Sean Moncrieff speaks to 'Flash Gordon' star Sam Jones

Sam discussed his most iconic role, his view on fan conventions, and a recent incident with Lou Ferringo...

Almost 40 years after its release, there's nothing quite like the cult hit Flash Gordon.

With its deliciously camp delivery, lavish production design and iconic Queen soundtrack, it is a delightful oddity in the history of blockbusters.

When producers went to choose a man to play the title character - already well-known from comics and classic serial films - they settled on Sam Jones.

Sam is in Dublin as a guest for this weekend's MCM Comic Con, and he joined Sean Moncrieff in studio earlier today. 

Stars of many beloved sci-fi and genre films often find themselves in high demand on the convention circuit, and Sam loves the experience.

“As long as the phone keeps ringing, there is demand for it," he explained. "It’s wonderful - I get to travel the world. I’ve been in Ireland since Friday last.

“It’s an opportunity to meet the fans - pictures, autographs. It’s also their opportunity to tell me their story - what impact I had on their lives growing up. The stories are life-changing, they really are."

There can be some unusual scenes at such conventions, and only last month the media covered an incident where Sam was reported to have been involved in an argument with Incredible Hulk star Lou Ferringo.

Today, Sam downplayed the situation, describing Lou as a good friend. "We’ve been good buddies for 35 years," he told Sean.

He explained: “A fan is posing for a picture with Lou, and Lou’s table is next to mine. Another fan crossed in front to come to my table to get a picture… and both fans started to fight. I stepped in the middle of both fans to diffuse the confrontation. Of course the press was there taking pictures, saying ‘oh no, Lou and I got into it’.

"Of course we never got into a fight," he stressed, adding that the press "likes to embellish and fabricate things".

Flash, a-ah, king of the impossible

Few actors have had the opportunity to play a role like Flash Gordon. It's clear that Sam and the film have had an impact on generations of viewers - even more so following the release of comedy Ted, in which Sam plays an exaggerated version of himself.

Sam observed: "The fanbase has been my age, or my children’s age. Now because of Ted and Ted 2, that opened up that new age demographic - it’s my children’s children's age as well.

"Queen had a lot to do with that - even the younger generation, who never saw the movie, who don’t remember the name Flash Gordon… they’d refer to it as ‘that movie that Queen did the soundtrack to.’”

He spoke about how he got the role, which he secured before his first film - a supporting role in the comedy 10 - was even released.

“I used [10] quite a bit in the audition process for [Flash Gordon producer] Dino De Laurentiis," Sam recalled. "The movie had not been released yet… I embellished it a bit, and it helped me quite a bit."

Flash Gordon, then, was his second film - and his first leading role.

He told Sean: “This was a $35 million budget in 1979... if you do the inflation math, what is that, $250-300 million? I knew straight away I could not be overwhelmed by all the stuff - I had to focus on the task at hand, and thank God I did."

Given the over-the-top nature of the film itself, there were some equally colourful stories from set. Sam recalled one of the scenes he filmed with Timothy Dalton.

He said: “We had a bullwhip master, who taught us to use a bullwhip for our fight scene. Sure enough there is history between England (the Brits) and the Americans (the Yankees). We were trained in this fight scene to use a real bullwhip.

“[Myself and Timothy] made a deal, we’re not going to whip each other… We started rolling camera, and about two minutes into it, he took that bullwhip and he whipped me right across the chest. I said ‘great - game on. It’s the yankees and the Brits, here we go baby!’”

Sam added: “He was so athletic and so good in his role, that that scene was probably one of the top iconic scenes of Flash Gordon."

"Get over ourselves and get a job"

Despite having worked across television and film over the decades, Sam has also found himself doing other work. During a particularly slow period for acting work, his wife told him to go out and find another job to support their family.

He explained: “I became a security professional, and moved to San Diego, where I operate in the border cities of Mexico protecting executives and dignitaries who want somebody to protect them from the bad guys.

“About two years after I became a security professional… because I humbled myself, I listened to my wife, I got a job… the phone started to ring to do more movies.

"That’s how life should work - if we could just knock off the baby talk as men, and get over ourselves and get a job, the doors start to open up."

He still does frequent work in security - but finds himself busy with acting work, and events like this week's convention in Dublin.

Ultimately, he has lots of appreciation for the importance Flash Gordon has played in his life - and the importance it continues to play.

He noted: “Usually you do a project, and for whatever rhyme or reason you have no idea what’s going to happen. Sure enough, I’ve been able to travel the world, went on to do 60 movies and 100s of television shows, and all of these personal appearances.

“If you’re hired in the movie business, that’s a blessing. If that project does well, that’s a larger blessing. If it extends into longevity… if it lasts 37 years… the fans have labelled it as a pop culture classic… it’s wonderful. It has turned out to be a huge blessing. "