Planet 51 - Justin Long recording the voice of
Justin Long recording the voice of Lem © Columbia Pictures

Justin Long recently appeared in New Line’s popular comedy He’s Just Not That Into You, along with Ben Affleck, Drew Barrymore and Jennifer Aniston. He went on to co-star with Alison Lohman in Sam Raimi’s over-the-top horror flick, Drag Me to Hell. But perhaps his most famous ‘role’ is the Mac Guy in the popular Mac vs. PC commercials.

In Planet 51 he voices the character of Lem, a 16-year-old High School Junior, who works as the Junior Assistant Planetarium Curator on the Planet 51. He befriends astronaut Chuck Baker, and attempts to help him escape so that he’s not imprisoned in the Alien Invaders Space Museum.

What was it like to go through the experience of doing an animated film, as opposed to live-action?

Planet 51 - Justin Long
Lem (Justin Long) © Columbia Pictures

This movie has been going on for years. We’ve been doing it for the last three years. Initially, we just recorded it all and they gave us templates, so that we were able to see art. And, as they had our recordings, they started animating to the ones they liked.

But then, we’d have to go back over it and fill in little holes, and then they’d rewrite.

How did you relate to your character of Lem?

It’s a pretty easy answer for me. Shockingly, I was a bit of a nerd in high school. I was studious and a little socially awkward. So, yeah, it was nice to go back to that time, before I was all jaded and over everything. That was a more innocent time.

I had a very similar experience in high school. I was just not as smart, though, sadly. Lem is a lot brighter than me.

When you saw the final product with the animation, did you see yourself in your character?

Planet 51 - Jessica Biel, Dwayne Johnson, Justin Long and Seann William Scott
Eckle (Freddie Benedict), Neera (Jessica Biel), Chuck Baker (Dwayne Johnson), Lem (Justin Long), Skiff (Seann William Scott) and Rover" © Columbia Pictures

My brother didn’t know that I was in the movie. I don’t know why. And, he heard a commercial the other day and looked up and saw [my voice] coming out of a green alien. I’m sure he wasn’t stoned at all.

For me, I thought they captured me pretty accurately, from the waist down. I was amazed at how close that was.

They did take a mold of my body because the animator does this whole 3-D thing. The process is fascinating. But, yeah, it was pretty close. I don’t know. I gesticulate a lot. I constantly, usually very effeminately, [speak with my hands]. That was nice. It was a nice freedom to have in the room. I could just wildly use my hands and body, and not be afraid of that.

Did this movie make you want to be a better person or make you want to contribute to changing the world?

Yes, because it is set in an idyllic society that is also kind of repressed, since it mirrors our 1950’s, it brings up a lot of issues that we dealt with and are still kind of dealing with, like paranoia in people who are a little bit different, and judging people too quickly and harshly. In that sense, it’s timely.

There’s a little lesson embedded underneath all the cute, fun, green stuff.

How is making a hard-core horror film like Drag Me to Hell different from doing family entertainment?

Planet 51 - Justin Long and Dwayne Johnson
Lem (Justin Long) and Chuck (Dwayne Johnson) © Columbia Pictures

I have such a respect for actors who are able to give convincing horror movie performances, as Jessica Biel did in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, ‘cause it really is exhausting to maintain that. It’s your whole body, too.

It was my biggest fear, just being caught in a dishonest moment. There’s nothing worse than bad horror.

With Drag Me to Hell, it was really Alison Lohman. I was just the boyfriend. But, I did a few other movies that were that level, and it was just grueling. You go home every night, so drained emotionally.

This movie really captures that great retro, nostalgia vibe. Do you have any favorite killer robot or alien invasion B-movies?

I love the old ‘50’s monster movies. I used to watch those, when I was a kid. And, I love The Twilight Zone.

If you could live on Planet 51, would you?

Planet 51 - Seann William Scott and Justin Long
Skiff (Seann William Scott) and Lem (Justin Long) © Columbia Pictures

There are days that I wish I could be on Planet 51, and I only hope I encounter someone as understanding as Lem.

I wouldn’t want to be imprisoned.

Did you feel like the aliens represented other parts of the world that have a love/hate relationship with Americans and American culture?

I didn’t think much about that, and I’d be afraid to attempt to answer that.

There is an element of war-mongering and that jingo-istic quality. I noticed that, for sure.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.