Despite being close to 70 years of age, Sam J. Jones is, in the words of one Brisnova Supa-Fan, “pretty bloody ripped”. You could credit his time in the military, or his career as a security professional, but Jones himself credits his six grandchildren as his favourite form of cardio, and his simple attitude of consistency and diligence: “Do something, don’t do nothing.”
Jones is incredibly gracious and well-spoken – ribbing a New York Jets fan one minute, the next he’s musing on Stargate’s similarity to the spoken word of Shakespeare. No story or anecdote is complete without Jones crediting those who have helped him along the way, or sharing how his experiences can benefit the lives of those around him.
After a gruelling eight months of auditions and screen tests, Jones was cast in Flash Gordon in the late ‘70s as a relative newcomer, following his first film appearance in the romantic comedy 10. He recalls copping a bullwhip across the shoulder from fellow actor Timothy Dalton during three weeks of fight rehearsals for one sequence, but was always able to lean on his cast members throughout the filming.
“I was 23 at the time,” he says. “A couple of the older actors took me under their wing; Max von Sydow, Brian Blessed. [Chaim] Topol kept singing all day long from his musicals, to keep everyone happy and laughing.”
He also reflected that one of the best things about Flash in hindsight is that it’s just pure fun: “Here we are, in space. Space is what? Zero gravity… so, why is my hair blowing when I’m on the Rocket Cycle? Am I breathing? I don’t have an oxygen tank. For our escape, let’s make some parachutes! In zero gravity!”
It was around this time in the conversation that Prince Vultan himself crashed the panel (rather, a chef name Bruce did in some incredible cosplay).
Despite his extensive career across film and television, Flash endures as Jones’ most iconic performance, something he embraces. Withstanding some pressure from his representation post-1980, Jones has never felt the need to distance himself from the role that made him a superstar: “Why would I disown Flash Gordon? I’m only here because of Flash Gordon.”
This speaks to Jones’ immense sense of gratitude for each moment and each role that allows him to continue to do what he loves, especially in an industry as competitive as film and television. Flash is his “triple blessing”, a perspective from which he encouraged the audience to think about their own lives.
The first blessing is getting hired (“All I know is it’s a blessing to get hired.”), the second is doing the job well, and the third is longevity. Each stage is a blessing in and of itself, but Flash has brought him blessing upon blessing that has continued to compound and brought him onto the Supanova stage.
Jones credits the enduring cult following and immense love for Flash as the reason he’s able to continue to do what he’s doing, but another reason could be that he just seems like a genuinely lovely person: Jones’ appearance in Seth MacFarlane’s Ted “seemed to bother some of my friends: ‘Sam, how do you feel about making fun of yourself?’ My reply was, ‘We should all make fun of ourselves!’ It’s very liberating.”
Jones spent part of the panel discussing the harsh economic realities for those in the entertainment business, recalling that the only role he’s ever turned down was one where the bad guy didn’t get his comeuppance in the end, and happily gave health and lifestyle advice: “The mindset is, keep it simple, keep it practical… and I only cheat on the weekends! It comes down to common sense and practical thinking, that’s all it is. And having fun!”
Lead Image: Sam J. Jones at Supanova 2022 – Adelaide. Photo by Maddie Purdon