What happens when a romantic fling becomes something more? Especially if the couple becomes separated by thousands of miles...
Drew Barrymore and Justin Long star in the new romantic comedy Going The Distance, helmed by Oscar-nominated film and television director Nanette Burstein (American Shopper, The Kid Stays In The Picture, Film School).
Drew and Justin sat down with Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier to talk about their favorite films, most challenging moments on set and why telling Mark Wahlberg that you love him backstage at an awards show is just not a good idea..
Emmanuel Itier: Early in the film, your characters go on a dinner date and are asking each other questions. So, what are your top three albums and favorite movies?
EI: Really? What about the new Justin Bieber? [Smiles]
JL: Oh, yeah. It’d be his greatest hits: Leave it to Bieber.
Drew Barrymore: I’m going to go with Annie Hall, Lost in America, and Sullivan’s Travels. Those are some of my favorite movies.
EI: And which albums?
DB: Okay, I’m on it. Spank me. No, I’m just kidding. Like... a Radiohead album and…I’m such a music nut too. This is really sad. It’s like sometimes when someone says, “What’s good at breakfast?” and it’s like you’ve never eaten before and your brain just goes blank. I’m going to call a brain blank on this one: I’m sticking with movies.
JL: I’m going to go Annie Hall, Back to the Future, and Way Out West.
EI: Drew, Erin is more outspoken than some of the rom-com characters you’ve played. Did the fact that she was more of a modern woman attract you to the part?
DB: Yeah, I was excited to play it. I just wasn’t in that place in my life where I wanted to play a cuckoo, wacky, role-reversal sort of scenario. We’re all travelers, and you try to make distance work with relationships, and she’s someone who can hang out with guys and loves women but has a spine and is funny. I feel like I relate to that kind of person right now in my life, so it was a pleasure for me to get to improv and just work in a much more free-flowing way where you could play around and you didn’t have to be censored because you have an R rating. That, to me, was just an absolute pleasure.
EI: Christina Applegate said that she couldn’t stare at you guys while you were naked in the scene where she walks in - even though Nanette Burstein [director] wanted her to stare longer…
JL: It’s like looking into the face of God... [Laughs]
DB: One of the challenges that I was most excited about was doing the drunk scene. Nanette and I really focused on what type of drunk is she and what can we sort of ad-lib and what would be spontaneous and, if you were really angry, how would you just let loose? It was the most fun day of work ever because I really... just let loose.
EI: And for you Justin?
JL: I would say that some of the naked stuff was a little uncomfortable, but I think the most challenging was trying to keep a straight face around this clown. A lot of the really intimate sexual stuff around a room full of 30 or 40 grown men was a challenge.
EI: Drew, you and Christina Applegate were cast as sisters. You’ve both grown up in the business and the public eye: How do you think that kind of life has affected the person you are today?
DB: I thought it was interesting. I felt that we started to really look alike, which I thought was cool. I love when people cast siblings that actually, feasibly could have come from the same womb, so I felt like we started to morph. We used to be in a dance class together when we were kids, but she looked really good in spandex and I did not. I was horrified in the corner. But yeah, I’ve known her forever. We have a lot of parallels. It worked for us.
EI: One of the key moments in every romantic comedy is that first kiss, when we see how these two people are going to get together: When you know that scene is coming up, is there anticipation or fear about getting it right, or is it just part of the job and another regular moment?
JL: It’s like a necessary evil. The first kiss for us in the movie was kind of sloppy. We were drunk. We were stoned. I’m sorry… It was just so easy to do. It was so comfortable.
EI: Is that something you think about a lot before it happens?
JL: I like to think about my grandmother, just because she’s always been an inspiration to me in my life... No!… Hopefully you’re invested in the scene. Sometimes it can be a surprise when you’ve never kissed anyone before, you’ve just met recently, and people have different ways of kissing and sometimes it can be jarringly uncomfortable. There can be very little movement involved and then like a quick, sudden movement from the tongue.
DB: I was just lucky because he’s a good kisser, so it’s like, “Whew. Thank God.” The worst is when you’re kissing somebody who’s not a good kisser and you’re trying to make it look good, and you feel like you’re just working on your own. Basically it was a real team effort.
JL: She’s a great kisser too.
EI: Can you talk about the improvising done on set? Was the phone sex scene off the cuff, or was that scripted?
DB: I think the Marky Mark part was written for sure, and I was so excited to hit that. I really wanted to hit that hard.
JL: I think you told him that. Do you remember that?
DB: Oh my God, I did tell him that. I ran into him at an awards show and I said, “I just talked about how hot you are and your underwear and being f***ing sexy…”
JL: I think it didn’t go over great.
DB: It didn’t, no.
JL: In his defense, it is a strange thing to come up and say. I don’t think he was prepared for it, but I think he was flattered.
DB: Who would not be excited about that? He’s a very nice guy. I’ve had other conversations with him that went much better than that. Nothing against him, for sure. That was a great scene written, and I was really excited to go out there and try it because I thought this was one of those scenes that’s going to fail miserably and be a really gross and upsetting moment, or it could be fun and exciting. It was just one of those scenes that you have to go for it, not knowing whether it’s going to work or not, but don’t compromise along the way.
EI: Were you actually on the phone with each other?
JL: And we were comparing who had the more awkward experience: me as a guy in a room full of men while simulating masturbation, or Drew. All the crew guys in my room were trying to make jokes to keep it light. They were making sex jokes and it made it kind of more awkward. I had to kind of laugh and then get into this weird sexual mode, but I think Drew had it even more awkward because she said everyone in the room was being stone cold silent and respectful, and it made it just that much weirder for her. They were turning around and whispering. But then Nanette kept coming over to me and describing cinematically how to masturbate, how it would look better. She was like, “Try a little bit more up like this.” I was like, “Nanette, I think I know how to masturbate. I’ve had a lot of experience.”
EI: We’re really focusing on your characters’ relationship in the movie, but Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day were hysterical in this film…
DB: I find that watching films, for me, work best when you’re really invested in the whole group of people, and I love films, whether it’s a Judd Apatow or a Christopher Guest… they have this great alumni quality, and you’re just really into all the people in it.
You really like the people’s world, so when you cut back and forth between a couple and their friends or family, or just this group of people interacting - I love when the chemistry goes far beyond just the couple. This movie stands on that. Jim Gaffigan. I almost sabotaged every single one of his takes because he was so funny. I think one of the reasons I like this movie best is because of everybody in it.
JL: I pride myself on being able to hold it together and being stable, and I’ve never had a harder time keeping a straight face than working on this. Rob Riggle and Kristen Schaal - we were so lucky to be surrounded by all these people.
DB: I ruined most of her takes... I felt terrible.
EI: Do you feel like this is a recession romance?
DB: I do. I feel like I personally want something that I can escape into and sort of forget about what’s going on around me, but I don’t want to lose sight of being able to relate to something. So for me, I just want that beautiful striking balance, and I feel like this film has that. I’m laughing but I’m crying and relating and emotional about it. I feel like it gets surprisingly real, but then it does sort of come in and save you and make you laugh. I think the question is more eloquent than the answer, actually.
JL: I actually think that the fiscal realities of both of the characters play a large part in this, and it was nice to see that played out. I think a lot of people, especially now, relate to that, and the things that you take for granted when you enter into a long distance relationship, chief among them the logistics. Just getting from point A to point B and what’s involved in that.
DB: You’re like, “I can’t.” You want to see each other, but you can’t because of money or schedule…
New Line Cinema's 'Going The Distance' is in theaters now.