There is no doubt that Justin Long is a funny guy. After all, his resume is filled with hilarious performances in films like Dodgeball, Waiting, Accepted, and Idiocracy. So imagine his surprise when he got the call from director Sam Raimi to play the straight man in his new horror film, Drag Me to Hell.
Long said, “I kind of thought Sam was calling me because there was a clown in the film that comes into different scenes intermittently to throw up or juggle for comic relief. But it turns out he saw me in Live Free or Die Hard and liked my performance enough to want me in Drag Me to Hell.”
“I guess it’s a good thing Sam hadn’t seen me in my other roles, or maybe I wouldn’t have even gotten the call from him,” Long joked.
In Drag Me to Hell Long plays Clay Dalton, the sensible psychology teacher boyfriend of Alison Lohman’s Christine, who has the misfortune of being cursed to hell by an elderly gypsy woman (Lorna Raver) because of her own selfishness.
Long is generally known to audiences as the guy who comes in and steals scenes in his usual easy-going, sly comedic fashion. This time around Long was happy to take a backseat and play a supporting role.
“I am so used to coming into comedy projects where they invite you to ad lib and improv just to improve a scene,” explained Long. “With Drag Me to Hell I came in with the understanding that it was my job to fully support Alison’s character and to move her performance along in the film. This was a vehicle for Alison as an actress, and I think she did an amazing job.”
Over the last several years Long has had the opportunity to hone his ability to rein in his hilarious nature and deliver more serious performances. Drag Me to Hell provided the perfect environment for Long to continue to grow as a serious performer, mostly due to the direction of Raimi.
Long said, “I have always naturally had the impulse to rely on comedy as a safety net. When I was working on He’s Just Not That Into You, the director initially taught me ways of reining that impulse in. Then, while working with Sam, I learned when to subtly add a touch of humor when the scene called for it and how to use his reactions to my work as a barometer for how my performance played out on camera.”
Working with Raimi was a dream come true for him. “I’ve always been a huge fan of his work and grew up watching Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. Then seeing his work in movies like The Gift or A Simple Plan made me realize what an amazing storyteller he is.”
In fact, the actor found working with Raimi to be an experience beyond anything he could have ever hoped for.
“Sam was the most collaborative director I’ve ever worked with,” explained Long. “Even though he’s such a meticulous and stylized director, he gave me a lot of room as an actor to work.”
“He’s (Raimi) probably the nicest guy working in the industry right now so I think it’s sort of funny that you get these over-the-top horror movies from him. I think he internalizes anything bad that happens around him and then unleashes all of that darkness into his scripts,” Long added.
Being a horror fan himself, Long was a bit bummed that he wasn’t able to get in on some of the action like Lohman or Raver did on set.
“I love special effects and blood and using prosthetics so yes, I was a little jealous I wasn’t getting to do all of that like the ladies did. But at the same time the lazy 30-year-old in me was happy that I got to relax more and go home every night,” Long said.
Drag Me to Hell opens in theatres this Friday, May 29th!
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