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Quint chats with Seth MacFarlane and Mark Wahlberg about foul-mouthed stuffed bears, Alien Nation and TED!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. So, I knew I was going to sit down with Seth MacFarlane after his big SXSW panel, but what I didn’t know is that we would be joined by Mark Wahlberg who stars in TED, MacFarlane’s debut feature film.

The flick is a hard R-rated comedy that opens this summer about a little boy who wishes his teddy bear would be a real friend. He gets his wish and after all the world is amazed by this Christmas miracle the bear grows up like anybody else. So you have a sweet childhood relationship that morphs into what typically happens with childhood best friends… a vulgar, friendly ribbing, wrestling, pot-smoking, video game playing, slacker pair of buddies. Except one of them happens to be a teddy bear and sound like Peter Griffin.

About 20 minutes prior to the interview I was alerted to that fact, so I did what I could to roll some question’s Wahlberg’s way.

These kinds of interviews are always a little difficult even with a significant heads up. I’m a fan of Family Guy, something Herc gives me endless amounts of shit for, but I had to ask questions about a film that I haven’t seen and only have a vague idea based on a few minutes of footage… in many ways, this is my average Comic-Con interview experience.

We began by my introducing myself to the two men and reminding Wahlberg that we briefly met during my time on The Lovely Bones set. That conversation spun off into New Zealand and Lord of the Rings which is what was being discussed when I got my recorder turned on. We’ll jump into the conversation there.

Enjoy!

 

Seth MacFarlane: I’m actually looking forward to that movie (THE HOBBIT). I was not a big LORD OF THE RINGS fan, but I’m looking forward to this one. I could never get into those books, the old ones. It’s…

Quint: Very dense.

Seth MacFarlane: Every time somebody is outdoors or passes a glade or is even by an open window, I have to read eight pages of fucking nature described.

Quint: (laughs) Yeah, Tolkien liked trees. THE HOBBIT is a lot more of an adventure story, that was written before Tolkien decided he wanted to really myth build and all of that stuff. We should probably talk a little bit about your movie instead of Peter Jackson’s movie. I think he’s going to have plenty of people talking about The Hobbit…

Seth MacFarlane: He’ll be fine. Don’t worry about him.

Quint: I’ll tell you at what point that I knew that we were kind of on the same page during the Ted footage presentation. Any time anybody shows even and inkling of love and respect to TEMPLE OF DOOM I feel like I’ve found a soul mate.

Seth MacFarlane: Doesn’t deserve the whipping that it some times gets.

Quint: It’s one of my favorites and I think it’s a very underrated movie.

Seth MacFarlane: It might be the best John Williams score ever.

Quint: Oh, it’s incredible. I listen to it all of the time. I thought it was a really good idea to show the opening eight minutes of TED, because you really set the fairy tale tone. I think when people see the red band trailer… that’s a little bit more what they are expecting from a feature from you and it will be more of a surprise I guess when they go into the theater and they see how it does have that very fairy tale, innocent beginning. Anybody who was an 80’s kid can recognize the detail of the world, whether it’s the INDY poster or people opening up a Nintendo. So I’d like to start with talking about finding that tone and talk about why you decided to take a little time to build the world before you break the innocence, I guess.

Seth MacFarlane: Yeah. The idea of keeping it very, very sweet and kind of massaging the audience’s experience from the get go for at least the first eight minutes or so was always part of the script and that radical tonal shift is deliberate. Obviously Patrick Stewart’s narration, which is not the last you hear of him in this movie… Yeah, it was something that was done purposefully and it does set a tone of sweetness that is carried throughout the film despite how edgy it is. There is a backbone of heart to this thing that I think might surprise some regular FAMILY GUY viewers.

Mark Wahlberg: I just observed the other day that the boy who plays “Young John,” he thinks it’s like this little sweet movie. They were showing some stuff and he was like trying to watch and his mother wouldn’t let him watch. (laughs) He was like “Why? What’s going on?”

