Adam McKay Just Wanted ‘Hansel & Gretel’ To ‘Be Cool’

Adam McKay, the director of “Anchorman,” took a break from editing the sequel due out December to talk about another recent project of his, “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” which he co-produced with Will Ferrell and others.

Click past the jump to read our interview with McKay!

How did you first become involved in the project?
I purely came out of “Dead Snow,” [director Tommy Wirkola’s] first movie. Our producers, Gary Sanchez, Kevin Messick, had seen it. Kevin and I had talked a lot about all the different kind of movies we love. Part of the reason that we have a production company is to do other kinds of movies. That’s ultimately our goal, and he had seen this movie that was at Sundance. He showed it to us, and we flipped for it. Then he brought in Tommy Wirkola, and we hit it off right away. This is going back six years, five years ago. He told us the “Hansel & Gretel” idea, and we flipped for it and thought it was amazing. We brought him into Paramount. Adam Goodman responded the same way that we did. Tommy delivered this first draft that was just phenomenal and funny and action and gory. Then, unfortunately, at that point, it took a lot of years. It got into a bit of a stall, and the shame of that was then they came out with all of these other fairy tale movies. We were like, “Oh, we had ours before all of these.” Ultimately, it kind of doesn’t matter. It only affects when it comes out how it feels. Then they all go into the same clothes dryer.

Jeremy Renner said that a piece of concept art convinced him to do the movie. Did you have a similar moment where the premise just clicked?
It was when he told me that Hansel would have diabetes from the candy. I just thought that it was the coolest thing, and then he had seven other ideas like that too. What I like about it is that it’s funny, but it’s not jokey. It’s kind of badass at the same time. It’s kind of uniquely Tommy Wirkola. Also, the missing children on the milk bottles, when he told me that.

You obviously loved the pitch, but what was most important to you when trying to film it?
We didn’t have the biggest budget for it, but the main discussion was that the action be cool, that the action not be generic or play like filler. There had to be creative ideas in all of the action. The great thing with Tommy was that he completely agreed. It doesn’t mean that you have to have a volcano shooting hand grenades out of it. It doesn’t mean size and scope, just a detail, like in the first fight scene with the witch, the fact that he as the witch running sideways on all fours. I just like that detail, and I hadn’t seen that before. There was a debate with Paramount about how gory it would be and how badass it would be and how R-rated it would be. We shuffled back and forth between the two of us. I think what we ended up with certainly broadened the commercial appeal of it and allowed it to play in a lot of different ways.

Where do we stand on the sequel that’s said to be in development?
Tommy and our company with Gary Sanchez have been talking with Adam Goodman, Marc Evans at Paramount about a sequel. Tommy has already developed a treatment. I think we’re waiting for the go-ahead off the treatment to get him to start writing, but that’s very active and very real.

“Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” is on Blu-ray and DVD now.