When Universal Pictures gave creator-director-star Seth MacFarlane the greenlight to make a sequel to his surprise hit “Ted” after it grossed nearly $550 million at the worldwide box office in 2012 to become the highest-grossing original R-rated comedy of all time, he vowed to make the tale about a man (Mark Wahlberg) and his foul-mouthed teddy bear as smart, witty and fun as the original despite the enormous expectations.
“To be honest, there was some personal pressure, but my goal was to tell a completely new story and not rehash the same movie twice,” MacFarlane told Variety at the world premiere of “Ted 2” held at New York’s Ziegfeld Theatre on Wednesday. “We wanted to do an entirely new story that explores an entirely new aspect of Ted’s life and evolve the character with funny jokes. Ted fighting for his civil rights is different than the smaller relationships story that we explored in the first movie.”
MacFarlane revealed the sequel was originally going to be about Ted and John transporting a pot shipment across the country, but while writing the screenplay in 2013, the idea was scrapped because of a similar storyline used in Warner Bros. comedy “We’re the Millers.” But when the “Family Guy” creator was shooting “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” he read author John Jakes’ “North and South” trilogy and the section about Dred Scott, the first African-American slave to sue for his freedom in 1847, which led to “a germ of an idea for an interesting sequel given the fact that the question of Ted’s rights and his status would come up, if this were a real-life scenario,” explained MacFarlane.
“Ted 2” — in theaters on June 26 — marks the first sequel in Wahlberg’s career. The actor admits he follows a certain criteria in deciding whether to make a movie sequel.
“The rule for me is if you can make it better than the first, then it’s worth doing,” said Wahlberg. “I made the decision to do the first and second [“Ted”] movies after doing my due diligence. It’s the kind of thing where there’s no good way to pitch this movie about a guy with a talking teddy bear that comes to life. I didn’t like the idea when I first heard it. It wasn’t until I reluctantly read the script, then met with Seth and saw the test of the bear. Then I knew it was something special. I’m very proud of to be a part of these movies.”
For Amanda Seyfried, joining the sequel was a no-brainer despite having not read the final script. Her main reason was to reunite with MacFarlane, having previously worked with him in “A Million Ways to Die in the West.”
“Working on this movie was one of the best experiences I’ve had and it’s because of Seth,” said Seyfried, who plays a pothead attorney named Sam L. Jackson. “He is one of the funniest people I have ever met. I didn’t know what the script was going to be like when I signed up for the movie. I didn’t even know which character I was going to play. I just wanted to work with Seth again.”
Patrick Stewart, the film’s narrator, is another MacFarlane supporter. “Ted 2” is Stewart’s fifth collaboration with MacFarlane, having narrated the first “Ted” movie and doing voice work for “Family Guy” and “American Dad.” Stewart also stars in the upcoming Starz’s comedy “Blunt Talk,” exec produced by MacFarlane.
“What I love the most about Seth is his originality,” gushed Stewart. “He’s such a smart writer and creator. It’s been 12 years of absolute sheer delight and fun to work with him. He’s a man who has many talents.”
MacFarlane directed, co-wrote the screenplay, voiced Ted and wore a motion capture suit on set to bring the teddy bear to life. With so many responsibilities, he admitted the the demanding hours required to make the picture was a challenge.
“I say this with sincerity — it was really about stamina,” he said. “I did two movies in a row, which I have not done before, and the biggest challenge was staying on two legs without collapsing.”
Following the screening, MacFarlane, Seyfried and Stewart joined cast members Giovanni Ribisi, Jessica Barth, Sam Jones (“Flash Gordon”) and Liam Neeson, who makes a cameo in the movie, at Central Park’s Loeb Boathouse for the after party. Guests socialized and dined over salmon, steak filets, chicken and an assortment of chocolate covered fruit while enjoying a view of the park’s lake. Craig Robinson from “The Office” and “Hot Tub Time Machine” revved up the crowd by singing and playing the piano. Other guests included Eric Christian Olsen, Bella Thorne, Universal’s Jeff Shell, Ron Meyer, Donna Langley, producer Scott Stuber and Molly Sims.