Quint: In his mind it’s a Spielberg film! What’s really interesting though and in a very odd way, that stark contrast in a weird way grounds the movie. I don’t think the joke would have been funny if it had started with a wise-cracking teddy bear. I like that he grew up with the kid, matured as close childhood friends often do… I don’t know if there’s a question there… (laughs)

Seth MacFarlane: Well it’s a way to, hopefully, emotionally invest the audience from the get go. There’s a title sequence that you’re actually not seeing here where we kind of travel through the years a little bit with these characters and watch them grow up together and then you are kind of hit in the face with this present day reality.

Quint: Mark, is that kind of how you approached it? I think what makes the buddy aspect of it work, at least in the footage we saw, is that you don’t treat him any differently than you would treat any other friend. He just happens to be a teddy bear.

Mark Wahlberg: I love the relationship between them and again when I talked to Seth my biggest concern was that I could just try to play it as real as possible and play it as straight as possible and hopefully the laughs will come from the situation that they are in and the craziness that they are experiencing and the writing… It was really funny, but when I started to read the script, halfway through it you forget that it’s a bear and you’re just thinking “Wow, these guys have this great relationship and this guy is stuck in this dilemma between keeping his girlfriend happy and wanting to spend most of his time, if not all of his time, with his best friend.”

Quint: Yeah, again I think what really impresses me about the concept is that it’s a typical buddy film, but with a crazy supernatural element to it. I think that’s really fun.

Seth MacFarlane: We were shooting for that very contemporary R-rated in a lot of ways relationship comedy kind of tone, but one of the characters is of course CG and I’m not sure that that’s been done before. Maybe I’m missing something, but it was something very specific and I asked a lot of Mark. I think it’s a huge testament to him as an actor that essentially he was… Most of the movie… These are not action scenes, these are real scenes of relatability in which he is playing to empty space and he was seeing that bear there. He was speaking to empty space and yet interacting with someone and when the bear went in later on it just felt so organic. I don’t know that that would have been possible with another actor.

Quint: In the Q&A you mentioned that you were there with him and were doing your dialog with him and that you weren’t locked into a previously recorded track. You used the Bill Murray/Garfield analogy.

Seth MacFarlane: I know. I don’t mean to shit on that movie, but it’s the only example…

Quint: Murray shits on the movie. He doesn’t care!

Seth MacFarlane: That’s what I figured.

Quint: Every time somebody asks him why he did it, he’s like “They paid me two million bucks and I stood in a room for a day. I’ll do that job every day of the week.”

Seth MacFarlane: A lot of it is sound though, too. I mean we mic-ed the bear dialogue the same way as everyone else. Any environment we were in, it was all live. I do think no matter how sophisticated your mixer is, you are still artificially duplicating the sound of that room and on FAMILY GUY we did sort of a rough pass at this where we put Brian, the dog, on Bill Maher’s show and it was mic-ed the same way as everyone else and the sound of that room and the consistency of the recording quality really pulled him into that environment in a lot more than just with the audio that you think it would.

Quint: I have it imagine from an acting perspective that made all the difference in the world, where Mark’s not acting against just playback. So how did it work? I don’t imagine you were in the scene, but were you off camera?

Seth MacFarlane: Yeah. I was generally just off camera in the room as much as possible. Most of the scenes with John and Ted we did that way.

Quint: So you guys were acting together?

Mark Wahlberg: Yeah.

Quint: I have to imagine that helps, because you can actually read emotion.

Seth MacFarlane: Well, not really.

Mark Wahlberg: He’d be like over there (motions in his periphery) and I’d be here with this stuffed bear or a doll.

Seth MacFarlane: If the bear is sitting in this chair, I’m across the room and he’s looking at this empty chair and interacting. It’s a lot to think about all at once for an actor.

Mark Wahlberg: But it’s also just like being at home learning the lines and rehearsing. I spent hours looking at myself in the mirror and I just imagined… (Laughs) No, I’m kidding.

Quint: (laughs) You had me going there for a second. I’m like “Oh? Really? That’s your process, huh?”

