Justin Long is funny. He’s charming. He was totally right about Macs. And when we asked him to take our rom-com quiz in light of his own romantic comedy, A Case of You, playing at the Tribeca Film Festival this week, he gamely agreed. We later learned that he maybe didn’t know exactly what we were asking for. But still! There are so many reasons to love Justin Long. (Another: He co-wrote A Case of You while staying at a cabin, listening to Joni Mitchell, and “getting soft” — his words.) To find out how much he really knows about the rom-com genre, we asked him the tough questions about Garry Marshall ensembles, sharting, and the Lift. In between, he ranted about cheesy movie posters and expensive weddings.
You agreed to do this, so does that mean that you know the genre well?
I do. I really like romantic comedies. I think the trap that a lot of them fall into is that they feel the need to be gimmicky. The guy is secretly in love with the girl, but really he’s about to marry the friend. Or, The girl’s a mermaid and the guy can only see her when she’s out of the water. My favorite romantic comedies are the ones that are a lot more grounded and simpler. So, yeah, I know about romantic comedies! I’ve seen the good and the bad, and I actually kind of like the bad ones too.
What’s a bad one?
I’m thinking of some specific ones, but I don’t want to insult anyone. [Laughs.] I actually have friends in some of them; I’ve probably been in them.
What are the ones you like, then?
I mean, this is probably a pretty clichéd answer, but I love Woody Allen. I grew up watching Woody Allen movies. Annie Hall and Manhattan. I love Charlie Chaplin, too. I think City Lights and Modern Times and The Kid are three of the most romantic movies you’ll ever see. And then I also would categorize Planes, Trains & Automobiles or like Laurel and Hardy movies — great buddy comedies — as platonic romantic comedies.
What’s the modern equivalent of that? I Love You, Man?
That’s more like dudes being dudes. Planes, Trains & Automobiles is two very different people struggling to co-exist. And I think that’s ultimately the best part about romantic comedies. Or the best part about romance in general — and the worst part. You have to live with somebody who, up until not that long ago, was a stranger. You know what I love? Sometimes the most romantic element of being in a relationship is how you bicker. I know that sounds weird. But it’s not the couples who post things on Facebook and Instagram and make declarations publicly — that’s not what gets me. I always get weirdly jealous when I see couples fight in a funny, cute way. I think there’s romance in that.
Because there’s a certain degree of shorthand involved in that sort of bickering.
Exactly. And that speaks volumes about how people feel about each other and how close they are.
Yeah. Okay, so are you ready to do this?
Let’s do it! I thought we were doing it.
We are. But I have actual questions to test your knowledge of romantic comedies.
Did they [the film publicists] not tell you about this?
No. They probably told me. I’m [inaudible], I don’t remember.
Did you just say you’re “a dude,” you don’t remember?
No, I said I’m an idiot.
But good Freudian listening. [Laughs.] Freudian hearing!
Right. Okay, I’ll give you a softball for your first question: What 1989 movie —
[Eagerly interrupts.] When Harry Met Sally. That was really soft. I want you to make sure to point out the word I stopped you on.
Oh, please, I will. That em dash is going right there. Does this mean When Harry Met Sally is a favorite of yours?
Yeah. Meg Ryan was one of the first real crushes I can remember. There’s something about her. She’s so fucking charming and cute and sexy. And she’s never been better than, I think, When Harry Met Sally. It’s a classic. I don’t know it as well as most people do. Like, I don’t know that I’d be able to quote it.
Is being able to quote a movie a sign that you’re a big fan of it?
It’s a sign that I’ve seen it so many times. To me, a really great movie is one you can revisit ad nauseam. Like, I need to see Annie Hall every couple of months; I need to check in with movies like Dazed and Confused and Back to the Future. My friends won’t watch Back to the Future with me because it’s such an annoying experience for them because I’m just quoting the movie along with it.
Since you mentioned Dazed and Confused, here’s a Matthew McConaughey question. He’s starred in two romantic comedies with Kate Hudson. Name them.
[In a Southern drawl.] There was one where they have a bet going to see how long it would take them to break up. That was How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. And then there was another one where they go lookin’ for gold. Fool’s Gold. I’m naked from the waist up 80 percent of that film — 82 percent to be exact.
Are you doing a Matthew McConaughey accent right now?
I’m trying to, thank you very much. I love McConaughey rom-coms. He has the staple movie poster. It’s him with his arms crossed with a woman — either Sarah Jessica Parker or Jennifer Garner — leaning against him. She’s kind of got her arms crossed like, I don’t know about this guy. And he’s got an expression like, Yep, it’s me. I’m naughty, but I’m hunky, so I can get away with it.
All rom-com movie posters are either that or a woman sandwiched between two men.
