Seth MacFarlane has certainly established himself as a bona fide entertainer, with three animated series on TV, 2.2 million Twitter followers and a burgeoning career as a crooner. And now he makes his debut as a director with the comedy "Ted." So why has it taken him this long to get around to making a movie? A lot of that had to do with making sure his flagship property could survive without him.
"'Family Guy' had that little cancellation thing happen to it," MacFarlane says, referring to the hit show's death in 2001 and rebirth in 2004. "I wanted to make sure that it was fully on its feet after coming back before I stepped away to do a film, because it did mean stepping away from that show completely for at least a year -- and that was something that I hadn't done yet."
While "Family Guy" has its origins in a pair of animated film pitches MacFarlane developed, "Ted" took the reverse track: "This was an idea that had actually been floating around in my head for a while. I had originally conceived it as an animated series idea and for a number of reasons shelved it," he recalls. "When it came time to do my first movie, it seemed like a story that would make a much better film than a series."
That idea -- about a man (Mark Wahlberg) and his teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane) that magically came to life when he was a kid -- might seem cartoonish on paper, but MacFarlane's main concern was making the situation believable -- even when it came to a knock-down, drag-out brawl between Wahlberg and the motion-capture-created Ted. "This was supposed to be something very different," MacFarlane says, comparing the tones of "Ted" and his animated work. "The whole joke of [the fight scene] was that we wanted to play it as realistically as possible. We wanted it to feel like a fist fight in 'The Bourne Identity,' except one of the characters happens to be a teddy bear."
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Given that until now MacFarlane has been restricted to some degree by the constraints of network television, the assumption would be that he would find an R-rated film liberating. But in reality, MacFarlane found that lack of restriction oddly restricting. "You're not dealing with the restrictions imposed by the FCC. They're self-imposed. So, in a way it does make it harder. You actually have to think about it, as opposed to just taking for granted that you're not going to be able to do this," MacFarlane says. "This movie's been labeled 'hard R,' but I don't think of it as a 'hard R' movie. ... It's R for language. So if that doesn't bother you, you're fine. The first cut of this movie had a lot more uses of the word 'f---,' and we did cut that down somewhat because we found that, even though it's an R-rated comedy and you can do whatever you want, it was starting to eat into the sweetness of the story a little bit."