The talent booked for the “A Conversation With” panels at this year’s annual South by Southwest Film Festival were big enough draws to warrant very long lines of fans and hopeful attendees eager to spend an hour and a half with the likes of Joss Whedon and Seth MacFarlane. Whedon’s panel delivered a few fun newsy bites about “Marvel’s The Avengers” and his surprise adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”
MacFarlane’s panel took the surprise element to the next level in presenting the enthusiastic audience with eight minutes of footage from his upcoming live-action directorial debut, “Ted,” as well as the very raunchy red band and the very special guest appearance of star Mark Wahlberg.
The “Family Guy” mastermind and “Fighter” star spoke enthusiastically about their shared experiences making the R-rated buddy/ semi-romantic comedy, which revolves around the friendship between a grown man (Wahlberg) and his childhood best friend, a magical talking teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane), and how that gets in the way of his romantic relationship with girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis).
MTV News was lucky enough to chat with MacFarlane and surprise guest Wahlberg after their very well-received panel on Sunday, during which their mutual admiration for each other along with their genuine love for the film were obvious.
“He was a huge pain in the ass, man, he asked for $70 million, the bastard,” MacFarlane joked about the difficulties in getting the actor/producer to sign on.
“I only got $65 [million],” Wahlberg countered. “Sometimes you gotta make compromises in this economy.”
“This was a natural fit from the get-go,” MacFarlane said about their partnership, before being interrupted by a noisy bird squawking in the tree overhead.
“What the f— kind of animal was that?” Wahlberg asked, causing MacFarlane to bust out in laughter. “First I thought it was Henry. I’ve never heard that kind of squeak … it’s up there somewhere.”
“Do you all have spider monkeys here in Austin?” MacFarlane joked, before getting back to explaining why Wahlberg was the perfect choice for the lead role.
“It was a good fit from the get-go. It’s a balance tonally for the script, it had to be funny and at the same time it had to be real,” he said. “It was kind of a comedic tightrope. It was a very contemporary style of comedy and on top of all that, the actor was going to have to interact with empty space most of the time.
“The thespian,” Wahlberg corrected.
“Yeah, the thespian,” MacFarlane said with a smile. “This guy just knocked it out of the park.”
“I just fell in love with the script,” Wahlberg admitted about what interested him in playing opposite a CG teddy bear to begin with. “I read the script before I had the opportunity to meet with Seth and before, I think, there was any interest from him in me playing the role. Even the premise, it all depends on who’s telling you the premise because it could sound really great or really ridiculous. As soon as I read the script, literally 30 pages in, I forgot that it was a teddy bear. I loved the relationship between these two guys and also the relationship with the female character, Mila’s character.”
And while there are plenty of sweet, warm, fuzzy moments between the two best friends, this is a Seth MacFarlane movie, so there are just as many outrageous moments that will have audiences rolling in the aisles.
“Mark gets into a pretty full-on ’Bourne Identity’-esque fistfight with his teddy bear, which is definitely something I don’t think people have seen before,” MacFarlane revealed.
“I think what’s pretty outrageous as well is that the teddy bear is having sex with the checkout girl at the back of the supermarket on top of a bunch of fresh produce, and instead of getting terminated, he gets a promotion because of it,” Wahlberg added.
“It does happen.”
Wahlberg and MacFarlane’s live-action collaboration “Ted” opens in theaters nationwide on July 13.
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