You could possibly chalk said professional split up to the divergent paths of the two long-time friends and producing partners’ careers, as McKay has focused in recent years on political movies like Vice and the upcoming Don’t Look Up (and building a wider production portfolio), and Ferrell put his focus on being, well, Will Ferrell: Professional funny actor guy.
Even when the two men announced, in 2019, that they were breaking up Gary Sanchez Productions, the company under which they co-executive produced most of their movies together (as well as hit shows like Drunk History and Succession), they did so with a statement emphasizing that the two SNL alums were still close friends.
Which turns out to have apparently been a lie.
That’s per a new Vanity Fair profile of McKay that ran this week, timed to the release of Don’t Look Up in theaters on December 10. Amidst sketch comedy reminiscences, climate anxieties, and a whole bunch of fictitious intros penned by McKay himself, the director and producer details his breakup with Ferrell, which appears to have extended past their business relationship and deeply into the personal.
Some of the split, unsurprisingly, came from McKay’s desire to move further and further away from comedy. The profile notes that he split with his and Ferrell’s mutual manager, Jimmy Miller, because Miller continued to push McKay to make movies with the actor. But the biggest split apparently came after the two men had dissolved Gary Sanchez. (Itself a tense conversation, apparently; McKay notes that, “It ended not well.”)
Specifically, McKay says Ferrell was deeply offended when McKay refused to cast him in his upcoming TV series about the Los Angeles Lakers as team owner Jerry Buss, a part Ferrell was apparently obsessed with playing. Making matters worse was who McKay offered the part to instead: Long-time collaborator, and Ferrell’s best friend and Step-Brothers co-star, John C. Reilly. “I fucked up on how I handled that,” McKay notes, admitting that he didn’t get in touch with Ferrell before making the decision public. Attempts to reach out to his long-time friend and partner since have not gone well:
“In my head, I was like, ‘We’ll let all this blow over. Six months to a year, we’ll sit down, we’ll laugh about it and go, It’s all business junk, who gives a shit? We worked together for 25 years. Are we really going to let this go away?’” But Ferrell, he continues, “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.”
It would be nice to imagine that this was all just another McKay-Ferrell bit (not un-akin to the fake scenarios McKay posits in his fake openings to the profile). But there does seem to be a fair amount of genuine emotion in his reactions to the break-up. “The whole time it was like I was saying it out loud,” McKay says. “‘Let’s not become an episode of Behind the Music. Don’t let it happen.’ And it happened.”