- - Sunday, September 11, 2016

He will always be known for playing Flash Gordon, the title character in the campy cult classic 1980s film of the same name, which actor Sam J. Jones played as a live action cartoon hero to perfection. A whole new generation of fans discovered him when he satirized his persona in Seth Macfarlane’s raunchy “Ted” comedies.

In this exclusive interview with Mr. Jones at The Hollywood Show, Mr. Jones spoke about his time as Flash Gordon and how he ended up in “Ted.”

Question: What is the strangest thing a fan has ever asked you to autograph?

Answer: They ask me to sign money. I don’t like signing money. Women ask me to sign certain things. I say, “No, let me sign your back. I’ll sign the T-shirt on your back.”

Q: How did you land the role of Flash Gordon?

A: It was a long process. I was in Hawaii filming “10” with Blake Edwards and Julie Andrews. Of course, nobody knew who Bo Derek was at the time. Very few Americans knew Dudley Moore yet. This was in 1978.

I had a meeting a month earlier, but while filming “10” I got the call that they wanted me back in Beverly Hills. So Blake Edwards put me on a helicopter.

After that it took another couple of months. They flew me to London to do the old-fashioned Hollywood screen test. The whole bit: hair, makeup, study the scene with the actress. And then they actually filmed it — not videotape. They changed my hair color [and] tried to change my eye color with a hard contact lens. Didn’t work.

I was in London for 30 days, and they said, “You got it!” And here we are 36 years later.

Q: Did you ever imagine the film would have a lasting appeal?

A: You never know. Number one, it’s a blessing to work. And if the project is a success, that is your second blessing. The third comes with the impact and repercussions and the influence I have have on a couple different generations.

Q: What is the appeal of the film that has made it a classic?

A: Visually it’s a masterpiece. It’s just a stunning piece of art to look at. The sets, costumes, color. Then you get past all the camp and sort of half-ridiculous special effects.

The first time I saw it, I wondered about whether I was supposed to laugh at that. Is it corny? Is it camp? Are they serious? The comedy was very central to making the film unique. It was also very sexy with Ornella [Muti as “Princess Aura] and Melody [Anderson as Dale Arden]. I just think it was iconic. And not because I was in it.

Q: After playing such a recognizable role in an iconic film, was it hard to get other work as an actor?

A: I think that is some rumor that actors or Hollywood likes to spread. They say, “When you do a certain character, what you want to do after it comes out is to sort of diminish that role or walk away from it so the producers and the public will know that you are versatile in your acting.” I said, “Wait a minute, that’s wrong and fearful thinking.”

I was proud that I was Flash Gordon. Here we are all these years later, and that role is still producing an incredible provision. I’m traveling the world. That role has opened up a lot of doors.

Q: How did you end up in the “Ted” movies?

A: Seth MacFarlane called me. He said, “Sam, when I was 9 years old, I saw your movie. It changed my life.” I said, “Who is this again?” [laughs]

I asked him, “How did it change your life?” He told me, “I knew after watching you and that film, I wanted to be a creative person.” I said, “Seth, you not only became creative, you became a little bit perverted too, didn’t you, buddy?”

“Ted” brought that new age demographic into the mix. People that never saw “Flash Gordon” saw “Ted,” and that introduced them to “Flash Gordon” and gave a resurgence and resurrection to that film.

Q: What are you most proud of when you look back on your career?

A: I’m proud of being given the opportunity to work. It’s all about the work. I hear actors say, “Oh, I wasn’t very proud of that film or TV show.” Hold it! Don’t sit there and say, “I’m not proud of that work.” You know what? I’m proud of everything I’ve done because somebody put some trust in me, hired me and put provisions on my table for me and my family.

Q: Was there ever a role you turned down and later regretted?

A: I don’t know if I did, but my prior representation, former management, turned down “An Officer and a Gentleman.” Thank God Richard Gere did that role.

After I did the movie “10” with Bo Derek, I maintained a strong relationship with John Derek. He asked me to do “Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes.” I said,”Let’s do it!” He sent me the script. I gave it to my management at the time. They called John and said, “Sam will only do it for this many million dollars.” Some ridiculous number. They did that without talking to me.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: They’re developing a series for me, and the people involved are reputable. Plus we’ve been shooting my documentary “Life After Flash.” The U.K. film crew follows me to conventions and whatever I’m doing.

And of course I’m signed for “Ted 3.”


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