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Seth MacFarlane’s new comedy ‘Ted’ is out in cinemas on June 29 and tells the tale of a boy and his friendship with a toy. From the moment they find each other, young John Bennett and the cuddly bear Ted vow to be best friends, forever and ever. Their shared childhood joys include time go-karting, making snow angels, watching ‚ÄėFlash Gordon‚Äô, dressing in costumes for the local opening of ‚ÄėStar Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace‚Äô (as Darth Maul and Yoda), getting high‚Ä¶and watching ‚ÄėFlash Gordon‚Äô. As kids, their shared fear of thunder bonds them as ‚ÄúThunder Buddies,‚ÄĚ and the phobia follows them into adulthood. Nothing scares away thunder more than a shared song to embolden their spirits.
MacFarlane discusses casting the role of the man who just can‚Äôt grow up: ‚ÄúMark Wahlberg was the perfect fit because he can be hysterically funny, yet he‚Äôs also able to deliver genuine emotion and realism. When he talks to the bear, you believe that bear is sitting there. The way he could sit there and show such genuine emotion over the prostrate body of an inanimate stuffed animal was pretty impressive, and that is going to be a very big reason why the audience is invested in this.‚ÄĚ
While Wahlberg has only appeared in a handful of comedies, his skills wowed the director. ‚ÄúHis ability to do physical comedy is incredible,‚ÄĚ continues MacFarlane. ‚ÄúThat loveable, gullible character he plays in ‚ÄėBoogie Nights‚Äô and ‚ÄėI Heart Huckabees‚Äô was something we saw as a jumping-off point for John: the sweet and funny guy who is susceptible to Ted‚Äôs urgings.‚ÄĚ
Wahlberg admits that he usually selects the role opposite in character from the one he last filmed. He says: ‚ÄúI went from doing ‚ÄėThe Fighter‚Äô press to shooting ‚ÄėContraband‚Äô in New Orleans during award season and going back and forth. Then I got a copy of the script, and when I read it, 30 minutes into it I completely forgot about the bear, and I thought, ‚ÄėWow, what a great buddy movie with this dilemma in the middle of it with the girlfriend.‚Äô Then I met Seth, and I was campaigning to get the part.‚ÄĚ
As he read the screenplay, Wahlberg says he was quite impressed by the comedy: ‚ÄúPeople will not be disappointed. It‚Äôs Seth on steroids. When I first saw ‚ÄúFamily Guy,‚ÄĚ I couldn‚Äôt believe that he was getting away with some of that stuff in a cartoon. But now with this rated-R feature film, he really pushes the envelope. There‚Äôs nobody that he doesn‚Äôt offend, either. Across the board, everybody‚Äôs fair game.‚ÄĚ
Wahlberg introduces us to his character: ‚ÄúJohn works at a rent-a-car place and has a beautiful girlfriend, Lori. He doesn‚Äôt want to let go of his adolescence, but his girlfriend wants him to step up and be a man. He‚Äôs enjoying life and couldn‚Äôt be happier with his girlfriend and his best friend; they make the most of every moment together. But that becomes a problem because Lori wants a bigger commitment.‚ÄĚ
His first blended animation film, the actor wanted to make sure that he did the part justice. He says: ‚ÄúMy only concern was that I wanted to play everything as real as possible. I wanted to play it completely straight and let the laughs come from the craziness of the situation. That was exactly what Seth was looking for.‚ÄĚ So intense was his preparation to ready himself for the scene in which John rattles off a number of potential names to Ted, Wahlberg wrote out each girl‚Äôs name hundreds of times.
