Seth MacFarlane, who is famous for being the creator of the animated TV series “Family Guy” and “The Cleveland Show,” decided that his debut as a feature-film director would be for an idea that he had been kicking around for years: a foul-mouthed, womanizing teddy bear is the “bad boy” best friend of a slacker bachelor. That idea (which MacFarlane originally conceived as a TV series) eventually had a raunchier incarnation as a movie, which would allow for more graphic content than what is allowed on television. Fast forward years after MacFarlane came up with the idea: “Ted” has now been released in theaters and has already developed a huge word-of-mouth, almost cult-like following.
MacFarlane is the voice of the Ted character, as well as a writer and producer of the “Ted” movie, which stars Mark Wahlberg as Boston bachelor John Bennett, who works at a low-level job at a rental-car company and who faces a “three’s a crowd” situation in his personal life. John’s lifelong close friendship with Ted threatens to tear apart the relationship that John has with his girlfriend Lori Collins (played by Mila Kunis), who becomes increasingly frustrated by Ted’s influence on John. John and Ted live together, smoke pot together, and generally want to avoid growing up. Here is what Wahlberg, Kunis and MacFarlane had to say about “Ted” at the movie’s Los Angeles press junket.
Interview with Mark Wahlberg
In terms of character, what can people see you do in “Ted” that’s not the norm for you?
I still have some action here. I have a great fight sequence in the movie, great sequence — climbing over stuff, jumping over stuff. But I play a very different character. My character had never been in a physical altercation until he has to punch this 12-year-old boy in the face. He’s different. He’s child-like. I wouldn’t say naïve, but he’s a sweet guy. He’s not like the edgy characters that people are used to seeing me play.
You said in another interview that you did two things in “Ted” that you really hate to do. Can you talk about that?
Singing and dancing. I hate it. I don’t mind it in the shower or singing in my car. I was belting out an Adele song on the way to work, but it feels silly.
How do you think your singing and dancing turned out in “Ted”?
People love it, so what do I know? My judgment is shot.
What was it like working with “Ted” writer/director Seth MacFarlane for the first time, considering that he’s known mostly for working in TV animation?
I read the script first of all, and when I had the concept of the movie, I said, “This is not for me.” But then my agent convinced me to read the script— and I loved it. And I sat with [Seth MacFarlane] for an hour, and we just clicked right away. You could just tell when somebody gets it, when they know what they want and know how to execute. I’ve been in a room with a lot of people who are trying to convince themselves that they know what they want and how they’re going to execute it. But you could tell pretty quickly with Seth that he knew what he was doing.
What was your first reaction when you saw “Ted”?
It’s one of those things where people are either going to get it right away or 30 minutes in, they’re going to be like, “Is this supposed to be real? Do other people see [Ted]?” But people go for the ride. It’s awesome.
You and Mila Kunis shot a three-way scene with Ted …
[He says jokingly] We actually shot a real three-way, but it didn’t make it into the movie. Mila had a problem with it.
What’s your favorite scene in “Ted”?
I haven’t seen the final version of the movie. I saw a rough cut, and then we shot some additional stuff. I think what I’m going to like the most is the duck and Ted fighting. I haven’t seen it yet, but all that stuff that happens at Ted’s party at Flash Gordon’s apartment is pretty wild. I don’t think it gets any crazier than that.
Interview with Mila Kunis
You’ve done some pretty “out there” things for Seth MacFarlane for “Family Guy,” but what was the most “out there” thing you did for him for “Ted”?
Cleaning up human sh*t on the floor. That pretty much ticked the height of our friendship.
When he asks you to do stuff like that, do you ever hesitate?
No. I go, “Yes, sir.” I have to. I have no choice. He is my boss. No, you know what? I trust Seth, and I trust his humor. I really do. He knows [what is] funny. And sometimes I’m like, “You’re wrong.” And he’s not. He’s always right. Just don’t tell him that
A lot of girlfriend characters in raunchy comedies are unlikable shrews. Was it fun for you to be almost like one of the guys in “Ted”?
Yeah. My biggest concern for every rewrite [of “Ted”] that I ever read was that I didn’t want her to be nagging. I didn’t need her to be one of the guys. I didn’t need her to be nagging. I do believe there is a happy medium. Not all women are beer-drinking, football-loving women. And not all women are like [she makes a whining sound a scolding gesture with her hands]. There are some who are halfway.
