A business decision that ended a friendship. Adam McKay didn’t expect his longtime friendship with Will Ferrell to suffer after he cast John C. Reilly in a project over him — but the collaborators have since pulled the plug on their professional relationship and haven’t spoken since.
During an interview with Vanity Fair, McKay, 53, recalled how the casting choice for his upcoming HBO drama series about the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers came to be.
“The truth is, the way the show was always going to be done, it’s hyper-realistic,” the director said in the feature on Monday, November 29. “And Ferrell just doesn’t look like Jerry Buss, and he’s not that vibe of a Jerry Buss. And there were some people involved who were like, ‘We love Ferrell, he’s a genius, but we can’t see him doing it.’ It was a bit of a hard discussion.”
When McKay didn’t reach out to the Saturday Night Live alum, 54, to let him know about his decision, their friendship started to shift.
“I should have called him and I didn’t,” the screenwriter said. “And Reilly did, of course, because Reilly, he’s a stand-up guy … I f–ked 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.”
The film producer, who worked with Ferrell on several hit movies in the 2000s, admitted that he made a mistake not being transparent.
“Maybe there was a little shadow in there where I wasn’t able to confront a harsher, darker side of myself, that would ultimately err on the side of making the right casting choice over a lifelong friendship,” he added on Monday.
In April 2019, Ferrell and McKay made headlines when they released a joint statement confirming the end of their production company.
“The last 13 years could not have been more enjoyable and satisfying for the two of us at Sanchez Productions. We give massive thanks to our incredible staff and executives and all the writers, directors and actors we worked with through the years,” the duo said at the time. “The two of us will always work together creatively and always be friends. And we recognize we are lucky as hell to end this venture as such.”
The Elf star, for his part, has only addressed the professional split earlier this year when he called it a result of “bandwidth.”
“Adam was like, ‘I want to do this, and this, and this,’ he wanted growth and a sphere of influence, and I was just like, ‘I don’t know, that sounds like a lot that I have to keep track of,’” the California native detailed to The Hollywood Reporter in October. “To me, the potential of seeing a billboard, and being like: ‘Oh, we’re producing that?’ I don’t know. At the end of the day, we just have different amounts of bandwidth.”
McKay revealed that his last form of contact with Ferrell was when they decided to part ways.
“I said, ‘Well, I mean, we’re splitting up the company,’” the Colorado native recalled. “And he basically was like, ‘Yeah, we are,’ and basically was, like, ‘Have a good life.’ And I’m, like, ‘F–k, Ferrell’s never going to talk to me again.’ So it ended not well.”
Although the Anchorman director expected to eventually reconnect with Ferrell, the twosome haven’t spoken since.
“In my head, I was like, ‘We’ll let all this blow over. Six months to a year, we’ll sit down, we’ll laugh about it and go, It’s all business junk, who gives a s–t? We worked together for 25 years. Are we really going to let this go away?’” McKay added. “[But Ferrell] took it as a way deeper hurt than I ever imagined and I tried to reach out to him, and I reminded him of some slights that were thrown my way that were never apologized for.”
McKay noted that the silence following their professional split forced him “to reflect on his priorities and gain a sense of hyper-awareness for himself and his actions.”