Actor Sam Jones has appeared in Stargate SG-1, SYFY's Flash Gordon series, and the Seth MacFarlane comedy Ted. But fans may best know him as Flash Gordon in the camp-tacular 1980 film (or, as fans of the Queen soundtrack call it, Flash! Ah-ahhhh!). And when the 63-year-old former Marine isn't acting, he has a second career as a bodyguard/security specialist.
Director Lisa Downs and producer Ashley Pugh decided Flash Gordon, and Jones himself, would be the perfect subject for a documentary. Life After Flash doesn't yet have a distribution deal — and we'll let you know when it does — but it's currently making its way through film festivals to good reviews.
We spoke with Jones about the documentary and about his life after Flash.
How did you react when Downs and Pugh approached you with this documentary concept?
SAM JONES: When [Downs and Pugh asked], "Can we do a documentary on your life?" that question is a bit disconcerting. My reply was, "I believe I have a lot of life left in me."
Here's the deal: You don’t write the script until you're done filming. They spent three years filming. You have no idea what you're going to film.
Is the documentary more about Flash Gordon the character or Sam Jones the person?
It's more about the man. It’s about what Flash Gordon’s popularity did to me and for me and the impact it had on others.
All [the crew] did was ask everybody on camera — fans, producers, directors, writers actors, my family, my friends — two questions: What impact did the character Flash Gordon have on your life growing up, and what impact did Sam Jones have on your life? People gave those answers and also talked about what I went through at that time. It’s about my failures, my successes, and the dos or don'ts of making choices, and if you make the wrong choice, these are the consequences. What we have is something raw, transparent, and I believe very impactful. I think it’s very good.
When you say "wrong choice," what do you mean?
I probably hindered myself in the film business, I was invited to go to lunch by some big decision-makers in Hollywood, and I decided to go out and party and not make the lunch. I decided not to go out of arrogance, rebellion, foolishness. And that's one example out of a thousand. Any hindrances, any obstacles, was my own doing. As far as the movie industry, the opportunities were always there. It was always up to me and how I took advantages of those opportunities.
So you don't think the role of Flash Gordon has hindered your acting career?
I had early representation who said, "You should walk away from the Flash Gordon image." But I wouldn’t be talking to you right now, over 35 years later, had it not been for Flash Gordon.
Do you think you resemble the character Flash Gordon in any way?
[Flash] is one of the few superheroes who does not have superpowers. He relies solely on his wits and his atheleticism. He's traditionally old-fashioned, meaning good is good, bad is bad, there's nothing tainted about it. Whenever innocence is being abused, he's the go-to guy. That's the way I am in real life anyway, being a former Marine before I was an actor.
What was your favorite part of Flash Gordon?
The battle scene, the fight scene on the rotating disk with Timothy Dalton. That was incredible. That was three weeks of filming. I loved doing the seduction scene with Ornella Muti. That was kind of cool.
How did you wind up working in professional security?
I became a security professional 15 years ago. My wife looked at me and said, "You've been waiting for the phone to ring. The phone isn't ringing. We have kids. There's the door. Don’t come back until you’re providing." That’s why I walked away from labels years ago. Actor? I'm a working man. Whatever it takes to provide, I'm a working man.
I touched base with some former military guys who were running security operations, and I got retrained up. At the age of 50, I became a real security professional and was relocated to San Diego to help the take over cross-border security operations into the border cities of Mexico, private sector, where we are protecting traveling executives.
A couple years later, after I started working and not waiting by the phone, the phone started to ring again to do movies. That's how the cycle of life should work for guys who are hellbent on, "No, I am an actor and I will do nothing else to provide for my family, I will cause suffering for everyone around me and wait for that magical phone call." That’s absolute foolishness. It's also arrogance and pride.
Now I get to pick and choose. I can do movies, I can run security operations. It turned out to be a win-win situation.
Is there anything you want people to know about you?
How different [your life] becomes when you serve other people's needs first, how much freedom that creates. It's common sense. Let's get over ourselves, and put other people first. This magical thing happens in life if we serve others first, especially our spouses and our children: We usually get anything we want.