I’ll tell ya: I did a movie called Patriotville. It was a little independent movie about a guy who’s really into preserving his town’s historical significance. And there’s kind of a secondary plot where he meets this girl, and whoever released it, the distributor, they released it right after He’s Just Not That Into You came out. So I think they tried to turn it into more of a rom-com than it was. So Emmanuelle [Chriqui] and I — they wanted to do a whole separate photo shoot with us for the cover. And they made us wear these kind of hip, cool clothes. She’s in this sexy midriff thing and I’m wearing a kind of douche-y leather jacket — clothes that had nothing to do with the characters that we played. And we’re going through these poses that they wanted us to do, and they were so ridiculous that at one point I said — as a joke — I said, “Oh, should we do the back-to-back I don’t know about this guy pose?” And the PR lady who set it up was like — totally stone-faced and humorless — “Yes, that’s actually the specific one that the company requested we do.” And they renamed the movie to Taking Chances, which can be the name of any movie. It’s like the most generic title. And the tagline was like [in a mocking tone], “Sometimes love is a gamble.” And they Photoshopped playing cards into my hand. The movie has nothing to do with gambling. There’s a tiny little plot involving a casino, but it has nothing to do with it. So I like that it got a cheesy rom-com makeover.
And that was because you were in He’s Just Not That Into You?
Yeah, I think it had something to do with it. And Em had done some romantic movie. So the trailer was like, “He’s Just Not That Into You’s Justin Long and another romantic comedy’s Emmanuelle Chriqui in a movie where love is about taking chances.” Really, really lame.
I appreciated that you finally got to play the dick in He’s Just Not That Into You.
Me, too! They wanted me to play Kevin Connolly’s part. And I kind of made a case for playing the other guy. Because I never get to.
What was your case?
I don’t remember. I had a meeting with [producer] Nancy Juvonen and we talked about the character, and I think she just took a chance on me. A lot of the times if you haven’t played a part before, there’s no way — outside auditioning, which I always prefer to do — that they would know that you could play that part. So you get typecast.
I’m going to read you an IMDb synopsis, and you tell me if it’s for No Strings Attached or Friends With Benefits: “A guy and a girl try to keep their relationship strictly physical, but it’s not long before they learn that they want something more.”
I would say that’s No Strings Attached.
Yes! How did you know? There’s barely a difference.
The difference is … there’s more of a focus in No Strings Attached on the physical, sexual stuff. But you’re right. They’re both kind of, the more I think about it … totally identical.
Liz Meriwether wrote No Strings Attached, and you guys have your New Girl connection —
The original script for No Strings Attached, by the way, was brilliant. It was fucking awesome. It was called Fuck Buddies.
Why did you get to read the original script?
I don’t know. I’ve known Liz — somebody sent it to me, like, “Check this out, it can’t get made.” Ivan Reitman was trying to make it, and somebody just sent it to me as an example of a really gutsy, hilarious rom-com. And I remember thinking, God, it’s going to be really hard for them to make this. It’s just so raw and frank. But, it was funny; really good.
Did you see the version that made it to the screen?
I did, yeah. And, you know, things just change. Things happen. It’s a studio movie, and so I’m sure they were like, “We love how gutsy it is, but … ” I don’t know. I’ve dealt with it. When they’re spending that kind of money on a movie, you can’t get away with certain things.
Natalie Portman plays a doctor in it. A lot of romantic comedies are about a career-obsessed woman —
Yeah, she looks like doctors, doesn’t she? She looks like most doctors I’ve been to.
Yes, all my doctors look like Natalie Portman.
So does Rachel Bilson in that show she’s in, Hart of Dixie. She’s such a doctor. I’m glad she finally got to play that role because every time I’ve seen Rachel Bilson, I’ve always been like, Oh, she has this doctor thing about her. [Laughs.]
There’s also the workaholic editor. Can you name the movie in which Sandra Bullock plays a career-obsessed book editor?
Ooooh. A career-obsessed book editor. Is it While You Were Sleeping?
No, that’s the amnesia movie.
No, no, no. Is it Hope Floats?
Okay, do not tell me. Sandy Bullock … a book editor …
I’ll tell you her co-star. It’s Ryan Reynolds.
Oh, I’ve seen that. With Betty White. The Proposal.
Yes! Here’s an older one. Is this a line from Pretty Woman or Pretty in Pink: “Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now.”
I would say Pretty in Pink.
Nope. I didn’t say it enough like Julia Roberts, though.
No, you know what? I don’t know that movie that well. I don’t know Pretty Woman.
Yeah, I know, that’s what every woman says when I say that. In that tone — that exact falsetto tone. I’ve seen enough of it to say I’ve seen the whole movie in bits and pieces, but I have never sat down start-to-finish and watched that movie. And as much as I love John Hughes and the Brat Pack movies, I don’t know Pretty in Pink that well either.
Oh my God, it just got worse. I mean, it’s okay. I haven’t seen any of the Star Wars movies.