I was like, “I want to do this, and you’re going to have to help me.” And [Seth MacFarlane] did. He trusted me, and I trusted him, and then Gloria was born. But it was a very fine line, because I do come from doing a lot of movies with a lot of guys, for some reason. And so there’s an aspect of making a movie that is very guy-friendly. But I do believe that I’m still feminine. I do like to hold that a little bit, for all the ladies.
What did you think after seeing “Ted” for the first time?
I thought it was really funny. And I don’t say it like I’m shocked. I didn’t legitimately know what it was going to be like because there was no third character present while we were shooting it. So much of it was dependent on how Ted was going to look and how he was going to react. And it was really great.
Were you worried that the Ted character wouldn’t be believable or too distracting from the human characters?
If you couldn’t accept that fact that Ted was a regular character, and if you constantly kept thinking, “Oh my God, it’s a talking teddy bear,” the movie wouldn’t work.” So essentially, it’s an annoying best friend who just happens to be a bear. And I think that’s he — meaning, MacFarlane — produced so beautifully.
Do you think “Ted” is going to reach an audience beyond Seth MacFarlane fans?
I do. I really do, but I love his humor. It’s one of those things where if you’re easily offended — no, this is not the right movie for you. But if you want to laugh and cry and have a great time, it’s an hour and 30 minutes of just pure entertainment. Nobody’s shoving anything down your throat. Nobody’s trying to prove a point. It’s just entertainment. It’s highbrow humor set in a very lowbrow environment.
Can you talk about any of your “Ted” co-stars, besides Mark Wahlberg?
Everybody from “Family Guy” is in this movie! [She laughs.]That’s the bottom line. Seth is smart because he surrounds himself with people he trusts and people he likes and people he has a shorthand with and people that he respects and who respect him back. Everybody did it for the right reasons. Everybody knew about this film for so long and supported MacFarlane in his desire to make “Ted” for so long that I think we were all just very exited and very proud of him to all do it.
Interview with Seth MacFarlane
There have been a lot of advance screenings of “Ted” that you personally attended. What have those experiences been like for you?
Now that I know it’s not a complete disaster, I actually enjoy sitting in those screenings. At this point, it’s a subtle education. I’m fascinated to sit in the back of the theater and hear what people are laughing at and what the different types of people are laughing at — the critics, the general audiences. I just kind of collect mental data on really what works and what doesn’t.
What was it like working with your “Family Guy” co-writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild on a movie like “Ted”?
We really enjoyed it. It’s the hardest thing we’ve ever written. A feature [film] script is infinitely more difficult than writing a half-hour television [episode], because with a show like “Family Guy” or any sitcom — this probably goes for shows like “Seinfeld as well — you can be a little loose with the story at times. If you have a lot of really great jokes, you can tread a little water with the story. You’re only taking up 22 minutes, so you’re fine. With a movie, no matter how funny you are, you really do also have to have that story arc that people are invested in, because they’re sitting in that room for an hour and a half. So that was the challenge.
What do think about audiences accepting Ted as a human-like character instead of as a talking teddy bear?
So far, that seems to have been a successful endeavor. It was a really big thing when I was making this movie. I really wanted people to forget early on that what they were looking at was a talking teddy bear. I wanted them to think of Ted as another Boston guy, like Mark [Wahlberg’s] character. And I think that worked. The two special-effects houses — Tippett and Iloura — that generated the bear just did some ground-breaking work, as far as the realism of this character.
What can you say about the “Ted” that hasn’t been shown in the movie’s trailers and clips?
Well, you’ll see Giovanni Ribisi dancing to a Tiffany song. How often do you get to see that?
How would you describe his dancing?
Dancing sexy as f*ck!
Why did you want “Ted” to be the first feature film that you directed instead of making it a TV show?
“Ted” was originally an idea for an animated series that I came up with and shelved for a while. And when it came time to do my first movie, it seemed like the perfect premise, in large part because technology had reached a point where with “Avatar” and “Lord of the Rings,” you could create a character like Ted and have him seem very real, and not have to use a hand puppet or a marionette.
For more info: “Ted” wesbite
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