Mark Wahlberg: No, I’m just fucking with you. I do remember hearing stories… I think it was Keanu Reeves who would just say the lines in the mirror like “Try it like this. No, no try it like that…”

Quint: So we didn’t see much of the relationship with Mila [Kunis]. Maybe we could talk a little bit about that and some of the other cast in the movie. I saw that Joel McHale, who is really funny, and a lot of the FAMILY GUY people pop up.

Seth MacFarlane: Giovanni Ribisi was also in the movie. He was great.

Quint: He can be really funny, too.

Mark Wahlberg: He’s spectacular.

Seth MacFarlane: Yeah, Mila… The challenge with that relationship and again this goes back to the whole premise being, ideally, tonally grounded in reality, at least as far as the audience is concerned. We wanted to treat this like this is somebody who is living with your boyfriend, from Mila’s perspective, who is a sap on your relationship who is just draining the life out of it, because he’s a leech and he’s been there for too long.

She played that so real and so effectively that it just worked and the trick too is with a character like that… You see often times in comedies the female character with her hands on her hips badgering the guy to do this or that and get his act together and often times it can come off very hen pecking and Mila is a very balanced, very shrewd actress who is able to acknowledge the dangers of that and really hone that performance in a way that…

Mark Wahlberg: She’s not a bitch.

Seth MacFarlane: Yeah, makes her stern with him and makes her persistent, but you get where she’s coming from. She’s right. Her character has a very legitimate beef.

Mark Wahlberg: Yeah, that’s a finer line to walk than either of us were doing. She had the tough part.

Seth MacFarlane: That’s true.

Mark Wahlberg: I smell a nomination. (laughs) Let’s start the campaign early.

Quint: So is there a child star aspect to Ted as a character?

Seth MacFarlane: A little bit. It’s something we hint at now and then, but I have always kind of wanted to underplay that. I feel like the uniqueness of this movie depends on the normalcy of this character living in this world. It’s like THE MUPPETS and all of my Muppets references are fucking old, but in THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER Kermit and Fozzy are working for a newspaper and their boss is chewing them out like “You didn’t get the story and we are going to lose money because of it!” It’s never mentioned that it’s a bear and a frog. They are just treated like normal citizens.

Quint: If that’s the reality established in the movie and you don’t betray it, the audience accepts it.

Seth MacFarlane: It is and I think all too often there’s a gimmick where “Oh, only this kid can hear his dog” or “only this person can hear this person talk.” That always drives me crazy. All it does is limit you.

Quint: To be honest, that’s where I thought this was going just from the description, but that all changed when young John introduces his new friend to his parents, when Ted walks into the kitchen the parents had a very natural reaction I thought. “Get my gun!”

Mark Wahlberg: “Is it a hugging gun?” (laughs)

Seth MacFarlane: Everything about it was supposed to be real. I mean this is a terrible analogy, but there was a movie called ALIEN NATION that came out in the 80’s and the whole premise was it was five years after the aliens landed and now everyone is used to them being around, that no matter how crazy and bizarre.

Mark Wahlberg: Yeah, yeah with Jimmy Caan?

Quint: Yeah.

Mark Wahlberg: His pants were hiked up a little too high.

Seth MacFarlane: (laughs) No matter how insane an event, eventually people just have to get used to it. If something like this happened, give it thirty years and no one would care anymore. They would just be like “Well, we can’t be shocked every day. Let’s go with it.”

Quint: So what’s the plan for the film? It’s a summer release, right?

Seth MacFarlane: Yeah, July.

Quint: Cool.

Mark Wahlberg: I think we want as few people as possible to see it. We’ll try a different approach. (laughs)

Quint: “Counter-counter promotion.” Cool, well I don’t think I have too much more, unless there’s something else you want to discuss.

Mark Wahlberg: Just convince everybody to go see this movie about how awesome it is. Give us an A+ rating.

Quint: (laughs). Well, thank you guys. I really appreciate your time.

And there you have it. Seth MacFarlane says Ted is like Alien Nation! Take it to the bank!

