Thirty-two years after saving Earth from the evil Emperor Ming the Merciless, actor Sam Jones, who played Flash Gordon in the 1980 sci-fi movie, is back to show how much his comic action hero character has become a cult icon over the last three decades. In the comedy “Ted,” Jones has a cameo as himself during a scene where he gets to party with “Flash Gordon” superfan John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) and his anthropomorphic teddy bear.
“Ted” is the directorial debut of “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane. Is “Family Guy” your type of humor?
Not really because I have five children. We don’t really watch a lot of TV. We’re always at some kind of sporting event or going hiking in the mountains. If we do watch TV, we watch shows on history and nature.
As a parent, do you monitor the shows they watch?
It depends on their age. I have two children who are living out of the house. One is married and one is getting ready to get married. But, yeah, I monitor what the kids see. I’m old school like that. You have to be because nowadays with the internet, you’re bringing the outside world into the house. It’s a new dynamic you have to consider as a parent.
So, out of your younger kids, how many of them have not been allowed to see “Ted?”
My 11 year old has not seen it. My 13 year old did but we had to close his ears a couple times.
Is your 11 year old like, “Come on dad! It’s a movie with a teddy bear. How bad can it be?”
A lot of people I know called me and said the same thing. They took all their little kids to see it because of the teddy bear. A lot of them walked out because of the offensive language. (Laughs)
How close is the Sam Jones in “Ted” to the Sam Jones I’m talking to right now?
It was a spoof; a parody I did on myself. What you saw were parts of me, but it wasn’t all of me. I just wanted to have fun with it. Seth gave us a lot of freedom. I think it worked out very well.
Did you worry that making a cameo in “Ted” would put you back in the spotlight or was that something you welcomed?
It really didn’t concern me at all because I’ve always been in the spotlight. Being in “Flash Gordon,” that’s been part of the deal. That’s part of being in the film and entertainment industry. I don’t understand why some of the major stars have an issue with that. If you are going to make movies and TV series and be successful, well, that’s the nature of the business. If you don’t want people talking to you on the street or taking your picture, don’t do any projects. I understand if there is a paparazzi being rude or pushy. That’s something I wouldn’t tolerate either, but if you’re out in public you owe it to the fans to be a kind and generous person. They are being kind and generous when they spend their money at the box office to see you.
How do you handle “Flash Gordon” fans who ask for an autograph or want to take a photo with you?
It’s all about timing. If I’m at dinner and I have food in my mouth, well, I’ll tell them that I’ll do it right after I finish eating. I’ve never had any issues. Maybe it’s because I’m 6’3 and 225 lbs. Sometimes I’ll be diplomatic about it. Someone will say, “Hey, you look like Flash Gordon.” I’ll say, “You know, I get that all the time!”
If “Flash Gordon” was remade today, who would you like to see in the title role?
Me! I can play him or I can play his dad. They looked at Sam Worthington (“Avatar”) for a while. I think they should offer it to Ashton Kutcher. If you took a black and white picture of Ashton when he was 25 and a black and white picture of me when I was 25, we look like identical twins. It’s very scary. Do it. You will be amazed.
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane
Directed by: Seth MacFarlane (debut)
Written by: Seth MacFarlane (debut)
Leave it to the hysterically twisted and juvenile mind of “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane to turn something as cuddly and lovable as a childhood stuffed animal into a perverted, profane pothead in “Ted.” The live-action/animated comedy is the first feature film MacFarlane has ever written or directed since introducing us to the Griffin family in 1999. It’s no surprise since MacFarlane, who lends his voice to the title plush toy, is never afraid to push the envelope before dousing it with gasoline and lighting a match to it. Sure, on TV there are always restrictions, but the hard R rating this movie has been slapped with clearly proves to fans of MacFarlane’s bawdy humor that the guy who once insinuated the rape of a teddy bear on his hit cartoon is without a self censor. In “Ted,” there’s really no need for one since audiences probably have a good idea that this specific teddy isn’t exactly the tea party-playing type. Tea-bagging more like it.
Despite some of the jokes not always sticking their landing, “Ted” has more hits than misses when you add them all up. Playing it straight like he does in most of his comedies, Mark Wahlberg (“The Other Guys”) stars as John Bennett, an unmotivated rental car employee living in Boston with his successful girlfriend (Mila Kunis) and the teddy bear he wished alive as a young boy one magical Christmas evening. Now grown and still inseparable, John and Ted must come to terms with living separately and not spending as much time together so John can get his life together. It’s a theme we’ve witnessed before in films like “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Toy Story 3” (becoming a man means putting aside childish things), but now with a few more dick references, of course.
Along with MacFarlane’s usual vulgarities, random flashbacks and low-blow swipes at celebrities (heads up Katy Perry and Brandon Routh), the second half of “Ted” is sweeter than one would expect, even with a creepy Giovanni Ribisi gyrating and stealing scenes. It’s not necessarily a sign of maturity for MacFarlane, but at least he seems to understand a feature film needs more substance than a 30-minute TV show can provide. And with that, his legion of followers will continue to anticipate a “Family Guy” movie someday and – with his ever-growing fondness for bears – describe to them exactly what a Dirty Fozzie really is.