In an in-depth Vanity Fair interview, McKay set out how his decision to cast Ferrell’s best friend John C. Reilly as Jerry Buss in HBO’s Untitled L.A. Lakers Project about the 1980s L.A. Lakers was the culmination of years of creative differences and led to a split that has yet to be repaired.
“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,” said McKay. “The whole time it was like I was saying it out loud, ‘Let’s not become an episode of Behind the Music. Don’t let it happen.’ And it happened.”
The problems started a decade before the Lakers Project saga, however, fairly soon after the pair launched Succession producer Gary Sanchez Productions in 2006.
After producing Broadway show You’re Welcome America in 2009, ructions started to develop around McKay’s desire to produce more and more projects without Ferrell, who was keener on making comedy, according to McKay.
“The whole time we were doing Gary Sanchez I was saying, ‘I don’t care what happens so long as this company doesn’t fuck with our friendship’,” he added.
McKay also revealed he sacked manager Jimmy Miller in 2015 for continually pushing him to work with Ferrell, around the time he was creating 2018 Dick Cheney biopic Vice.
He was then brought on board the edit of Ferrell comedy Holmes & Watson to attempt to redress what he described as a “rough shape” and also quit the pair’s web start-up Funny Or Die after it took sponsorship from Shell Oil.
Then came the decision to close down Gary Sanchez and, soon after, the Buss casting bust up.
McKay’s new banner Hyperobject Industries took on the HBO miniseries and it was at this point that McKay made the decision to cast Reilly for the series whilst not informing Ferrell. Michael Shannon was set to play Buss in the pilot, but Reilly took over the role in a September 2019 recasting.
“The truth is, the way the show was always going to be done, it’s hyperrealistic, and Ferrell just doesn’t look like Jerry Buss and he’s not that vibe of a Jerry Buss,” added McKay.
“I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I wanted to be respectful. I should have called him and I didn’t.
McKay said Ferrell “took it as a way deeper hurt than I ever imagined” and the last time they talked was a “curt” phone conversation.
“I said, ‘Well, I mean, we’re splitting up the company’. And he basically was like, ‘Yeah, we are,’ and basically was like, ‘Have a good life.’ And I’m like, ‘Fuck, Ferrell’s never going to talk to me again.’ So it ended not well.”
McKay has since sent several emails to Ferrell but received no reply.
“I fucked up on how I handled that [the casting]. It’s the old thing of keep your side of the street clean. I should have just done everything by the book.”
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