Family Guy creator Seth Macfarlane is hosting this year's 85th Annual Academy Awards ceremony in a few weeks and reuniting with Ted stars Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis on a sequel to his successful feature directorial debut, later this year.
However, in between those undertakings - and obligations to his animated comedy TV series Family Guy, American Dad! and The Cleveland Show - MacFarlane will be directing and starring in his sophomore theatrical effort, A Million Ways to Die in the West. It appears that Charlize Theron is appearing opposite MacFarlane in the western comedy, as she is reported to currently be in final negotiations.
MacFarlane is directing A Million Ways... from a screenplay he co-penned with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, having previously collaborated on the Ted script and worked alongside each other as voice actors, writer and co-showrunners on Family Guy. Here is how Heat Vision summarizes the plot:
['A Million Ways...'] follows a sheepish farmer who chickens out of a gunfight and sees his girlfriend leave him. When he meets the wife of a notorious outlaw who offers to teach him how to shoot, the farmer at first sees a chance to win back his love but slowly falls for the woman. Complications ensue when the outlaw returns and reclaims his woman.
The reports does not specify which role Theron is tackling, but it stands to reason that she's playing the "wife of a notorious outlaw" role. It's a welcome change of pace for the Oscar-winner, whose comedy work over the past decade has fallen on the bitingly-dark and satirical side (Hancock, Young Adult); as opposed to, the sort of button-pushing lampoonery MacFarlane is known for. Unfortunately, this could mean Theron's passing on P.T. Anderson's Inherent Vice, as the respective projects are preparing to begin shooting around the same time this spring.
A Million Ways... begs comparison to Mel Brooks' western parody Blazing Saddles, as MacFarlane's film is likewise expected to spoof and deconstruct the genre's conventions for comedic effect (while examining their implications from a modern social perspective). Brooks' fondness for those old western tropes allows Blazing Saddles to remain a cherished comedy title, much like MacFarlane's good-natured feelings about contemporary man-boy mentality makes Ted funny and touching entertainment for many people (though, obviously, not everyone).
That's to say: so long as MacFarlane and his collaborators find as much delight in skewing the archetypes of the Old West in A Million Ways... as they did taking on modern pop culture obsession in Ted, the final result could be equally good (if not better).
A Million Ways to Die in the West being filming in May. Look for it to reach theaters by Summer 2014.