Josh Talks Ted

j o s h t a l k s t e d

By S. Silverwind

  Writer-director Josh Becker has known Ted since 1968, when the Raimi family moved into his old neighborhood, right around the block from where he lived. Ted was just a toddler at that point, so as Josh puts it, "As far as I was concerned he didn't exist for those first few years, until he could talk." With a laugh he adds, "Until I could use him as an extra!" He began using Ted in his movies in about 1977. "I was always casting him as gangsters and things back then."
  Ted was already working on his brother Sam's early films like The Civil War movies (there were three of them) by that time. "Sam was really on a civil war kick for awhile," Josh muses, "He had a civil war class. I think he was doing them instead of papers." Ted appears as a flag boy in The Civil War, where he can be seen running gamely with the flag across this field with all these other guys who were 6-10 years older and much longer-legged.
  In Josh's first full-length film{short description of image}, Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except, he cast Ted as "Chain Man," a character he describes as "a member of the Manson family." Filmed in Michigan in 1985, in 16mm, and originally released in 1987, it was recently re-released on video and will soon be available on DVD. Josh also provided Ted with his very first starring role, as the shy, lonely, and hysterically funny Hank Stone in Lunatics, A Love Story, in 1990. Most Ted fans" are already familiar with these films and tend to frequent Josh's website, but for those who haven't been there yet, Josh himself tells the story behind both of these films at:
  When asked what Ted is like to work with, Josh cheerfully announces, "He's my favorite because he's so fuc… excuse me, he's so gosh-darned funny! He makes me laugh. There are a couple of people in the world who just flat-out make me laugh, and Ted and Bruce Campbell happen to be two of them. And what's great is Ted makes Bruce laugh. I can make Bruce laugh occasionally. But Ted really makes Bruce laugh too. When the three of us get together I basically just laugh. I don't add much to the conversation, because I'm laughing too hard." When asked if he has ever had to coach or train Ted as actor, in all the years they've worked together, Josh is so astonished he seems to nearly drop the phone. "Train Ted? Hah! No. NO. Ted's a very very trained actor. He's very well-read and he's done lots. No, I never had to train Ted. I've done what, maybe six episodes of Xena that Joxer was in, and we just have the best time adding new lines to the script. We sit there and talk about what the scene is, and just come up with a new joke for every scene."
" One that particularly comes to mind is Fins, Femmes and Gems. All that stuff up in the tree with he and Renee, where I was cutting to all the stock footage, like 'Billy Goats into ramming positions!' I mean, he and I just worked all that out immediately before shooting it. I think it's hysterical stuff."
  In Kindred Spirits: "That scene of Ted and Lucy in the fight ring wasn't even in the script. The way it is written, Xena just puts the pinch on Joxer, in front of everyone, and kills him. There's no fight at all." Well, where's the fun in that? "So I said, 'Why don't we do a big WCW parody?' And Rob Tapert said 'Cool!' and Lucy was totally into it, and of course Ted was totally into it. So I told Lucy what I had in mind, you know, the 'I am the Ultimate Woman and I will crush your head in the thighs of Doom!' Lucy ran with it. I didn't tell Ted anything! Everything he's saying in that ring, he's making up." Josh can't stop laughing, quoting Ted in this scene. 'They call her Xena the Champ. I call her Xena the Chump !'"
  Josh Becker's favorite Ted character? "I like him as Joxer. To me that's just a running thing. I really have enjoyed him as JoxerJoxer because there's such freedom there. It was fun making Lunatics way back when, but he certainly didn't have that freedom. It was a much more dramatic role and he played it very well. But the freedom that we've had doing Xena, to me has been great fun." He says that it's a fluke to have that much freedom while working in television, which is usually more tightly scheduled and controlled even than films. "Let's face it. We're good buddies with Rob Tapert, and his brother Sam is co-executive producer… we do have a little extra leeway," he chuckles gleefully. "And we're down in New Zealand where nobody knows what the hell we're doing. You know, I've got this edge in that if I change stuff on the set, nobody knows what I've done. By the time they send it back to America, it stays. I mean, there's no re-shooting it."
  He admits he enjoys this advantage. "I do, very much. It's my favorite thing about it. And luckily Rob Tapert trusts me. I know what he thinks is funny. I know HE thinks that wrestling match is funny. See, Rob Tapert's humor level - it doesn't matter which one but he's either Beavis or Butthead. And I think that's what makes him so good for these shows. I mean he can sit there and watch Joxer and Xena, and you can hear him going 'heh - heh - heh - heh' and it's just pure enjoyment coming out of him."
  Asked if he thinks having Sam for a brother made it easier or harder for Ted in getting his career as an actor going, Josh says, "It made it easier for him. I mean look, you can't beat nepotism in Hollywood. He's a good actor. But it didn't hurt having a famous brother. It's never hurt anyone in Hollywood having a famous sibling." He pauses, and pretends to complain in a fake-serious tone, "I resent my parents for not being in the film business. I resent them for not being the Barrymores. How dare my father go into real estate?" He chuckles when it's pointed out to him that he's done pretty well anyway. "Yeah, I did okay. But I could have used the connections."
  Ted's greatest strength as an actor: "He's got more energy than anyone else on the set." More energy than Lucy Lawless? "Oh yeah." Ted has often commented in interviews that Lucy is always up and has so much energy. "She does," Josh replies. "And so does Renee. They're great! But I mean, Ted's the comedy character. He's the screwball and everyone appreciates that. And Lucy and Renee I think completely appreciate him."
He's hysterically funny. I mean we had ourselves… this is probably in totally bad taste," Josh starts to lose it, his sentences running together in a rumble of barely restrained laughter. "Politically incorrect, but so what? There is a brand of coffee down in New Zealand called Fagg's. F-A-G-G," he spells it out, then imitates a New Zealand commercial in a deep, official sounding voice. "Sir Alfred Fagg's… You know, it's been around for a hundred years. Nobody thinks anything about it down there. But Ted and I had ourselves laughing for easily twelve hours, coming up with slogans like, 'I love warm Fagg's in the morning.' You could just go on endlessly with that one."
" And he can do that with Bruce, too. Bruce was telling me a story about when they were in that final Herc episode together. And I guess there's like eight people in every shot. There's a lot of people in the cast, all the time. And so Bruce went up to the director and said, 'Look, if you're going to be getting shots of eight of us standing here for the next week, can I just be standing next to Ted? Because then I'll have someone to talk to and he'll make me laugh.' And the director went, 'I guess you can stand anywhere.' And Bruce went, 'Good, then I'm standing next to Ted!'"
  Josh talks about the show Ted created for MTV, Normal Joe. Though it never aired, Ted showed him a videotape of it. "It's not like anything else I've ever seen," he says. "And that's saying something in this day and age. I think he made one big, giant mistake… Which was he didn't star in it. The guy he's got is okay… But if Ted had starred in it, it would have been funny, and it would have aired." He went on to explain that Ted wrote and produced it, and it was the first time he'd produced anything. "And it was a big-big-big handful. But, he needed to write, produce, AND star, like Charlie Chaplin. It was a lot to do at the moment."
" But it's pretty clever. It's entirely shot against a blue screen, so all the backgrounds are put in afterwards. And all the backgrounds are reeeeally fake, cheap…futuristic sets made of toys. So like the traffic going by is just toy trucks and toy cars in the background. It's really odd. It's truly like nothing you've ever seen before. It sounds like a true pain in the ass to have to shoot on a weekly basis. In a way it probably saved his life NOT getting a series out of it. It would have been really hard to do."
  Asked what he would like to do with Ted if he could hire him for any project of his choosing, Josh definitely has something in mind. "I've got a script that I've already given to him, that he likes. That if I can get the money, and I'm hoping that maybe, knock on wood, I may have… I intend to make with him. It's called The Biological Clock, and it is a rather adult comedy, that I'm eager to do with him. It's not Three Stooges, it's not Joxer by any means. It's more along the lines of When Harry Met Sally. I think I would get Anita Barone to play the female lead. She's from Detroit, and she went to University of Detroit with Ted."
( Anita Barone was in Running Time with Bruce Campbell. She's currently on a TV show called Daddio on NBC, which airs after Friends. Josh also mentions that he did offer Ted a part in Running Time, but he was busy.)
  He is very upbeat about the possibility of working with Ted on The Biological Clock sometime soon. He can't estimate when "soon" is, because of course it all depends on when the financing comes together. Ted is back from New Zealand, and Josh confirms that his Joxer days are over. "He's done. He is not Joxer anymore. I don't know if you knew that. He's done. Now I hope we get to make this movie together."
" It would be a complete change of pace. There's sex<3 in it," he teases. "I told him, if you're gonna do this buddy, you're gonna work out. You're getting in shape. You're gonna do some pumping. Actors love that shit, if you give them a reason to do something. 'Cut off all your hair!' He'll do it."

