A big part of Seth MacFarlane’s comedic style relies on clever pop-culture references, and it’s because of this that A Million Ways To Die In The West created an interesting challenge for him. Because the movie is set in 1882, references to any television show or movie was strictly off limits, as they plainly wouldn’t make any sense. That obstruction failed to stop MacFarlane completely, though.
WARNING: The rest of this article contains minor spoilers for A Million Ways To Die In The West. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, please read on at your own risk.
Participating in a Million Ways To Die In The West press conference in Los Angeles earlier this month, Seth MacFarlane briefly spoke about how he worked in references to both Back To The Future Part III - featuring a cameo by Christopher Lloyd - and Django Unchained - with an appearance by Jamie Foxx.
First discussing how he and his co-writers actively chose not to include jokes like those in the movie (saying that they didn’t "want to be that broad"), MacFarlane explained that the surprise appearance by Back To The Future’s Doc Brown was something that was thought of after production had already began. The idea was presented during shooting and it was agreed that the sci-fi elements of the franchise would allow the moment to work. Explained the director,
"We did stay away from a lot of that stuff, and then while we were filming, we thought, ‘Well, you know, you could kind of explain this away because it is a time machine,’ and you know… why not? It was just something that turned out to be such a crowd-pleaser in this that I’m very glad we put it in."
Weirdly enough, the inclusion of the Django Unchained reference in A Million Ways To Die In The West was done to try and partially soften what even MacFarlane believes is a joke that pushes the line: the shooting gallery at the fair that has runaway slaves as targets for participants to aim at. Said MacFarlane,
"The Jamie Foxx bit, that was something that we just thought would be cool to have him in the movie, and also it was sort of a way to kind of buy back what is probably the edgiest gag in the movie, the shooting gallery. That shooting gallery is yet another example of the terribleness that was the 1880’s and I think that’s why in our test screenings, people were kind of giving us that one. They’re not really that offended because they recognize the context, and Albert points out that this is horrific. But it was something that helped to buy it back at the end of the day."
A Million Ways To Die In The West is in theaters now.