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Adam McKay reveals how casting for HBO show sparked fall out with Will Ferrell: “I f**ked up”

The pair fell out over McKay's decision to cast John C Reilly as the late LA Lakers owner Jerry Buss in an upcoming HBO series

By Nick Reilly

Will Ferrell and Adam McKay
Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (Picture: Alamy)

Will Ferrell’s former prolific collaborator Adam McKay has revealed why the pair fell out and severed their friendship. 

The duo were frequent collaborators on comedy classics such as Anchorman, Step Brothers, The Other Guys and had their own production firm together.

Speaking in a new interview with Vanity Fair, McKay explained that their relationship soured when he decided to cast John C.Reilly in a role that Ferrell had previously expressed his interest in.

Reilly, who starred alongside Ferrell in 2008’s Step Brothers, will star as Los Angeles Lakers team owner Jerry Buss in McKay’s upcoming HBO limited series about the basketball team’s fortunes in the 1980s.

But McKay admitted he “fucked up” in handling the casting decision, as it was assumed by many that Ferrell’s close relationship with the director would land him the role.

“I fucked up on how I handled that,” he said.

“The truth is, the way the show was always going to be done, it’s hyperrealistic,” he explained.

“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. I should have called him and I didn’t,” McKay added.

“And Reilly did, of course, because Reilly, he’s a stand-up guy. 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.”

The casting decision is believed to have occurred shortly after the pair’s decision to split up their production firm in 2019.

“The two of us will always work together creatively and always be friends. And we recognise we are lucky as hell to end this venture as such,” a statement from the pair said at the time.

But their promise of friendship was a stark contrast to the reality of the situation, with Ferrell telling McKay to “have a good life”.

“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.”