-Eric Vespe
”Quint”
quint@aintitcool.com
Follow Me On Twitter

Readers Talkback
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  • March 16, 2012, 10:56 p.m. CST

    Second?

    by Fritzlorrerains

  • March 16, 2012, 10:58 p.m. CST

    Macfarlane's a dick

    by sunwukong86

  • March 16, 2012, 11:02 p.m. CST

    Arg, that poster is giving me The Beaver flashbacks

    by happybunni

    Which wasn't a terrible film, just stupid and unfunny in a lot of parts.

  • March 16, 2012, 11:17 p.m. CST

    "...and sound like Peter Griffin"

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    Jesus, MacFarlane can't come up with an original voice to save his life. Hire some professional voice actors, Seth! And if I was in the same room with MacFarlane, I would literally punch him directly in the face. It'd be worth the jail time and fines and shit just to break that smug sonafabitch's nose.

  • March 16, 2012, 11:17 p.m. CST

    FIFTH!!!...

    by Joe Damiani

    I think

  • Genuine question. I don't follow celebrities. I thought his special with Marlee Matlin was friggin' hilarious...

  • March 16, 2012, 11:31 p.m. CST

    You should have asked him what Al Gore's cock tastes like

    by edwardpenishands

  • March 16, 2012, 11:33 p.m. CST

    I'm not sure if it would have been in good taste, but...

    by The Dum Guy

    I'm surprised you didn't bring up the whole fact both of those guys almost died due to 9/11, and.... Nevermind, I'm not sure you could seque that question into a question about a comedy.

  • March 16, 2012, 11:50 p.m. CST

    Meanwhile, there's a NEW "Prometheus" trailer

    by Fart Magnus

    Here! http://www.prometheus-movie.com/news/129 ENJOY!!!!!!!!!! Oh and look whose chest is opening up in the last frames of the trailer - not really a prequel to Alien and only "shares some DNA" my sweaty, fat arse!!!!!!

  • WARRRRNNN booop WWARRRRNNN booop

  • March 17, 2012, 12:15 a.m. CST

    Trailer down already...

    by KyleG

    damnit!

  • March 17, 2012, 12:17 a.m. CST

    And back up!

    by KyleG

    HOLY SPOOGE!!

  • March 17, 2012, 12:32 a.m. CST

    Sounds promising

    by Patch

    I'm kind of out on Family Guy but this actually sounds like it could be pretty funny...

  • Hellllllsss yeessss Prometheus!!

  • March 17, 2012, 12:52 a.m. CST

    SUPERNATURAL DID THIS FIRST

    by lynxpro

    There was an episode of SUPERNATURAL where a large teddy bear came to life. He was suicidal, watched a lot of porn and drank a lot of alcohol. The townsfolk thought Bigfoot was terrorizing them.

  • March 17, 2012, 1:51 a.m. CST

    Not exactly even like.... close to this concept...

    by gotilk

    and if you wanna get that broad with it, A.I. did it as well. That said... that episode of Supernatural was one of the best episodes they ever did. It was hilarious!! That sort of *poof* of stuffing when he dies? Classic. I mean can you imagine seeing that? A giant teddy bear shoots himself in the head and all you see/hear is a big *PUH* and stuffing flying out? ROFL!!

  • March 17, 2012, 1:54 a.m. CST

    I can't imagine why anyone would HATE Family Guy.

    by gotilk

    I mean... what has to be wrong with you? I can't wait to see this movie, personally. Any idea when we'll see a trailer for it? But wow... that new Prometheus trailer kicked all kinds of ass. And it's downloadable in 3 formats on that page, right below the video.

  • March 17, 2012, 2:02 a.m. CST

    HUGE (Prometheus) spoiler.

    by gotilk

    Sure looked like a facehugger to me.

  • March 17, 2012, 2:32 a.m. CST

    New PRometheus trailer is now online

    by DARKJEDI

    PRometheus has landed

  • March 17, 2012, 7:21 a.m. CST

    looks terrible and family was only funny pre cancellation

    by HASBEER_WILLCHEET

    since then its one of the worst shows of all time.

