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You can’t tell by the ads or trailers, but Flash Gordon, the 1980 Universal movie, and its star, Sam Jones, figure prominently in the studio’s new comedy Ted.
Ted, made by MRC with Universal marketing and distributing, hails from Seth MacFarlane, creator of the hit animated series Family Guy. And like that show, which sprinkles Star Wars and pop culture references with crude jokes, Ted has plenty of MacFarlane’s obsessions on display. That includes his clear fondness for Flash Gordon, an over-the-top extravaganza produced by Dino De Laurentiis and remembered mostly for the score by Queen. The film was not an immediate hit but has entered cult status thanks to its line deliveries, special effects and music.
Jones starred as the titular hero, but his big break in the film led only to a long string of TV appearances. But at the Ted premiere in Hollywood on June 21, the actor was back in the limelight, thanks to his turn playing a slightly whacked-out version of himself and Flash Gordon in key scenes. He was the talk of the after-party, held on top the W hotel in Hollywood.
Jones talked to Heat Vision about his return to the big screen and about his new career…in private security.
Heat Vision: How did you come to be in Ted?
Sam Jones: Seth called me back in October 2010. He said “I’m Seth MacFarlane and I want you in my movie.” And I said “Who are you and how did you get my number?”
HV: And what was his response?
Jones: He told me that he saw Flash Gordon when he was seven or eight, and how it influenced his career and fed his creativity. I had no idea he was going to call. Apparently he sent out people to track me down. So I said, “Yeah, let’s talk.” And he invited me to a table read. A small table read, he called it. There were 85 people there, in his office!
HV: You’ve been working in private security, right?
Jones: I run security operations in high-risk environments. I work in Mexico and other places. I can’t tell you the company and I can’t tell you how but we protect people from kidnappings and assassinations.
HV: So when’s the last time you made a movie?
Jones: Maybe ’04, ‘03. We took some time off, we raised a family, had five kids. I live in San Diego now. I’ve been engaged in my other career. But whatever makes sense, I’ll do. I’m not putting my hand in anything unless it’s wisdom. Otherwise it’s foolishness. I like looking a guy into the eyes, shaking his hand and saying “Let’s do it.” If not, God bless him, let’s move on.
HV: How do you look back on Flash?
Jones: It’s funny, I’m just now starting to enjoy it. We were there for five and six months and we would rehearse a scene, do it, and as soon as we were done, we moved to a different set, different location. So I didn’t have time to enjoy what I was doing. But I look back now and I remember things and go, “Yeah, that set cost a million dollars, the production designer did a great job, look at those costumes.” When you jump into something you don’t have time to really take it in. You do your job and move on. But yeah, I enjoyed what I did. And Seth is a very good example [of the impact]. It obviously did something to him and built him up and pushed him to do something with his life. And he’s done very well.
HV: What kind of direction did Seth give you?
Jones: We looked at the script but he gave me the liberty to ad lib and improvise. There were a couple of things we went over and I said it had to make sense for the character. If you want me to represent Flash Gordon, well, Flash Gordon wouldn’t do certain things.
HV: Like what? We won’t give anything away but your character does some pretty racy things.
Jones: Well…What some of the characters were doing in the scene. Certain drugs. Certain things with the women. Flash has to be loyal to his character. So we discussed what Flash would do, what Sam Jones would do.
HV: What is next for you? More movies?
Jones: We have a couple of things we’re developing. Mainly TV.
HV: So a little comeback perhaps…?
Jones: Well, I haven’t been anywhere except working. I’ve been in California the entire time.
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