Going the Distance - Justin Long
Garrett (Justin Long) © 2010 New Line Cinema

Justin Long got his start in movies in the comedy Galaxy Quest and the horror flick Jeepers Creepers. Since then he has appeared in such diverse films as He’s Just Not that Into You, Drag Me to Hell, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Funny People and Live Free and Die Hard. His drama The Conspirator, directed by Robert Redford, will debut at the Toronto Film Festival next month.

In Going the Distance he portrays Garrett, a scout who’s passionate about cool indie music, but who’s being forced to handle much more commercial bands at the label where he works. Having just broken up with his girlfriend, he meets the sassy and blatantly frank Erin (Drew Barrymore) in a bar in New York. A one night stand lasts a few weeks, and when Erin has to fly back to San Francisco to go to grad school, the couple decides that their love can beat the miles and they should continue in a long distance relationship.

What did you love about this story?

Going the Distance - Justin Long and Drew Barrymore
Garrett (Justin Long) and Erin (Drew Barrymore) © 2010 New Line Cinema

I’d been reading a lot of romantic comedies and this one really stood out for me in the sense that it was much more raw and realistic, and very funny too. I didn’t hold back at all.

When we first meet your character, Garrett, what’s going on in his life?

Garrett’s kind of stuck in a rut, both professionally and personally. He’s a low-level executive trying to gain a foothold in an industry that, in his opinion, has kind of sold out. And he’s just been dumped by a girl he’s been seeing for a few months because, once again, he couldn’t go to the next level.

Then he meets this girl, this crazy, pixie-ish, slightly badass girl who is cute and makes him laugh, and he’s very intrigued – and, spoiler alert; they get together.

What would you say was the scene that was the biggest challenge to you?

Going the Distance - Justin Long and Drew Barrymore
Garrett (Justin Long) and Erin (Drew Barrymore) © 2010 New Line Cinema

I would say some of the naked stuff was a little uncomfortable. I think a lot of the really intimate, sexual stuff around a room full of thirty, forty grown men was a challenge.

Also, the most challenging was to try to keep a straight face around Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikus (who play his best friends).

The key moment in a romantic comedy is the first kiss to see whether we’re going to buy that these people are connected. When you see something like that and you know it’s in the script, is it something that you think about or is it just part of the role?

It’s like a necessary evil. The first kiss for us in the movie was kind of sloppy. We were drunk and we were stoned, so it was just easy to do. It was so comfortable. And Drew’s a great kisser too; I just want to reiterate that.

Is it something you think about long before it happens?

Going the Distance - Justin Long and Drew Barrymore
Garrett (Justin Long) and Erin (Drew Barrymore) © 2010 New Line Cinema

I like to think about my grandmother, just because she has always been an inspiration to me in my life! No, I think you’re invested in the scene hopefully. Sometimes it can be a surprise when you’ve never kissed (the person) before. You’ve just met recently and people have different ways of kissing and sometimes it can be very jarringly uncomfortable. There can be very little movement involved and then a quick, sudden movement from the tongue that you don’t expect.

Did you improvise the telephone sex scene?

Drew and I were comparing who had a more awkward experience, me as a guy in front of a room full of men simulating masturbation, or her. And I said, ‘All the crew guys in my room were trying to make jokes to keep it light. Or they were making sex jokes.’ So it made it kind of more awkward. I’d have to laugh and then get into this weird sexual mode.

I think Drew had it more awkward, because she said everyone in her room was being stone-cold silent and respectful, and it just made it that much weirder for her. But then Nanette (Burstein, the movie’s director) kept coming over to me and describing cinematically how to masturbate. She’d say, ‘Try jerking off like this.’ I was like, ‘Nanette, I think I know how to do it. I’ve had a lot of experience.’

What is your proudest achievement in this movie?

I’m proud of myself for being able to hold it together and being stable. I’ve never had a harder time keeping a straight face than working with Charlie and Jason. We were just so lucky to be surrounded by (such a great cast).

Do you consider this a recession romance?

I think the fiscal realities of the characters play a large part, and it was nice to see that played out. A lot of people, especially now, can relate to (this) and you take for granted when you enter into a long distance relationship, chief among them the logistics, and just getting from point A to B and what is involved with that.

Judy Sloane

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