"A Case of You," Justin Long's latest comedy, revolves around a hack writer who wins over a barista (Evan Rachel Wood) by stalking her on Facebook and posing as her "perfect man."
It's not exactly "The Big Wedding," which is why the $3 million indie is premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival this weekend and not fast-tracked for mall multiplexes. It's a helluva lot bolder than your average studio rom-com.
Long, who stars but also produced and co-wrote the script with brother Christian Long and Keir O'Donnell, told us about his feelings on online dating (and stalking) and which one of his movies is sooooo much better when you're stoned.
So "A Case of You"… The first great cyber-stalker rom-com of our time?
Well I don't know if it's great but … It's funny while we were writing we were like, has no one really done this? I was surprised. We did it over the span of a couple of years and I thought surely at some point – 'cause we couldn't get the movie made -- somebody was gonna beat us to it. It's something that's changed drastically in the last couple of years, the reliance on social media. I have friends who exclusively date people that way and meet people that way. And it makes sense … There’s a part of me that kind of envies the people that could do it. It's a very simple vetting process.
So you're not an online dater?
Not yet. No, I've never done that. I don't have Facebook. I do Instagram but just for my friends. But I noticed that people do use it for that, people even use Instagram for that. Even with texting you can hide behind shorthand. You can take time to come up with the wittiest, quickest response and that’s a version of hiding behind a device. It's much different, it's so much easier. I find myself relying too heavily on texting.
Your character, Sam, is pretty much a cyber-stalker but the movie is almost unapologetic about it. Kind of ballsy, but also kind of realistic.
Yeah, and we hope that he learns stuff and we hope that the audience is with him at the end. Yeah, it's just the reality. We saw it last night. I had never seen it with an audience and I was relieved to hear the laughter. There's a line where Evan says sarcastically, "Oh stalker alert!" I was relieved that people laughed at that because I think it needed to be addressed in some way. Because yeah, there's a fine line between totally creepy dangerous weirdo [and normal], but it's a reality, it's what people do. When you meet somebody you're like oh I wonder what they're about, and rather than spending the time to get to know them, you can go on a page and find out what their makeup is. It's fascinating.
Do you think the line is blurring between a festival indie like "A Case Of You" and a studio-processed romantic comedy like "Going the Distance"? They feel very similar.
Yeah well even this to me doesn't feel necessarily like a festival movie. It feels more commercial. I don't mean that in a good or bad way. When I found out it got into Tribeca, I was kind of surprised. It's less polished aesthetically than something like "Going the Distance." I was amazed at what we got for a $3 million movie and I was really amazed at what we got to do ... For example if it was a studio movie, I don't think we would've gotten away with having the lead character turn like [he does]. That character becomes a dick two-thirds into the movie and for that to be done in a studio movie, it would be less harsh or it would be a more comical turn.
You've made a fair share of rom-coms and I'm sure you've read even more scripts. Have you ever borrowed a tactic from one of these projects and used it your own love life?
That's a good idea. I mean that's a good question, not a good idea. No but you know I love Woody Allen so much and I think there's no better rom-coms than the ones he makes. And I have actually … It's in "Annie Hall" where he's like, "So we'll kiss now and get it over with, and then we'll go eat." So it's not awkward. I did that once on a date and it really backfired. She was like, "Oh, really? Okaaay." I thought it would be so cool and romantic and I always fantasized about doing that because it's the worst when you have to engage with a stranger and try to have a conversation and eat and the whole time you're just thinking about it and after you kiss, there's this weight that's been lifted and it's easier to be yourself, too. So I did it, and I just remember it just backfired and made it weirder that it happened.
You see how it could be misconstrued. Like forget dinner, let's just get right to it.
Exactly. It's always very presumptuous. Like f**k you, you say that I'm gonna want to kiss you? That’s what the dinner's for, to see if I'm going to want to kiss you.
There's a full slate of great movies at Tribeca. What is your pitch for people to see "A Case of You"?
Here's what I shouldn't say: I'm surprised that it's in the festival … If you want a break from the edginess and heaviness of some of these movies, some of which I'm really excited to see, you could do worse than sitting down and taking in a nice funny love story.