OH, JESUS. Okay. Well, that’s awful.
I’ve seen the first one. But let’s not get off track; it’s not about me.
Okay, but that should be remedied quickly. I hope you never date a nerd.
It wouldn’t work out.
It really wouldn’t. That’s a deal-breaker.
It is. Okay, name as many romantic comedies with “bride,” “wedding,” or a wedding-related term in the title as you can.
Okay. Wedding Crashers, Wedding Daze with Jason Biggs and Isla Fischer, Wedding Planner, oh, oh [stutters] Four Weddings and Funeral. [Thinks.] Princess Bride, Bride Wars. Uhhh … shit. We already did The Wedding Planner. Oh! Runaway Bride.
That was good! Do you think women care as much about weddings as romantic comedies would have us believe?
I don’t know. It seems that way from all those reality shows and the bridezillas. That, to me, is one of the greatest mysteries. I don’t get the whole hoopla over weddings: The gift giving, all the pomp and celebration. When I get married — I have this thing with my brother, this idea, this potential deal-breaker, and it’s that you should propose this to a woman: Propose that you have a wedding that is simple, just your close friends and family. You rent out some fun, dive-y bar, you get great food, and that’s it. Forget the D.J. and the wedding photographer and the flowers and the bells and whistles, and just have a simple, fun celebration. Maybe a karaoke machine, maybe a photo booth. Little touches. No gifts, none of that bullshit. That’s my fantasy, that’s my ideal wedding. So if you propose that to your partner, whoever that is, and they say, “Yes, I’m in,” and they mean it, then that speaks volumes. That’s the final test.
And if they say no?
Then you have to question it! What does that say about somebody that they need this big celebration, they need to promote it and be demonstrative about it? By the way, that shit is expensive, too. I know people who’ve spent like a hundred grand on this thing that would be as memorable regardless of how nice all the trappings are and if you have it at the best location overlooking the ocean. You don’t need all that shit. Not to go off on a rant. For me, weddings should just be what they are: two people coming together. By the way, that’s your decision to spend the rest of your life with somebody. Why should all of your friends then have to jump through hoops just because you’ve made this choice to be with them forever?
Yes! I’ve had to spend fifteen-, sixteen-, seventeen-hundred dollars on someone else’s wedding.
Ugh. For what! You have to go there, which is airfare and all that. And that’s not enough: They need a gift. And that’s not enough: Here’s where we want the gift from. We’re registered here. Then get your own fucking gift! Like, I get it, back in the Middle Ages when there was a real defined class system and you got married young and you needed things to start out. You needed, like, pots and pans and a mule. [Laughs.] You know? But now — and the people who I know, who are privileged, have gotten weird with me for not having gotten them something.
They might read this.
I hope they do. I hope everyone reads this. It’s a good lesson: Ladies, if you want to fool your man into thinking you’re not superficial and materialistic [laughs], just listen to this.
All right. Let’s do another question. In Along Came Polly, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character does what at a party, forcing him and Ben Stiller’s character to leave?
Yes. Name two recent movies that have featured the Lift.
Schindler’s, of course.
No, the Lift. Like the Dirty Dancing lift.
Oh, the Lift. I thought you said the list, like a grocery list. Okay, Crazy, Stupid, Love. Ryan Gosling lifts her up in that. Which I heard was a body double for some reason. They had to cut to a wide shot. I don’t know the story behind it, but the actual lift is done with a body double — a very lucky body double. Um, where else is the Lift? [Starts mumbling/singing “I’ve had the time of my life.”] I don’t know.
Silver Linings Playbook.
Oh, right. Fuck. I wouldn’t have gotten it.
I’m going to give you a quote, you name the movie: “I luff you. Two Fs.”
I luff you, I loave you, I lurve you, of course I love you. It’s Manhattan.
Oh, oh, Annie Hall!
Sorry. Sorry, I had a brain shart.
Seriously. Which of these actors was not in Valentine’s Day: Jessica Biel, Jessica Alba, Bradley Cooper, or Zac Efron?
Brad wasn’t in it.
B Coop? He was in it?
Yes. He was on the plane with Julia Roberts and he turned out to be gay.
Oh, right. So Zac Efron wasn’t in it.
He was in the other one, New Year’s Eve.
He was in the other one with Taylor Swift.
No, Taylor Swift was in Valentine’s Day.
Oh, with Taylor Lautner. Who was Zac Efron with? Oh, Michelle Pfeiffer.
Are you looking things up on IMDb? I hope you haven’t been looking these up on IMDb.
No, no, no. I swear to God. Am I near a computer?
I don’t know.
No, I’m having my friend verify.
Okay, I believe you. And this has been so much fun! I wish all my interviews were rom-com quizzes.
Oh, good. I’m embarrassed by the Manhattan flub. I’m embarrassed by some of my answers — and yet also proud of some others.