Will Ferrell talks Ron Burgundy inspiration: Former Detroit anchorman Mort Crim

2:27 PM, Dec 12, 2013   |    comments
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Detroit (Free Press) -- Mort Crim is kind of a big deal. The former Detroit anchorman was the real-life inspiration for Ron Burgundy and "Anchorman."

Now Ferrell is planning to meet Crim for the first time at the "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" premiere in New York City on Dec. 15.

"I'll give him a big kiss on the mouth, whether he wants it or not," Ferrell said with a laugh during a phone interview on Wednesday with the Free Press.

To promote "Anchorman 2," which arrives in theaters on Dec. 18, Ferrell has been talking to media outlets, including the New York Times and Rolling Stone, about the lightbulb moment that inspired Ron Burgundy and "Anchorman."

More than a decade ago, Ferrell was watching a Lifetime documentary on pioneering female news anchor Jessica Savitch and the sexism she faced in the 1970s .

"At one point, they were talking to this anchor, Mort Crim, who was basically saying, 'I was an (profanity) to her.' What made me laugh was watching him. He still spoke like this ... He still used his on-camera voice," Ferrell told Rolling Stone in an interview.

That spark led to "Anchorman," the 2004 comedy classic with Ferrell as pompous local news legend Ron Burgundy and Christina Applegate as his competition.

Crim was invited to attend the "Anchorman 2" premiere by Ferrell's agent, who earlier this year had asked him to send the comic actor an autographed photo.

In the inscription, Crim signed it as "the real Anchorman." Ferrell told the Free Press: "I have it in my office."

The 78-year-old Crim did his final newscast for WDIV-TV (Channel 4) in 1997 and worked prior to that in other markets, including Philadelphia. He became great friends with Savitch, his co-anchor there, and delivered the eulogy at her funeral.

He now lives full-time in the Jacksonville area of Florida. He said by phone on Wednesday that he's not offended in the least by his Ron Burgundy connection.

"I'm a big fan of Jon Stewart, I'm a big fan of Stephen Colbert because I like satire. I like comedy. Sometimes you're the one laughing at other people and sometimes you're the one being laughed at."

Ferrell has talked previously about Crim's role in inspiring the original "Anchorman," even as far back as 2003 in an interview with The A.V. Club. Now its getting him even more attention. Philly.com even asked Crim, who worked in Philadelphia before reaching Detroit, to recite some famous lines from "Anchorman."

Crim thought the first "Anchorman" was fun and expects to enjoy the sequel. "There is enough in our business to exaggerate and make fun of and parody that I think none of us should have such thin skin that we take this stuff seriously."

He says his kids will enjoy the "Anchorman" connection and notes this isn't his first brush with pop culture: He provided a spoken intro to "Little Acorns," a song on the White Stripes 2003 album "Elephant."

He also recalls a song called "Mort Crim's Hairspray" that a Detroit band wrote once wrote about him.

Crim says he's busy these days doing voice work from a studio inside his home. He's working on his eighth book and continues to do public speaking events.

And he considers himself blessed to have been born with deep baritone that Ferrell emulates as Burgundy.

"I happened to be born with a decent voice, but I've trained it and worked at it," he says.

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