Justin Long's Short List of Career Musts
By JARETT WIESELMAN
November 06, 2013
While Hollywood seems content to churn out an endless stream of soulless romantic comedies brimming with too many stars, a string of low-budget rom-coms have recently hit theaters boasting more heart than Hollywood could ever handle. The latest is A Case of You, a touching, timely tale of Sam, a young writer (played by Justin Long) who, to land the love of his life; a free-spirit named Birdie (played by the luminous Evan Rachel Wood), engages in some reverse Catfishing.
To turn himself into the perfect man, Sam treats Birdie's Facebook page like an online Cyrano de Bergerac; telling him what to like, what to think and what kinds of dates to take her on. It's easily one of the year's most charming films and an absolute can't miss for all rom-com fans!
ETonline caught up with Justin Long, who also stars in the recently released Best Man Down, to talk about the unique way he and Wood went about building chemistry, the grandest romantic gesture he's ever put into action and how "Less Is More" has become his professional raison d'etre of late.
ETonline: This film lives and dies on the chemistry you and Evan Rachel share; did you know one another previously?
Justin Long: One of my big, lingering regrets is that I had to drop out of rehearsals for Romeo & Juliet with her because of this sh*tty studio commitment. A movie had gotten into a film festival and I would have missed two performances, so we rehearsed for about a month and when you work on something like that, there's such an intimacy involved and you get to know someone really well. I always knew how gifted and professional she was, but I hadn't been aware of how funny she is because she hasn't done a lot of comedies. We thought of her for this, threw and hail-mary and she wanted to do it. We got lucky.
ETonline: Unlike some other rom-coms, I thought there were a lot of really hilarious moments in A Case Of You. When reading a rom-com script, how important is the comedy factor to you?
Long: That's a huge part of it for me. I love Woody Allen and Charlie Chaplin movies for the fact that as romantic as they are, they're also hilarious. City Life and Modern Times are two of the funniest but also two of the most romantic movies ever made. When they go hand-in-hand well, there's nothing better. Not that I'm comparing us to those, but if anything was inspiring us, it would be films like that which marry the two successfully. We wanted to inject that in this as much as possible, so we tried to pepper it with a host of supporting characters who were amalgamations of people in our lives that made us laugh.
ETonline: I need you to tell me immediately who Peter Dinklage is playing because that character is amazing.
Long: [laughs] I don't know if he's going to like me saying his name, but he knows he's a character in the film and when I told him that Peter would be playing him, he got very incredulous about it. He's a very heavy-set, African American gentleman who is tremendously sassy, and Peter embodies that so beautifully. He so surpassed my high expectations and made me laugh so hard. I really pride myself on the fact I kept it together during those scenes.
ETonline: You've worked with some of the funniest actors in the business, so what's your secret to not breaking character in those moments?
Long: I bite the inside of my cheeks. I try to hurt myself to distract myself. But there are always tells. Will Ferrell's got a tell that makes me laugh so hard where he kind of puckers his lips. He played this character on Saturday Night Live with voice modulation disorder and there are these incredible outtakes of him cracking himself up where you can see him tuck his lips underneath. It takes me a while to get there, but once I'm laughing, I'm unable to maintain and just fall on the floor.
ETonline: The film seems rather timely given the prevalence of social media and the concept of Catfishing.
Long: Yeah, it's a pretty new thing only this generation has to deal with. It's so easy to misuse social media as a dating tool. I think it can be useful but it's scary when you think about who can access this information and what they're doing with it. I've never been that technologically savvy, my friends are actually amused by how infrequently I use computers. I continue to be fearful and wary of overindulging in social media and using it in my personal life. The biggest lesson I would take away from this film is to never misrepresent yourself. It's a waste of time and could end up potentially damaging good relationships. I think we've all been guilty of that at certain points in our lives. Obviously not to the heightened degree we take it in the movie, and I know it sounds cliche, but I would simply advise everyone to stay true to yourself.
ETonline: Your character goes to great lengths to woo Evan's in the film, in real life, what's the grandest gesture you've ever done for a girl?
Long: I once taxidermied a life-sized giraffe [laughs]. I actually think the grand things are in the little things. In the unexpected moments. I'm not a big supporter of the days you have to do something nice, I don't think that deserves fanfare. I think any time how much you've listened and how invested you are in what they've said can be reflected in a gesture, whether it's a gift or not, is pretty grand.
ETonline: You're currently promoting these two independent films in between filming a role on CBS' Mom going to work on Kevin Smith's new movie about a serial killer. That sort of encapsulates the incredibly varied career choices you've made -- what is it you look for in a script?
Long: Everyone looks at the pedigree of who's involved and for a while there was a stretch where I was just so thrilled to be getting jobs at all, that I didn't have much of a criteria. Maybe I should have been more deliberate [laughs]. The more I've worked, the more its afforded me the opportunity to be somewhat selective, so I think now -- I know this may sound trite, but I think about how much fun a project would be and how much joy there is in doing it. That usually involves the people involved or the challenge of the character. The Kevin Smith movie you mentioned is a very challenging acting part, which involves a lot of prosthetics. It's more of a character-part than I've been doing recently.
ETonline: How much of this newfound thoughtfulness is in service of a greater Hollywood perception of you and how much of it is to work on projects that bring you joy?
Long: It's all the latter. There was a period when I was working a lot and I had a publicist and I had an awareness of the business and that just drove me nuts. Nothing good comes from that. This business is so fickle; it ebbs and flows and it will drive you nuts if you invest too much of yourself in thinking of how people perceive you. I don't mean this in a nihilistic way, but I just don't care as much as I did even five years ago. Not to be too heavy, but as I've gotten older and seen people around me evolving and moving on with life, I just have a stronger sense of my own mortality and time itself becomes more precious. I don't want to spend this precious and limited time on things that don't necessarily bring me happiness.
ETonline: Interestingly, most people note that once they adopt that mentality they're presented with a preponderance of projects that bring happiness.
Long: That's so true actually. I have noticed that lately. If I've learned anything about this business, it's that there are peaks and valleys but when it rains, it pours. There's no rhyme or reason, you can cool off at a moment's notice, so it's been quite liberating to accept that I have no control over it -- because to have control over it would mean sacrificing other, more precious parts of my life.
A Case Of You and Best Man Down are now in theaters and On-Demand.