  • March 17, 2012, 7:21 a.m. CST

    family guy*

    by HASBEER_WILLCHEET

  • March 17, 2012, 9:39 a.m. CST

    Thanks for asking him about the Family Guy movie

    by scottdude

    NOT! How could you go through a whole interview with Macfarlane and not ever ask what the status is of the Family Guy movie? Amazing.

  • March 17, 2012, 10:29 a.m. CST

    by MikeTheSpike

    The MacFarlane hate is unreal - particularly the guy's an actual progressive that fights for stuff ole "hope and change" Obama wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. Meanwhile, everyone's favourite, Matt Groening, gets a pass because... what? He shows up now and again to sign a cheque (and records some of the very best DVD commentary, it must be said), while MacFarlane's actually working on his show every week and making a movie?

  • March 17, 2012, 11:46 a.m. CST

    MacFarlane

    by MandrakeRoot

    I find it hard to believe someone is calling out Seth MacFarlane as a poor voice actor, as he is insanely gifted in that area. I could list off almost 10 characters he voices that sound all significantly different. He's also got a sharp sense of timing as a performer. Still though, Family Guy IS maybe one of the worst, laziest shows on television. It was once genuinely hilarious, but when it came back from cancellation is lost what made it special, and has only gotten progressively worse since then. This clearly has to due to with the fact that two of FGs main writers left after the third season to do American Dad, which after a mediocre first few episodes slowly became one of the funniest shows on TV. It's a shame people lump it in with Family Guy and don't give it a chance, because the shows are literally nothing alike and Seth does no creative work on it whatsoever, apart from a couple great voices.

  • March 17, 2012, 11:46 a.m. CST

    Yeah, that LORD OF THE RINGS sure is a chore...

    by brokentusk

    I hate it when books take pages to establish a sense of place and believability. Now NODDY IN TOYLAND, that's the shit right there.

  • March 17, 2012, 1:16 p.m. CST

    McFaland is talented at voice work, I'll give him that

    by mdk

  • March 17, 2012, 2:50 p.m. CST

    "...because the shows are really nothing alike..."

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    BULLSHIT. Same limited, 70's Hanna/Barbera animation style, same character archetypes (doofus, morbidly obese dad, shill wife, loser kids, talking pet), same boner for all things 80s, same bad-taste "shock" humor...the only difference between the two is that American Dad doesn't have a "remember the time...?" cutaway gag every 30 seconds. The Cleveland Show is more of the same horseshit. At least Matt Groening's Futurama was greatly different from The Simpsons.

  • March 17, 2012, 3:54 p.m. CST

    Temple of Doom WAS a great film

    by Mugato5150

    If they would have cut the dinner scene it would be just below Raiders but as is still better than the slapsticky Last Crusade.

  • March 17, 2012, 4:57 p.m. CST

    Seth MacFarlane is

    by Geekgasm

    one of the douchiest people working in the entertainment business today. He is a miserable excuse for a human being and every year he's on my "Celebrities I Expect to Take Their Own Life This Year" list. Plenty of time left in 2012, Seth ...

  • March 17, 2012, 5:23 p.m. CST

    Why, exactly, geekgasm?

    by Mugato5150

    Is it his politics? I'm guessing it's his politics. The worst thing I can say about him is that he's somewhat of a one trick pony and beats that pony to death way too long. But damn, you seem really pissed at the guy.

  • March 17, 2012, 8:27 p.m. CST

    i'm curious as well - why the hate?

    by mojination

    is it *cool* to hate him or something?

  • March 17, 2012, 9:33 p.m. CST

    The reason I hate Seth MacFarlane...

