Sam J. Jones on his hilarious Ted cameo and how Flash Gordon helped bring us Family Guy.
We let our writer, the one person in the world who’s seen cheeseball sci-fi classic Flash Gordon more times than Seth McFarlane, interviewFlash himself, Sam J. Jones. We apologize for the level of geekiness that follows.
What did you think when you first saw the script for Ted?
I thought it was very funny, especially the opening line, which set everybody up - great voice, Boston, the snow, Christmas time, and then it took an immediate twist.
Do you own a teddy bear?
Good question. All my children do, so most of them end up on my bed or on the sofa.
How did it feel to be playing a weird version of yourself?
It was very strange. Obviously we were doing a spoof or a parody, and some was me and some was not me. I hope I didn’t confuse too many people.
Please tell us that wasn’t your real hair.
No, that was a wig. I still have a flat top, kind of a high flat top.
You’re not tempted to go back to the Flash Gordon cut?
No, I don’t think it would look as thick as it did back then. It looked real - they spent a lot of money on that wig!
Did you know Seth Macfarlane was such a huge fan of Flash Gordon before this happened?
No, I really didn’t. He told me when he called me - he said, Sam, you inspired me to be creative and this is why I do what I do. He asked me if I wanted to work with him and I said yes, let’s do it.
So we can thank Flash Gordon for Family Guy?
Yeah! It definitely gave him his kick-start.
What was the most memorable moment for you, filming Flash Gordon?
What took up a lot of the rehearsal time would be trying to stay injury-free during the fight scene on the rotating disc. We had quite a few falls off of that, falls of 30 feet - we’d fall onto boxes that were stacked up. It actually worked really well, but there were a lot of small injuries and, you know, not wanting to get hit in the eye with a bull whip and things of that nature. I think it worked out well.
That stage was 30 feet high?
That disc was elevated 25-30 feet, but from the audience’s point of view it looked like we were standing above a bottomless void. We lost our balance and fell quite a bit. When you fall into stacked boxes they kind of grab you and protect your fall, but you do get the edges of the boxes that lead to bruises.
How many days did it take to film that sequence?
We rehearsed it for weeks and it just sort of evolved as a work in progress. We had three technicians sitting at a table with hydraulic buttons, pushing buttons while the director was giving commands - they were trying to match our timing with the knobs, those little spikes that kept sticking up. The spikes were rubber-tipped but the shaft they were attached to was metal. A lot of the timing, it had to be synchronized perfectly - if it wasn’t, then bits of metal would dig into us. It happened a few times.
What was it like working with a pre-James Bond Timothy Dalton?
He was very professional - I think he lightened up after a while.
You probably have to when you’re wearing green tights and a mustache. How hard was it to keep a straight face around Brian Blessed dressed in wings and gold underpants?
He kept everybody laughing. He was just full of joy - the same with Chaim Topol. He would sing to everybody all day long, he would sing these musical hits from some of the plays that he did. Brian is still the same - we met up in London a few years ago and he’s exactly the same.
Do you have a favorite line from the movie?
There’s probably a few - just Flash’s naivety, his innocence. Especially when he lands and introduces himself as, “Flash Gordon, quarterback, New York Jets”. That’s always kind of a hoot.
Is it true you had a falling out with the director that led to a lot of your lines being dubbed over in the finished film?
No, I didn’t have a falling out with the director, but producer Dino De Laurentis and I bumped heads a few times - there were a few misunderstandings. In my naivety at the age of 25 I just let the attorneys handle everything - I just let my representation handle it and they did not do a very good job at all. The bottom line, though, is they worked for me and I take responsibility for what happened. I didn’t go back for looping and dubbing so they ended up using another actor to loop - I think about half the film was actually not my voice.
Do you listen to the Flash Gordon theme song when you’re working out?
Now, no. Do you listen to it when you work out, Nick?
Yeah, you, uh… you probably didn’t need to know that. You had a cameo in the recent attempt to make a Flash Gordon TV show. What did you think of that show?
I played a very interesting character by the name of Kreb who lived in a dungeon for 20 years - it was quite interesting, but it didn’t have an edge. I just thought it needed a bit more of an edge to it - it only lasted one season.
You do a lot of private security work these days, right?
Yeah, we run security operations in high-risk environments, primarily Mexico. I used to be a marine, but I still had to go back and get the proper training.
That sounds exceptionally dangerous.
I love it, it’s fun! On the next movie I’m working on, I can actually hire myself to protect myself, so it works out really well.
The hysterically funny Ted is out today on Blu-Ray and DVD.
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