Will Ferrell and Adam McKay successfully translated their unique SNL sensibility to the big screen with their delightfully absurdist screenplay for Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. According to Vulture, the first draft of Ferrell and McKay’s script included casting suggestions for each role.

Obviously, as the co-writer, Ferrell was always going to play Ron. But the duo had very different performers in mind for roles like Champ Kind and Brian Fantana. It’s impossible to imagine anybody besides Steve Carell playing Brick Tamland, but the role wasn’t originally written for him.

7 Ben Stiller As Brian Fantana

Ben Stiller appears in Anchorman’s news team battle as one of the rival anchormen who arrive to take part in the fight. But according to the original script, Stiller was primed for a much larger role in the movie. Instead of cameoing in one scene, he was supposed to join Ron’s side as Brian Fantana. It’s possible that Stiller was too busy to take such a big role in the film, since he had plenty of his own starring vehicles at the time.

The role of Brian was instead played by Paul Rudd, whose roles in Anchorman and 18 episodes of Friends (including the finale) allowed him to break into mainstream comedies just under a decade after he made his movie debut in Clueless and Halloween 6.

6 Ed Harris As Ed Harken

Fred Willard’s unmistakable dry comedic style was perfect for the role of station manager Ed Harken, who spends his screen time either on the phone with his son’s school, trying to defuse a hostile situation, or acting as a deadpan comic foil for Ron. But the role wasn’t originally written for Willard; the script suggests Ed Harris for the role.

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Harris is more renowned for his brooding dramatic performances, so Ferrell and McKay may have been looking to cast against type. It’s entirely possible that the character was named after the actor who was supposed to play him (it’s only three letters away from being identical).


5 John C. Reilly As Champ Kind

David Koechner ended up playing the role of loud-mouthed sportscaster Champ Kind in the Anchorman movies, but the script suggests John C. Reilly for the role. At the time, Reilly was known for his collaborations with Paul Thomas Anderson, who was an early proponent of Anchorman’s development. Although Koechner took the part, Reilly went to a few script read-throughs with the cast.

McKay noted Reilly’s chemistry with Ferrell and wrote him a substantial role opposite Ferrell in Talladega Nights. The duo followed up their on-screen partnership with Step Brothers and the much less successful Holmes & Watson. Reilly does make an uncredited cameo appearance in the Anchorman sequel as the ghost of Stonewall Jackson.

4 Dan Aykroyd As Garth Holliday

Ed’s mild-mannered assistant, Garth Holliday – yet another foil for Ron’s unbridled lunacy – ended up being played by Ferrell’s SNL co-star Chris Parnell. But according to the original screenplay, the part was written for a different SNL legend: Dan Aykroyd.

Aykroyd was one of the biggest movie stars of the 1980s, thanks to timeless hits like The Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters, and he would’ve undoubtedly brought a great comedic energy to the cast of Anchorman. But Parnell ended up doing a terrific job with the role of Garth, and he already shared an on-screen dynamic with Ferrell from their SNL collaborations.

3 Alec Baldwin As Frank Vitchard

Ferrell ended up recruiting his Old School co-stars Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson to play Ron’s rival anchormen, Wes Mantooth and Frank Vitchard, respectively. But according to the script, he and McKay originally wanted Alec Baldwin to cameo as Vitchard in the news team battle sequence.

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Wilson did a fine job with the role, but Baldwin could’ve brought the same biting wit he brought to his acclaimed roles in 30 Rock and Glengarry Glen Ross.

2 Chris Parnell As Brick Tamland

It’s impossible to imagine anybody besides Steve Carell playing the role of weatherman Brick Tamland, but according to the first draft of the script, Ferrell and McKay wrote the part with SNL cohort Chris Parnell in mind. Parnell instead played the smaller role of Ed’s assistant, Garth.

Parnell has since gone on to be recognized for larger comedic roles like meek suburban dad Jerry Smith in Adult Swim’s hit sci-fi cartoon Rick and Morty. He also played the scene-stealing recurring character Dr. Spaceman opposite SNL’s Tina Fey in 30 Rock.

1 William H. Macy As Marshall Connors

In its final form, Ron’s news team only consists of four characters: Ron, Brick, Champ, and Brian. But in the original script, there was a fifth member of the team named Marshall Connors. According to the casting wish list, Ferrell and McKay’s top choice for this role was William H. Macy.

At that point, thanks to his performances in Fargo and Boogie Nights, Macy was one of the most respected dramatic actors in Hollywood. But he’s not against doing the occasional silly comedy – he starred alongside Tim Allen in Wild Hogs – so if Ferrell and McKay hadn’t cut Connors from the script, Macy might have accepted the part.

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