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    ...is because he gets paid ***$100 million dollars*** to just re-create shit he watched on TV when he was ten and add "edgy" rape and AIDS jokes. There is literally NO difference between Family Guy and those horrible Seltzerberg "spoof" movies like Epic Movie, Meet The Spartans and the like. Just recreate the object of "satire" EXACTLY, then have somebody fart. That's funny, right? Plus, he's made the same TV series literally THREE TIMES IN A ROW. There is NO DIFFERENCE between Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show. Same generic sitcom conventions, same boring, lifeless character designs, same SHRILL voice acting, same, "Oh hey, Herculoids!" pandering to the 80's nostalgia boom... Mainly, I just hate the stupid, smug smirk he has in every picture I've ever seen of him. I don't begrudge someone a certain level of success just because, but when it's for doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING but parrot shit that's 25 years old, why SHOULDN'T I despise him?

  • March 17, 2012, 10:50 p.m. CST

    A Family Guy movie would never work

    by sunwukong86

    There's no way they can write an hour and a half long plot without any cut away gags. Cutaways just wouldn't work in a movie

  • March 18, 2012, 1:01 a.m. CST

    @nasty in the pasty

    by brattyben

    That 'limited' animation you speak of is a stylistic choice. I wonder if you realize that the whole show is done in Maya and that everything in that show from characters to props to backgrounds are all existing in a virtual 3D space. That's why the characters are always consistent and have the maximum amount of maneuverability. They just use specific shaders to get the 2D effect for the characters, mainly the black line that surrounds them. Really watch them move and picture everyone as a wireframe and it'll click for you. It's actually quite a technical show. So I'm not understanding what you mean by limited. Having said that, I'm willing to give this movie a try. I think the gimmick will be what brings people to the theaters, but, it'll be the heart and story they will remember. Here's hoping.

  • March 18, 2012, 1:53 a.m. CST

    Mark Wahlberg is the man

    by liljuniorbrown

    I heard him doing a phone interview not to long ago pushing the crime thriller he just made. Just a solid dude. A mans man. Not like these Twilight model weirdos. Shooter was under rated

  • March 18, 2012, 8:30 a.m. CST

    I consider the animation

    by Nasty In The Pasty

  • March 18, 2012, 8:31 a.m. CST

    "limited" because there's no in-betweening whatsoever

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    Characters just kind of "pop" from one key pose to another, with no fluidity of movement in-between, just like in a bad Saturday Morning Cartoon from the 80's. Then again, considering MacFarlane's 80's boner, I'm sure that was the intention...

  • March 18, 2012, 8:36 a.m. CST

    avoidance..

    by gotilk

    Yep, he was right. The politics.

  • March 18, 2012, 8:37 a.m. CST

    And yeah, cutaway, short gags will never work in a movie..

    by gotilk

    AIRPLANE! had to be said.

  • March 18, 2012, 8:38 a.m. CST

    Don't you dare compare Family Guy to Airplane

    by gotilk

    Oh fuck off.

  • March 18, 2012, 10:54 a.m. CST

    lynxpro, I loved that episode of Supernatural

    by solitaire

    Seriously, one of the funniest, most bizzre goddamned things I have ever seen. The little girl smuggling booze and porn back home to him because he is depressed, and Jensen Ackle's reaction to it was just priceless. seriously, anyone who doesn't watch the show and has netflix on demand, look up that episode, it is a perfect example of why the show has a devoted fanbase.

  • March 19, 2012, 4:22 a.m. CST

    Will Wahlberg be confused in this movie?

    by GARY MAKIN

  • March 19, 2012, 10:55 a.m. CST

    spewbacca

    by solitaire

    it is a really good show that has had some weak seasons. The original concept, searching for their dad and the yellow eyed demon that killed their mother was where it really worked, when they sorted that out, they had to keep coming up with a concept, and they have gone from Satan to angels to demons to leviathan. The best episodes, for me, are the stand alone ones. Those allow them to get back to the central hook, two brothers hunting supernatural things. Check out "The French Mistake" from last season where they get sent into an alternate dimension where they are just who guys named jared and jenson on a tv show. That one is brilliant.

  • March 19, 2012, 11:43 a.m. CST

    Always confuse this guy with the creator of Spawn

    by Darth Macchio

    People should be required to change their name or go by a nickname when there's someone else with the same or similar name. Todd McFarlane - Seth MacFarlane. One of you needs to let it go. Think of the children, will you?