Seth MacFarlane goes West

Seth MacFarlane and Charlize Theron at the premiere of A Million Ways to Die in the West in Los Angeles last month.

Those who can't get enough of Seth MacFarlane's brand of humour will be treated to a whole lot more of the US funnyman in A Million Ways To Die In The West.

The comedic genius behind long-running animated TV series Family Guy and the 2012 hit comedy Ted has put his own spin on beloved Western flicks.

And he has gathered an all-star cast, with Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris and Sarah Silverman along for the ride.

And unlike previous projects which he either scripted or directed, this time he's in front of the camera and making his acting debut (he also has writing and directing credits for it).

In the movie, opening here on June 12, he plays cowardly sheep farmer Albert in 1880s Arizona who falls for Anna, a mysterious new woman in town (Theron), and must put his newfound courage to the test when her outlaw husband Clinch (Neeson) seeks revenge. M meets MacFarlane, 40, in Beverly Hills as he treats us to the inside scoop on what went into making A Million Ways To Die In The West.

HOW DID THE IDEA FOR THE FILM COME ABOUT?

I was working on the rewrite for Ted with my co-writers and we were killing time watching old Westerns and commenting about how we love the genre, but are painfully aware of what a horrible, depressing place it was to live in despite how much it's been romanticised in popular culture in America.

We felt a comedy was an angle that no one had really explored before. It just felt right for comedy.

DID THE STUDIO GIVE YOU COMPLETE FREEDOM FOR THIS MOVIE BASED ON THE SUCCESS OF TED?

Ted afforded me, more than anything, the embracing of a comedy Western as a premise.

I probably would have had trouble if Ted hadn't succeeded the way it did. It's just a weird enough idea to work, especially when everything is either a sequel or reboot.

THIS IS YOUR FIRST ACTING ROLE. WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO STAR IN THE MOVIE?

The timing felt right for me to try doing on-camera work.

It's something I wouldn't have attempted prior to this.

I didn't feel ready, but by the time I wrote this script, I did and the character felt like a good fit.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO BE BOTH DIRECTOR AND ACTOR?

I have had some experience, though a different degree, doing voice-over for animated shows for so many years. I had to go back and listen to my own voice and do takes and edit audio tracks.

This was different, but not as different as I had feared it would be. It was just physically exhausting, running back and forth between the set and the video monitor and switching my brain from one mode to another.

Once I got into the rhythm, it wasn't that insurmountable.

ANNA IS QUITE A DEPARTURE FROM THE FEMALE CHARACTERS YOU TEND TO WRITE. WAS THIS DELIBERATE?

We didn't really set out to create a strong female character so much as a strong character, period. She and Albert are the same in so many ways, so we really treated them as two people cut from the same cloth regardless of gender.

HOW DID NEESON FIGURE IN THE CASTING?

He thought it was funny and is a modest guy and capable of having a laugh at his own expense. I'm shocked that he agreed to do the movie because he's such an accomplished actor and very much in demand.

tnp@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 04, 2014.
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