T here's a short break as Josh answers another call. It turns out to be Bruce Campbell's wife, Ida. I tease him about what a busy morning he's had, since he had just spent an hour and a half on the phone with Ted right before I called. He shrugs it off, apparently not considering this much time on the phone to be all that unusual. He's the kind of person who seems to be able to talk about anything, with anyone. We try to get back on subject.

  Imention that Ted portrays himself as having been a total dork in high school. "Um… he probably was," Josh snickers, "Yeah, I think he would have been a dork in high school. I saw all his plays. Well, he wasn't that big a dork, because he had the lead in all the plays. I mean, get this, this is so knuckleheaded … he was in The Wiz. Now this was almost an entirely white high school, and they put on The Wiz. Not The Wizard of Oz… No, you put on the Black version so you can do it all with White people. And Ted of course played the Wiz. Of course you don't even see the Wiz for the first half of the show. And Ted… how old was he at this point? Maybe 15, 16 years old? Thinking of it now it still makes me laugh. He played the Wiz as… Captain James T. Kirk. The concept is so funny. He played the whole thing as James Kirk! I'm telling you, I thought I was going to have a heart attack, I was laughing so hard. Nobody who was that good in the school plays could be that big of a dork."
" He probably wasn't the most popular kid, because you know, the people who hang around theater generally aren't. It's the jocks who are, and Ted wasn't a terribly sports-minded kid. He's very well-read, a very bright guy. I don't know if most people get to talk to him enough to find out - he's really smart. Very bright guy. He does make me laugh a lot but beyond that we talk about a whole variety of things, which I don't talk about with a lot of people, because they don't read enough."
  Now that Ted's back in the states, Josh mentions that he expects to see him in the next few days and maybe they'll get out and catch a movie or something. And who knows… if all goes well, maybe they'll even get together pretty soon and make a movie or something.

(C) 2000 by S. Silverwind
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