EXCLUSIVE: Will Ferrell and Adam McKay have mutually decided to branch out separately and refocus their creative efforts. This will wind down one of the longest creative partner relationships in town. The duo met when they were hired the same day on Saturday Night Live in 1995, and 13 years ago they formed with Chris Henchy the multi-platform comedy generating production company Gary Sanchez, later branching into a female-centric offshoot, Gloria Sanchez. They also teamed on a bunch of comedy classic hit movies, including Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers and The Other Guys. McKay directed those films and Ferrell starred in them.
I’m told they remain close friends, but it is expected that their Paramount-based production labels will wind down over time. They will continue to see through their existing projects to completion and develop them with the attached producers. They will work together on their extensive slate of shared projects, and will continue to support each other both personally and professionally.
But they will explore new endeavors as well as their own individual projects and it is expected they will each form new ventures to house those projects. They just made the decision to split, and so the exact details are still being formulated.
They’ve confirmed their split to Deadline, and issued this statement: “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 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.”
They developed their chemistry on SNL, where Ferrell quickly established himself as the show’s standout performer who started his movie trajectory with the hit Elf. McKay spent six years on the show, rising to head writer in his final years there. Beyond the hit films they did together, they’ve collaborated as producers on numerous projects including Daddy’s Home, the Sean Anders-directed hit that starred Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, Hannibal Buress and Jon Cena, which spawned a sequel that added Mel Gibson and John Lithgow to the mix.
They also started the viral comedy site Funny Or Die, which launched with a string of viral short comedy films that started with The Landlord. That short starred McKay’s adorable two-year old daughter Pearl, who played a foul-mouthed landlord trying to extract overdue rent from Ferrell, whom she turns into a crying mess. It became a sensation — McKay’s wife ultimately put the brakes on the budding career of their pint-sized daughter — and Funny Or Die also spawned such memorable skits as Green Team, the TV show Drunk History and the Zach Galifianakis short interview show Between Two Ferns. That one hit a high-water mark when President Barack Obama held still for an interview segment, and Funny Or Die routinely drew big stars in short form doses. Gary Sanchez also exec produced the HBO comedy series Eastbound & Down, which starred Danny McBride.
It seems they just naturally evolved in different directions.
McKay has made two politically charged feature films, starting with The Big Short, the 2015 adaptation of the Michael Lewis book about the financial collapse of 2008. He shared the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay with Charles Randolph, and the film got four other Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Director. McKay followed by writing and directing Vice, the drama about former Vice President Dick Cheney that starred Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell and Steve Carell. A scathing satire about how former Halliburton chief Cheney manipulated himself into unprecedented power for a vice president, Vice got eight Oscar nominations, including noms for McKay for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. He also directed and won the DGA Award for the pilot of HBO’s Succession, which Gary Sanchez exec produces.
Ferrell’s upcoming films include Downhill, the Nat Faxon/Jim Rash-directed remake of the 2014 Swedish film Force Majeure for Fox Searchlight. Ferrell will next star for Netflix in Eurovision, directed by David Dobkin, with whom Ferrell worked in Wedding Crashers.
There will be layers to winding down the production companies, run by very talented execs like Henchy, Kevin Messick and Jessica Elbaum. Latter is producing with McKay and Ferrell the in-production Lorene Scafaria-directed Hustlers, the fact-based tale of strippers who turn the tables on their Wall Street clients, with Jennifer Lopez heading the cast and STX distributing.