Seth Green makes everything better. He’s like fructose on an ingredients list; you just know it’s going to be extra awesome. Whether it’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer or any of the Austin Powers movies or his own co-creation Robot Chicken, nobody has ever walked away thinking, “It was great…. except for that Seth Green jackass.” His latest movie, The Story of Luke—in theaters today, and also on iTunes and On Demand—is no exception. It’s a pretty good movie that’s made a thousand times better by the presence of Seth Green screaming, “Stop being such a noise maker, you human!”
I called Green and we talked about Tebowing, Jar Jar Binks, and what George Lucas wore to his wedding.
When I skimmed the plot for Story of Luke, and read about your character’s relationship with Luke and how he turns this troubled guy’s life around, blah, blah, blah, my first thought was, Oh, he’s going to be like Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting.
Right! This so easily could have gone to a really trite place. I mean, not that I’m saying Good Will Hunting is trite.
But there could’ve been a lot more man-hugging in your movie.
Exactly, yeah. A movie like this tows that line of tone. It usually works in one of two ways. It’s so sympathetic to the main character that it feels really saccharine and manipulative towards the audience. Or it goes in the opposite direction and it’s like, “Look how flip and hip we are by not hitting the nail on the head.” The thing (co-star) Lou (Taylor Pucci) and I both responded to was that the tone was very matter of fact. It’s just a story about a life in progress. You get to witness these characters come to very basic conclusions about simple life stuff.
I can sum up why I liked this movie in just one quote. “To the dungeon, halfwit!”
[Laughs.] Hey, that’s my line.
Is that going to end up on t-shirts? Is it going to be your new catch phrase?
I couldn’t begin to guess. I try not to obsess too much over how a movie is going to be received. Because you really don’t have much control over it. The things you think are amazing could be ignored, and the stuff you think is throwaway becomes the next big catch phrase.
Like cha-ching, right. We are a culture that loves our catch phrases.
Do you still feel a little guilty about cha-ching? You gave voice to douchebags everywhere.
You give people the tools. It’s up to them what they do with it.
You also apparently had something to do with “Tebowing.” Is that true?
Yeah, somebody showed me a still from Can’t Buy Me Love where I’m doing some deep knee bend and they related it to Tebowing retroactively.
It does look eerily similar. And Can’t Buy Me Love came out in 1987, the same year Tim Tebow was born. What’s going on, Seth?
It’s unfortunate that you’ve discovered my time machine plot.
That’s all I wanted to hear. Thank you for your honesty.
It’s my own fault. It’s like going back to 1932 with 1986 money. You’re supposed to bring classic bills otherwise you’re going to get busted.
If we went back and watched all your other films or TV shows, would we see any other pop culture imagery from the future? Did Oz in Buffy the Vampire Slayer ever bust out the Gangnam Style?
I slipped in some planking in Radio Days. That was my mistake. I was too brazen. Now everybody knows I’m from the future. It’s just a matter of time till people realize I’ve gone back and actually genetically engineered Grumpy Cat.
Your character in Story of Luke has this amazing technology called Social Pattern Recognition Software, which allows him to practice flirting. When is that going to be available to the general public?
I don’t know if you keep up on the advancements in robotics or interactive computer technology, but the government has been using programming like that for over fifteen years.
Really? The government’s been practicing their flirting?
Well no, but what happens is, whenever there’s a criminal on the loose, and they’re looking for him on the subway or whatever, they’re using facial recognition software. It calculates millions of different data points on a person’s face, and aggregates that against a data base of existing human beings. To that degree, that same kind of robotic software will recognize just subtle fluctuations in your facial tics. Since human beings are so predictable, you can program the information connected with those physical responses and allow a computer to make decisions. Freaky, right?
Very freaky. So when is this technology going on the market? Shouldn’t it be an iPhones app by now?
Well, as with any big idea, it usually takes five to ten years for it to trickle down to the public.
You don’t know when this is happening?
I can only guess.
So what you’re saying is, your time machine can go back in time, but not forward?
I can’t really confirm or deny anything that you would glean from things I’ve mistakenly said in this interview.
I’ve got no segue for this, so I’m just going to come out and say it. Hey, you know George Lucas!
[Laughs.] I do.
You collaborated with him on a comedy series, Star Wars: Detours, which got yanked before it even premiered. What happened?
We have roughly 40 finished episodes of the show, so I can’t imagine it’ll never be seen. But bear in mind that when it was conceived, there were no plans to make additional Star Wars movies. George Lucas wanted to create a comedy that would exist after the films were in existence. It was designed to offer a different perspective of Star Wars, sort of the way Clone Wars did. But then Lucas retired, and he gave Kathleen Kennedy the keys to the Tucker, so to speak, and then they decided to make new movies. It just changed the focus of what the company was.
They decided not to have a sense of humor about Star Wars anymore?
Think about Star Wars as something that’s existed for 30 years. Think about the way that everybody has come to Star Wars and what information they were given as an access point for it. LucasFilms considered the notion of the next three years, prior to Episode VII coming out, having an animated Star Wars comedy on the air, and that being the indoctrinating information for the next generation of how to interpret Darth Vader or the Emperor or Princess Leia.
They don’t want that first impression to be “Oh, you mean those goofy characters from the cartoon?”
Exactly. Our perspective is an ironic deconstruction of these characters, post-film series. But the new audience, whose introduction to the Star Wars universe will be Episode VII, you have to approach it the right way. So it was a calculated strategic decision on their part to withhold Detours. Think of it in geological terms.
How do you mean?
Think about how long it takes to create a gorge. And think about how long Star Wars has been on this planet. I like to think that the content we created is similarly timeless, and so it could come out at any point and still be relevant.