What's your favorite thing about New York?
Walking. I love to walk in New York. I love the people, I love people-watching and simple things. There's an energy that this place has that I've never experienced anywhere else.
And what's your least favorite thing about New York?
Going to Times Square. It's funny, one of my least favorite places and most favorite places are within the same 40-block radius of each other. Times Square is pretty brutal.
And the mascots, and the "free comedy show" guys…
Oh everything! And then the tourists are just walking slowly … and you're inundated with corporate America.
Redford has Sundance in Park City, De Niro has Tribeca in New York. Where would your festival be?
Ooh. Well I love Austin, I live in Austin part-time but I guess they have so many festivals there that they don't need anymore.
South by Southwest 2!
… SouthwestER. Where would I go? S**t is there one in New Orleans? I love New Orleans. I would just find a place that I really love and a town that I want to promote. But then I guess not because if I really loved a place I wouldn't want a bunch of people coming there to watch movies, I guess. I do love New Orleans and Austin. Maybe somewhere where they truly don't get to see a lot of movies like Madagascar? Sri Lanka?
What is your porn star name?
Justin Long. It would be Justin Long.
Ha but what if you took your first pet and the street you grew up on?
Oh yeah mine is not good. My first pet is Victor. He was a box turtle named Victor. And my street was Unquowa, which is a Native American name. So Victor Unquowa.
Yeah that's not very good.
No I'm kidding it's Jizz On My Face Street, I grew up on Jizz On My Face Street. Victor Unquowa wouldn’t be good. But there is a porn star named Justin Long. I think he does mostly gay porn and I almost didn't get to use that as my name when I joined SAG because he was eligible for it [because of the Taft Hartley Act].
So he was around before you were? You didn't have to call your lawyers?
No and he had done one SAG-eligible job. It was probably like a Skinemax movie or something because some of those are SAG.
You could've gone with Justin Longer.
I could've. Or Justin Schlong. That's what kids called me in school. Brings back bad memories.
By the way, congrats on beating Ashton Kutcher in the race to release your Steve Jobs biopics.
I know, but we thought it was going to come out a week later. And now that they pushed it, it's not as funny.
Do you know Ashton? Did you call him to brag?
No I don't know him, really. I've met him here and there. To be honest, I only saw one clip of it. They put a clip online actually. I had been watching a lot of Steve Jobs footage to try to get inspired. And so I was pretty familiar with the way he spoke and I thought Ashton Kutcher really nailed it. I don't know if I'm in the minority there but I thought he was great when I saw just that one scene.
The comments about it on Funny or Die are hilarious. Arguments over the accuracies of it and what not.
Are you serious? Oh my God, I mean that's what it is … It's making fun of biopics themselves. It's not making fun of the man. I have deep reverence for him and profound respect for the man which was one of the reasons I was excited to do that. I think imitation is the highest form of flattery and the movie itself, you see it and you'll know what I mean. It's just a spoof of those overwrought, slightly inaccurate biopics. That’s why it's so funny that people would be debating the accuracy of it. It's totally inaccurate!
What would you say is the most underappreciated or underrated movie of yours? The one that people pick on you but you think undeservedly so.
S**t. Oh "Strange Wilderness"! "Strange Wilderness" was the one that got a zero on Rotten Tomatoes. And I saw it, the first few times I saw it, I loved it. And I don't often see movies that I've done multiple times, but I kept going. I was going with my girlfriend at the time and we'd bring friends. And then I saw it once when I wasn't stoned and I was like, woah. This is like a mess! This doesn't make a shred of sense. What? They're looking for Bigfoot?!
I don't know if you've seen the movie but it's about guys that in order to save their nature show, they go looking for Bigfoot. But stoned it's the funniest, and I think I just have so much love for it because it was the most fun I've ever had shooting. And I'm a huge Steve Zahn fan, and getting to work with Steve Zahn was like if I got to work with Gary Oldman or Daniel Day-Lewis. I revere Steve Zahn. He's a f**king great actor.
Last question: Will you take a selfie for us?
Selfies. That’s a real turnoff too with this social media stuff when you see a girl's Instagram.
[Editor's Note: He took two.]