Adam McKay on His Enduring Love for Will Ferrell and the “Insane” State of the World: “I’m Fully Freaked Out”
The Hollywood Reporter's producer of the year weighs in on the 'Rust' tragedy ('That set sounded sloppy'), the Dave Chappelle controversy and why the threat of climate change drove him to make his upcoming Netflix satirical dramedy, 'Don’t Look Up.'
Q: Into the Stormdoc, the QAnon project that debuted earlier this year; and an untitled project about Jeffrey Epstein. On the film side, it is producing Mimi Cave’s original thrillerFreshfor Legendary and foodie culture satireThe Menufor Searchlight. Hyperobject also has a rich first-look film deal with Apple, which is boarding its
Bad Bloodfeature, about Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes.The 53-year-old McKay, who lives in Hancock Park with his wife, Shira Piven, and two daughters, founded Hyperobject in 2019. He had recently dissolved his nearly 14-year partnership with Will Ferrell and their company, Gary Sanchez Productions, home of such famed comedies as the
AnchormanTalledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky BobbyandStep Brothers. The duo had grown apart and wanted different things. McKay no longer was interested in frat-boy comedy and had turned to more serious topics, writing and directingThe Big Short, about the 2008 financial crisis, then headtopics.com
Vice, a biopic about former Vice President Dick Cheney. He also wanted to produce more, while Ferrell didn’t have the same ambitions. At Gary Sanchez, McKay was a driving force behind the hit HBO showSuccession, while offshoot Gloria Sanchez Productions, run by Jessica Elbaum, made Lorene Scafaria’s acclaimed film
Hustlers. (Elbaum and Ferrell now run Gloria Sanchez solo.)“Adam is incredibly smart, has endless curiosity and an indefatigable spirit for projects, both big and small. All those things are rare qualities to have in the same person,” says producer Kevin Messick, who runs Hyperobject with McKay and is a Gary Sanchez alum. “It’s a rare thing in this business to have a good guy at the top, because that trickles down in terms of how you treat everybody else on the crew and the cast.”
McKay recently sat down withTHRto talk about his plans, his lingering regret regarding Ferrell — he hopes they’ll be able to resume their friendship one day — and what his next directing project might be.Where did the name Hyperobject come from?An eco-philosopher named Timothy Morton. The idea was, let’s go at new ways of storytelling. Let’s go with subjects you wouldn’t normally do. Let’s blend genres. The name is sort of a joke, but the idea was, we’re going to approach this and do our damnedest to kind of make sense of it through stories, movies, documentaries and all kinds of things. We still want to have fun. We still want to laugh. We just made a horror movie. We still make comedies.
Don’t Look Upis a dark comedy with horror elements. We also have a podcast division. Timothy Morton came to our kickoff retreat and gave a talk. He’s our spirit animal for the company.How would you describe the ’80s Lakers project for HBO? Is it realistic like headtopics.com
Succession?Yes, we’re playing it very real. The actors all look like the characters. I mean, John C. Reilly looks exactly like Dr. [Jerry] Buss. Quincy Isaiah is unbelievably talented and looks just like Magic [Johnson]. It’s crazy. There’s really good acting in it, and it has style breaks. There are dramatic moments. It’s about race. It’s about class.
How many episodes are you and HBO planning?There are 10 in the first season, and then we’re hoping to do a second season and maybe a third season.McKay (far right) with hisDon’t Look Upstars, from left: Jonah Hill, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio. Going forward, McKay’s production shingle Hyperobject hopes to make three to four movies a year, three TV series, as well as documentaries and podcasts.
Tommaso Boddi/Getty ImagesThe Lakers series began at Gary Sanchez, then went with you to Hyperobject. Will Ferrell reportedly was upset to learn third hand that you had cast John C. Reilly in the Lakers show after Michael Shannon dropped out. You mentioned to me that you feel bad for not telling him yourself. What would you have done differently?
It’s kind of crazy to see how much has been reported on this. We madeDon’t Look Upto hopefully get people talking about the climate crisis — literally the biggest threat to life in human history — and to see so much made about two comedy guys not talking about a TV show is a scary sign of our times. I love Ferrell. Always will. I had the best, most fun run of my life with him. Yes, I wish I had talked to him about it out of respect, but we were both focused on our new companies and life just took over. headtopics.com
Why did you lose interest in traditional comedy?More and more, I started realizing the world was shifting away from the golden age of comedy we had from the late 1990s through the 2000s. The themes of those comedies were about sort of empty-suit white guys, and that’s what Will and I riffed on. That’s what really made us laugh. But then you started to see the ravages of that culture, and it wasn’t so funny anymore. Big, powerful tectonic stuff started to happen: the financial collapse, the rise of the extreme right wing, the climate crisis and the soaring income inequality. It became almost bizarre to do those old-style comedies and didn’t make sense at that point. I was just very excited to go at things from a bunch of different directions, and, God bless Will Ferrell, he just didn’t have that same appetite that I had. Will’s the greatest, most laid-back guy. And he’s just like, “Well, I like producing a couple things, but I don’t know if I want to do 20 things.”
What happened when you and Will Ferrell decided to split?As clean as we both tried to make it go, there were moments afterward where we weren’t exactly chummy. I kept trying to frame it like, “Hey, it’s OK. It’s its natural conclusion,” but as I would say it, it didn’t quite feel right. It felt like a breakup. I’m looking forward to when the dust has settled. I’d love to just go watch a Lakers game with him and kick back and get back to our old kind of rhythm. But, yeah, I can’t lie, at the end of it, we were both kind of bummed out.Read more: Hollywood Reporter »
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Adam McKay seems like a fun guy to work with. The results speak for themselves. DontLookUp feels like a trilogy along with The Big Short & Vice. Maybe he will do a pandemic movie next. Code written is back-braking work when it's gotta be written again GhostPanther JonahHill LeoDiCaprio GettyVIP Adam McKay knows how to tell a story.
GhostPanther JonahHill LeoDiCaprio GettyVIP Hmm GhostPanther JonahHill LeoDiCaprio GettyVIP Was a lot of it filmed in Worcester and Boston? I find it strange that any team has to break up or end. Let George Harrison make his solo album and the Beatles can still get together and rock. Why couldn’t McKay’s projects still been produced while keeping a partnership in Gary Sanchez productions. Very weird
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