There’s no moratorium on Ackbar “It’s a trap” jokes?
I don’t think there is.
Sometimes when I make Ackbar jokes, I feel like my grandfather talking about Sinatra.
No, no, those jokes are gonna live forever. We’re just holding off on those jokes for the moment. I have to say, I think it’s the correct decision. Cause you want those movies to be significant. Episode VII, assuming it comes after Return of the Jedi, it needs to have some weight to it. You know what I mean?
It needs reverence to the trilogy that came before.
It does. Darth Vader is dead, the Emperor is dead, and the myth that lives on in their place needs to be that of Hitler and Stalin. Not Michael Scott or Dwight Schrute from The Office. You shouldn’t think of Darth Vader and giggle.
You’ve said in the past that George Lucas is funny. You’ve gone on record saying “he’s a guy who has a sense of humor.” Do you really believe that?
I really do. He has a scathing, wicked sense of humor that he doesn’t often reveal to people.
Can you give me an example? How might his wicked sense of humor manifest itself? Does he tell jokes? Is he subtle or over-the-top?
[Long pause, sighs.] Oh god, what can I really tell you? [Pause, laughs.] So much of it is just not safe for public consumption.
Because why? It’s too dirty?
Every time I quote him directly, it gets republished so many times that I’ll inevitably get a call from LucasFilm where they’re like, “He didn’t exactly say that.”
Even if you think he’s funny in person, you agree that it doesn’t translate to the screen, right?
I don’t know that I do agree.
You think anything he’s ever written or directed for either Star Wars trilogy is in any discernible way funny?
You mean Jar Jar Binks specifically, right?
I guess I do. I still feel betrayed by the staggering unfunniness of Jar Jar.
I had a conversation with him once about Jar Jar, and why Jar Jar wasn’t funny. He said, “How old were you when you saw Star Wars?” I was four. He said, “Did you like C3P0?” I said, “I loved C3P0, he was probably my favorite character.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah; I’ve heard this argument before.
Well wait, he makes a good point. He said, “Remember in Empire Strikes Back, when C3P0 is complaining, and Han Solo is like ‘shut that guy off,’ and they turn him off?” I said “Yeah, I was horrified.” He said, “Remember when that happened, everybody over 20 in the audience cheered?” And I said, “Yes, and I thought that was horrible. What’s wrong with those people?”
You see what he means?
I guess you’re right. I’m suddenly getting flashbacks from the 80s, of adults complaining about how much they hated C3P0.
So George said to me, “How old were you when you saw Episode I?” I was 26. And he goes, “And you just haaaaaaaated Jar Jar, didn’t you? Talk to your five year old nephew.” And you know what? I did. I talked to my brother-in-law actually, who’s 21 now. He was just at that sweet spot age when Episode I came out. And he loves Jar Jar. That’s where George is brilliant. He does things that are crowd pleasers. He’s a crowd pleaser.
Well then tell me this; when you got married at Skywalker Ranch, was Lucas in the wedding party, and if so, which Star Wars character was he dressed as?
Uh… [Laughs.] Well first of all, we weren’t married at Skywalker Ranch.
You weren’t? You’re telling me the Internet is lying?
That’s what I’m telling you. But Lucas was there, and he did not wear a costume. It wasn’t a costumed wedding. It was like a proper “we’re getting married” wedding.
But your best man was dressed as Boba Fett?
Sorry, no. None of that happened.
In my imagination, can I pretend it was a Star Wars themed wedding?
Sure. In your version Lucas probably officiated dressed as Grand Moff Tarkin.
How long did it take Lucas to be okay with the Robot Chicken parodies?
Almost immediately. We got a call after the “Emperor’s Phone Call” aired, and we got invited to come up to the Ranch and take a tour. It took a while before we pitched him the idea of a special. It was a slow, organic progression.
Well, it was the timing, probably. And it would have depended on the content.
We had a songs like “Falcon, She Is My Lady,” and a drag queen Princess Leia. The content was amazeballs.
Well, with Robot Chicken, I think we just hit him at the right time, when he was finally ready to have fun with the Star Wars universe. It took him awhile to be open to the idea of parodies and fan interpretations. When he started making the prequels, I think he started to understand that this was the people’s brand rather than something that LucasFilm had to control. You have to understand that this is a brand with iconography as globally recognizable in silhouette form as the crucifix.
I’ve never heard it said that way, but you’re probably right.
You’d recognize the shape of Darth Vader’s helmet as quickly as you’d recognize the cross. If you think about how often it’s plagiarized or bootlegged or reinterpreted, if they let any of them go, then you lose your claim to copyright. So they have to prosecute every single offense.
Has J.J. Abrams given you his blessing for the inevitable Robot Chicken parodies of his Star Wars sequels?
I haven’t had a conversation with J.J. since he’s gotten the job. But for the record, I think he’s a great choice, and the perfect liaison for the old generations and new generations of Star Wars fans.
Do you know him well enough that you could give him a call and say, “Hey, put me in the movies? I’ll take anything! Make me a ginger droid, whatever!”
I wouldn’t pitch a specific character, but I’ve definitely mentioned to Kathleen Kennedy that if there was anything that seemed organically reasonable to put me in any of these movies, this would be the only time she’d hear me ask.
Let’s say they cast you as Boba Fett.
[Laughs.] There’s no way that would happen. I can’t imagine any scenario in which I’m any of the major players in the movie.
Okay, sure, hypothetically.
Will you be the Boba Fett who at some point screams, “To the dungeon, halfwit?”
Sure, okay. I’ll try to slip that in.
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, on Esquire.com.)