Producer Scott Stuber knew that the man they cast had to implicitly believe that his director wouldn‚Äôt lead him astray. He explains: ‚ÄúTrust is a big word, and Mark had to go there with Seth. He had to sit on a couch next to a kickstand and hope that the animation and the personality of that bear would feel like two guys on a couch having fun and having real camaraderie. Mark was unbelievable; he gives such a great performance.‚ÄĚ The producer acknowledges that their lead gave them his all: ‚ÄúThe irony is that if you watch the dailies of the movie, there‚Äôs nobody playing against him. If you watch the movie just from Mark‚Äôs perspective, he‚Äôs getting his bare ass whipped, has to get up and sing poorly and is beat up by a bear‚ÄĒall kinds of indignation for his character. He just never complained, and he did everything we asked of him.‚ÄĚ
Cast opposite Wahlberg was Mila Kunis as Lori Collins, John‚Äôs formerly patient girlfriend and a rising public relations executive. The actress, who has voiced the role of ‚ÄúFamily Guy‚ÄĚ‚Äôs Meg for almost 13 years, grew up with her director. Says MacFarlane: ‚ÄúIt was a logical choice to bring her on board, given my relationship with her combined with the fact that she is just blowing up right now, and deservedly so.‚ÄĚ
Discussing Lori‚Äôs part in the comedy, MacFarlane shares: ‚ÄúAs with Mark, we had the same set of needs.
This role had to be played with believability, despite the outrageousness. Her relationship is hampered by the fact that this guy‚Äôs teddy bear is hanging around and keeping him from evolving and allowing their relationship to evolve. To play that real is asking a lot of an actor, and she pulled it off with flying colors. You believe that she‚Äôs genuinely distraught that this stuffed animal is dominating their life. In many ways, that was the key to the recipe for the comedy. Since the premise brings its own comedy, the trick for mining it is to play it straight at the core.‚ÄĚ
How did Kunis feel about tackling the project? ‚ÄúI‚Äôve known Seth since I was 15,‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúIf you can work with your friends all the time, you can‚Äôt ask for a better work environment.‚ÄĚ Plus, she deadpans, ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a movie about a talking teddy bear, and I would expect nothing less from Seth, Alec and Wellesley. It all made sense to me, and I didn‚Äôt question it at all. I‚Äôm on a cartoon with a talking dog. Like I‚Äôm going to question a bear?‚ÄĚ
Nonetheless, Kunis still found the experience working with MacFarlane directing ‚Äúa little strange.‚ÄĚ She offers: ‚ÄúOn ‚ÄúFamily Guy‚ÄĚ, I‚Äôm in one booth. He‚Äôs in another booth, and normally he has to explain to me what‚Äôs happening because you record ‚ÄúFamily Guy‚ÄĚ a year before anything‚Äôs drawn. Seeing him as the director explaining scenarios and characters and visually setting up shots has been great. Seth gets so giddy when he gets a take that he likes.‚ÄĚ
Kunis explains that Lori is none too happy with the odd triangle in which she finds herself embedded. The actress says: ‚ÄúTed is a roommate who gets in the way a lot. Lori is a hard-working girl who loves John for being a child at heart, but she also wants to settle down and have a sense of security that he‚Äôs not capable of giving her. He is a sweet, beautiful soul, but he‚Äôs like a stunted 15-year-old boy who means well but doesn‚Äôt have the drive to go past a certain point. All he does all day long is smoke weed and get high with his teddy bear. Lori tries to get John to get Ted to move into his own place so that the two of them can start their life together.‚ÄĚ
‘Ted’¬†isn‚Äôt the first time the two actors have performed with one another. Kunis shares: ‚ÄúMark‚Äôs very present, and he‚Äôs a comforting actor to work with. Just knowing that there‚Äôs somebody who is looking out for your best interests and that you can trust is very rare.‚ÄĚ
Though the crux of the comedy is Ted, John and Lori, it was crucial to the filmmakers not to support the main characters with stock ones. Stuber offers: ‚ÄúWe wanted to fill out our characters‚Äô lives. One of the mistakes we sometimes make in filmmaking‚ÄĒwhether it‚Äôs a comedy or a romantic comedy‚ÄĒis that we tend to never show that our main characters have diverse lives. It was important to dimensionalize Ted, Lori and John‚Äôs work lives and make sure that you knew these characters. Plus, across the board, we were able to get the kind of supporting actors that we wanted.‚ÄĚ
Image Courtesy of ¬†Ted