There’s a fun oral history of modern comedy classic Step Brothers over at The Ringer today, and in the piece director Adam McKay reveals that early drafts of his and Will Ferrell’s screenplay came in at nearly 200 pages.
“You obviously can’t turn in a nearly 200-page script,” McKay says. “So we had to seriously chop it down. But there are so many 20-, 30-page runs in the script that had to be cut out.”
This length is especially impressive when you consider that, per McKay, the entire movie originated from no idea whatsoever beyond a desire to make a film with simple sets and no big set-pieces following the taxing production of Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby.
In film production, a general rule of thumb stipulates that one page of script equates to roughly one minute of screen-time. So, in this instance, McKay and Ferrell wrote a script for what would theoretically be a three-and-a-third-hours-long version of Step Brothers. While making a comedy anywhere in the ballpark of three hours is probably a bad idea (looking at you, Funny People), some of the cut material, as described by McKay, sounds pretty fun:
There was one run we had where Dale and Brennan’s dysfunction got to such a point. … It was in the middle of the night and somehow it’s mentioned that Dr. [Robert] Doback [Dale’s physician father, played by Richard Jenkins] keeps a pistol in his safe. Dale and Brennan are in bed, and Dale is scaring Brennan. And he was doing that thing where you get all wound up at night, listening to sounds, and Dale is scaring him. And then Dale starts to get scared, and they both get really freaked out and they convince themselves that there’s an intruder downstairs. And they shake Richard Jenkins and Mary Steenburgen awake, like, “There’s an intruder in the house, and he’s armed.” And so Dr. Doback goes for the gun in the safe and Dale and Brennan light off Roman candles in the house and Dr. Doback fires a round off in the chaos. Then the police are there and they say, “There’s no one here. There’s nothing going on.” And then Dr. Doback says, “This is so fucked up. This is so unhealthy. You guys have to get out of here.” And then basically Dale and Brennan are like, “Can’t we just go to SeaWorld?”
That’s somehow the answer: “Can we not be so angry? Why is everyone so angry? Why can’t we just go and have a nice time at SeaWorld?” And Mary kind of acquiesces. And then it’s this giant trip to SeaWorld. It’s the greatest day ever.
Of course, beyond the script itself much of the film’s best moments are improvised, and editor Brent White notes that McKay still ended up shooting enough material to put together at least a four-hour cut of the film. That’s almost certainly too much Step Brothers, but it’s hard not to wonder what got cut—both in the editing bay and in the writing room.
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