Seth MacFarlane Interview For ‘Ted’
‘Family Guy’ creator Seth MacFarlane brings his boundary-pushing brand of humour to the big screen for the first time as writer, director and voice star of ’Ted.’ In the live action/CG-animated comedy, he tells the story of John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), a grown man who must deal with the cherished teddy bear who came to life as the result of a childhood wish…. and has refused to leave his side ever since. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Joel McHale, Patrick Warburton, Giovanni Ribisi and Seth MacFarlane playing Ted through motion-capture, the R-rated comedy arrives in cinemas June 29th in the US and August 1st in the UK.
‘Ted’ is really the first time we’ve seen motion-capture used this way….?
Seth MacFarlane: Yeah, with ‘Lord of the Rings’ coming along and the technology being perfected, we were able to do the character of Ted in a completely lifelike way. And to use that technology in a way that it really hasn’t been used to date. The ‘Avatar’ technology, its been used for family films, for adventure films, for science-fiction films. But nobodies really used it yet for traditional character comedy. That’s kind of strange because what that technology does so well is that it takes fantastical characters and makes them as realistic in movement as possible. It seems like the perfect genre for motion-capture.
Is New England, where you grew up, a big inspiration for the character of Ted?
Seth MacFarlane: Ted is that classic, big hearted, but kind of meat-headed New England guy who has a lot of love, and a lot of enthusiasm and zest for life….but no self editing mechanism (laughs). So what Ted says is really the first thing that comes into his mind. Growing up in New England, that was sort of a common thread. It’s a really fun part of the United States, it’s really warm and they’re great folks to go drinking with (laughs). They’re a great bunch of people. But often times there’s no sense of what to say and what not to say. But it’s all forgivable because their hearts are in the right place. And Ted is very much an iconic, classic Boston meat head.
Even though the film is called ‘Ted,‘ Mark Wahlberg’s character John is really the one with the dilemma?
Seth MacFarlane: Definitely. With Ted, there’s no obligation for him to grow up or do anything to force himself out of this juvenile place into adulthood. John has to do that, John cannot just languish in childishness as his teddy bear does. And the movie, it’s called ‘Ted’ but it is, if you had to pinpoint a story that is really the focal point, it’s John’s story. He’s the one with the conundrum, he’s the one who has to find this balance between friendship and love. And in that sense, it’s a story that could be played out with three human characters. John’s problems and the challenges he faces, as he juggles with his relationship with Ted and his relationship with Lori, they’re challenges he would be facing if Ted was a human.
What do you think Mila Kunis and Mark Wahlberg brought to their respected roles? You’ve worked with Mila for almost 13 years now on ‘Family Guy’…
Seth MacFarlane: Mila Kunis is awesome. Her character Lori, she’s not the hands on hips, “Oh you,” traditional comedy girlfriend. She’s not that at all. And part of that is due to the way we wrote it, but part of it is the fact that Mila Kunis is….and it was one of the reasons we chose her, she really has the ability to make sure that her character is not gonna come off that way. It was a logical choice to bring her on board, given my relationship with her combined with the fact that she is just blowing up right now, and deservedly so! As with Mark Wahlberg’s character John, we had the same set of needs. This role had to be played with believability, despite the outrageousness. Her relationship is hampered by the fact that this guy’s teddy bear is hanging around and keeping him from evolving and allowing their relationship to evolve. To play that real is asking a lot of an actor, and Mila pulled it off with flying colors. You believe that she’s genuinely distraught that this stuffed animal is dominating their life. In many ways, that was the key to the recipe for the comedy. Since the premise brings its own comedy, the trick for mining it is to play it straight at the core
Mark Wahlberg, he’s a guy that can very quietly and very humbly do anything as far as I’m concerned. We threw every type of comedy at him in ‘Ted.’ We had him do subtle dialogue comedy, broad physical comedy – there’s even outright drama in ‘Ted.’ He plays a lot of colours and he just does it all beautifully. Mark was the perfect fit because he can be hysterically funny, yet he’s also able to deliver genuine emotion and realism. When he talks to the bear, you believe that bear is sitting there. The way he could sit there and show such genuine emotion over the prostrate body of an inanimate stuffed animal was pretty impressive, and that is going to be a very big reason why the audience is invested in this. His ability to do physical comedy is incredible. That loveable, gullible character he plays in ‘Boogie Nights’ and ‘I Heart Huckabees’ was something we saw as a jumping-off point for John: the sweet and funny guy who is susceptible to Ted’s urgings.
Like with ‘Family Guy,‘ you fit in a good amount of pop culture references in ‘Ted’?
Seth MacFarlane: Yeah, as with ‘Family Guy’ there’s a lot of pop culture references in ‘Ted.’ It’s chock-full of them. There’s Flash Gordon obviously, SpongeBob SquarePants pops up in there, ‘Airplane!’ – that was fun actually, we rebuilt the set of the bar scene in ‘Airplane!’. That was a fun room to be in because your like, “Gosh, I’ve seen this movie a hundred times and here it is, a complete and exact replica.”
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