Veteran broadcaster Mort Crim typifies the part of a TV news anchor with perfectly coifed hair and a booming baritone voice. It's no wonder he's the inspiration for Ron Burgundy, played by Will Ferrell, in the movie Anchorman.
With Anchorman 2 in theaters Dec. 18, USA TODAY Network caught up with Crim:
USA TODAY: How much truth is there in the Anchorman character compared with you?
MC: Any good parody takes a grain of truth and exaggerates it for the big screen. People ask me if I'm offended at all and I say not in the least.
USA TODAY: Did you groom yourself as much as Ron Burgundy does in the movie?
MC: My daughter used to joke with me, "Dad, you're the only guy on our block who wears make-up." But I had the fastest sponge in the business. I'd put on my make-up just two minutes before going on air.
USA TODAY: How did you find out you were the inspiration for the Ron Burgundy character?
MC: Back in 2003 (before the first Anchorman was released), Will Ferrell said something in an interview and later I saw it in print. It was no big deal. But then a few months ago, someone working for Ferrell sent me an e-mail and said he wanted me to send a picture of myself to Ferrell. I autographed it: "Will, you've almost got it. Just a little more authenticity please. Your friend, the real anchorman, Mort Crim."
USA TODAY:In the movie, Ron Burgundy and his colleagues balk at the idea of a female co-anchor. When you worked in Philadelphia, the station brought in the first female anchor, Jessica Savitch, in 1974. What was the newsroom like then?
MC: We had women in the newsroom, but they were secretaries. Occasionally, you'd have an associate producer, but let's face it, the gender break into mainstream America was just at the cusp and that was true of all professions. So, clearly there was resistance. But I believe in total equality of women, and I have believed that all my life.
USA TODAY: In a documentary about Savitch, which Ferrell said he'd watched, you were interviewed and described yourself as "a real male chauvinist pig." Was that quote taken out of context?
MC: Was there some resentment about a 25-year-old, relatively inexperienced woman being brought in and plopped down in the anchor desk? I think that aspect of having someone with less qualifications primarily because she looked great on camera offended us more than her being a female. There's an element of truth, but I don't think it was sexism. Of course, that wouldn't make nearly as good a movie.
USA TODAY: Did you have a catchy sign-off, like "Stay classy, Detroit."
MC: Nothing that corny.
USA TODAY: Why did you want to get into broadcast news?
MC: I was born in an Illinois coal-mining town. I didn't know growing up what I wanted to do. I finally settled on broadcast journalism as a way to satisfy the urge to perform and also do something important, which is to give people in a democracy information to make good decisions.
USA TODAY: You've seen a lot of changes in the time you've been in the business. Do you think the industry has changed for the better or worse?
MC: Both. For the better, technology today is really pretty amazing and you can do reporting live on scene. The minus side is with the 24-hour news cycle, there isn't the time or manpower to give thought and care to the editing process.
USA TODAY: What are you up to these days?
MC: I'm writing my eighth book. I'm also a pilot. I've flown planes since I was 15. And I do voice-over work. Between that and keeping up with the five grandchildren, I stay pretty busy.
USA TODAY:Your name will probably forever be linked to Anchorman. But what would you like your legacy to be?
MC: This is going to sound really cheesy, but if I had just three words chiseled on my tombstone, they'd be: He was kind.
USA TODAY: You're meeting Ferrell in New York City for the premiere of the sequel this week. Ferrell told the Detroit Free Press he was going to give you "a big kiss on the mouth, whether he wants it or not."
MC: I'm just going to make sure my wife is standing in between us.
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