with. We are kind of loosely discussing it with Anchorman: The Legend Continues too. That, to me, would be the perfect answer. Because then people can see what they want to see. That's all I care about. There is a discussion about doing an R version and a PG-13 version. Now, with the digital, you don't have to do the print deliveries. So this is something that is easier to do with the digital downloads. There are no prints. You just download it. It's only at the discussion stages. We're just now getting into the script for Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters 2. But that is the idea I like best.
I like that idea. Change the way things are done.
Adam McKay: Yeah, totally. As long as we get to see cool shit as an audience, I'm happy!