ENTERTAINMENT

Justin Long On 'A Case Of You' & The Failure Of 'Going The Distance'

11/20/2013 02:18 pm ET
Andy Kropa/Invision/AP

For Justin Long, a tough breakup wasn't an excuse to hibernate with a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and the entire collected works of Bon Iver (though in his case there was a lot of Joni Mitchell involved). It was, however, a chance to write his first feature film. The 35-year-old actor stars in the independent movie "A Case of You," which he wrote with his brother Christian Long and a close friend, actor Keir O'Donnell, for his first screenwriting credit.

Also starring Evan Rachel Wood, Peter Dinklage, Sienna Miller, Vince Vaughn, Busy Philipps and Brendan Fraser, "A Case of You" puts a modern twist on the classic story of a man trying to win over a woman. Long's character, Sam, becomes infatuated with a beautiful barista named Birdie, played by Wood. In an attempt to get her to like him, he stalks her through Facebook, taking up all of her interests and becoming immersed in the things that she likes.

Out now in select theaters, "A Case of You" borrows from Long's own relationships and breakups, and it was a surprise to Long that it was even made in the first place. HuffPost Entertainment caught up with Long in his current hometown of New York City to discuss the film, the future of romantic comedies, and the time he met his ex-girlfriend's ex-boyfriend.

This is your first screenplay. Was that nerve-racking because you were responsible for the whole story, and not just your own part?
I don't mean this in a self-deprecating way, I just didn't think we were gonna get it made. I never thought of it as a reality of it going to be something. We never had any pressure from studios or timelines. If there was any it was self-imposed. It wasn't like that, it was more of an experiment.

If you went into it not expecting it to get made, was it more of a therapeutic thing or what was the motivation?
Part of it was that, yeah, of course. We all just share a sense of humor and a sensibility about movies and we had been talking a lot about [the fact] that we're three guys who happen to love romantic comedies. Maybe the only three! We found each other ... it's very rare. If we had any ambition it was just to write a simple, authentic-feeling story that we could relate to and use things that we had gone through in our lives. So there is some therapy in there.

I saw in an earlier interview you said you all were simultaneously going through breakups.
Yeah, Keir and I were ... it was so long ago. I have this cabin in Massachusetts and we were kind of holed up there licking our wounds and listening to a lot of '60s folk music and Joni Mitchell. That's where "A Case of You," the title, came from.

I'm so thrilled it's coming out but if there were any disappointments, it's that we didn't get the rights to "A Case of You." It's a real bummer. It's hard to get. I remember when we were trying to get it, I was working on an episode of "New Girl" and I was lamenting about the difficulties of getting her song and one of the producers I was working with was like, "Oh, really? It's from 'Blue' right?" I was like, "Yeah, it's probably her biggest album." He's like, "Yeah, we got 'The River!'" I was like [jokingly] "Fuck you ... buy the whole album!" But it sounds pejorative to say it was a Plan B, but we got Joan Baez' "Diamonds & Rust" to replace it. We shot it two different ways not knowing if we were going to get Joni's song ... Joni's song ... Joni! J. Mitch. We're on a first-name basis but she charges me a lot for her song. That's just Joni! Classic Joni! But I grew up listening to "Diamonds & Rust," it was a personal favorite, I just didn't know if it would be as recognizable.

Did you borrow specific anecdotes from these relationships for the movie?
I think in any relationship you feel there's some sort of pressure to adjust certain things about your personality that may be lacking or in over-abundance and so there was that theme that I kind of dealt with. I think that's also when you know you're in a good thing, when you don't feel the pressure to adjust those things. Evan's character was an amalgamation of a lot of different girls that we've known or wanted or been with: the ideal quirky girl.

Brendan Fraser's character [of the love interest's ex-boyfriend], was also inspired. She's an ex-girlfriend now, but when I was with her, I met her ex-boyfriend. There's always that weird moment when you brace yourself a little bit. Even if the person is being friendly on the surface, there's always something below that's simmering or that they're working out. When I met him, he was like overwhelmingly nice to me and it was even more intimidating. And he was like, a musician, and he was cool, and he was just so nice! So that's where that [was from].

So there's been a whole movement about the death of the rom-com -- that they're not making money at the box office and people don't have the same love for them as they used to. Do you think there's still space for a romantic comedy and a happy ending?
I know that size movie -- romantic comedies have a certain budget of medium-size movies -- I know in general they're having a hard time making those, beause they're not making the kind of money that the superhero movies and the sequels and stuff. So it's either that or like $1 million independent movies. That's why they're making all these horror movies now for just nothing.

If anything, it might help weed out some of the glossier, unnecessarily expensive romantic comedies, which we've seen a real backlash against, and rightly so because I think there's an element of cheesiness to them and I don't really believe them necessarily. I miss this authenticity of the early Nora Ephron movies. I love them!

We just tried to make one that was simpler and didn't have such heightened conflict. The only conflict, really, is within himself, the main character kind of gets in his own way. I think that's the trap that a lot of romantic comedies fall into. In order to separate themselves from the pack, because there's so many, they need some big device or some like, shtick. Like, "Oh, she turns into a bumble bee!" Something weird.

I think I did so many of those [big romantic comedies] that I shot myself in the foot a little bit. I kind of saturated that romantic comedy marketplace, which is limited. If you do a movie like "Going the Distance" and it doesn't do well -- when it came out it kind of bombed. It was so fun to make and I'm glad it exists but after that, it's such a fickle business. I was listening to Billy Joel's "The Entertainer" the other day, and, at one point, he says if he doesn't stay on the charts he gets cold, and it struck me a little how fickle things are. Because that movie didn't do well, studio movies kind of dried up for me. The nice thing was, it afforded me the opportunity to do smaller movies that I'd prefer to see anyway and I saved up money where I didn't feel like I had to do certain jobs that were maybe not artistically the best things. I didn't have to do money jobs.

Justin Long
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