After his recent, divisive stint hosting the Oscars, Family Guy mastermind Seth MacFarlane is making quick progress toward production of his next feature film, A Million Ways to Die in the West. The western-comedy is looking to start filming sooner rather than later, bolstered by swift casting of its principal actors.
The project continues to attract top-flight talent. After casting Charlize Theron (Prometheus) and Amanda Seyfried (Epic) in key roles, A Million Ways to Die in the West is currently securing the acting prowess of Giovanni Ribisi (Avatar) and Liam Neeson (Taken 2).
The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline report that Neeson and Ribisi are looking to join the cast of A Million Ways to Die in the West. While Neeson is currently still in negotiations for the film, Ribisi is confirmed for the production.
A Million Ways to Die in the West will center on a cowardly sheepherder named Albert (played by MacFarlane himself), who loses his girlfriend (Seyfried) after running away from a duel. Distraught and desperate, Albert falls in with the wife of a notorious bandit (Theron), who teaches him the way of the gun. When said bandit comes riding into town searching for his wife, Albert has another chance to prove his manly worth.
Given Neeson's star-power, he will almost certainly be playing the feared gunfighter married to Theron's character. Early impressions of the script indicate that the character will be the film's main antagonist; as such, Neeson's role will be one of the movie's lynchpins. Though Neeson has played villains in previous films (for example, Batman Begins), it's intriguing to imagine what kind of direction he will take in a MacFarlane-directed comedy.
This will be the second time that Ribisi and MacFarlane have worked together – he played the teddy bear-obsessed Donny in Ted. In A Million Ways to Die in the West, Ribisi will be taking the role of MacFarlane's best friend Edward, a feckless cobbler in love with a local prostitute. For the moment, it sounds like Ribisi's role will be purely comedic – which is an interesting switch from his performance in Ted.
It's undeniable that MacFarlane is assembling a first-rate cast for A Million Ways to Die in the West. Now comes the speculation on just what sort of tone the movie will be shooting for. Will A Million Ways... be a broad, wacky farce or a genre parody that pays homage its roots (a la Edgar Wright's Hot Fuzz)? One has to wonder just how well drama veterans Theron and Neeson will fare in a more slapstick-ridden, goofy film.
That said, MacFarlane has tapped traditionally dramatic actors for quite impressive comedic results in the past. After all, Patrick Stewart's narration in Ted (and recurring guest role on American Dad) is consistently hilarious. The thought of Liam Neeson's gravel-laden voice chewing on MacFarlane's bizarre dialogue is enough to summon a smile – even if a single frame of film has yet to be shot.
A Million Ways to Die in the West will bushwhack theaters in the Summer of 2014.