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Justin Long: The Impression That You Get
Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 10:58 am
Although Justin Long is widely known as the smug foil to humorist John Hodgman's downtrodden character in Apple's "Mac Versus PC" commercials, he tends to exude the humble, down-to-earth, everyman in his acting roles. He's gone from playing the geeky comic relief in Ed and Galaxy Quest, to the guy trying to win the girl in romantic comedies like He's Just Not That Into You, and his latest films, A Case of You and Best Man Down. And even in animated works like Alvin and the Chipmunks and King of the Hill, Long channels his charm just from his voice.
Given his friendly on-screen persona, Long told host Ophira Eisenberg that he is often approached on the street by fans of his rom-coms. While women are not afraid to shower him with compliments, his male fans can be more apprehensive. "Anytime a guy would come up to me about [He's Just Not That Into You], they would look around like they were buying crack or about to flash me. "
We discovered that when Long watches the films of director and actor Woody Allen, he feels like he's hanging out with an old friend. So in an Ask Me Another Challenge, we quizzed Long on the man born Allen Stewart Konigsberg. (Hear it here.) We dug deep and asked him to identify some of Allen's movies based on a few signature lines, and as well as his role in a 1967 James Bond spoof. Find out if Long will "take the money and run."
OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
You're listening to ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR and WNYC. I'm Ophira Eisenberg and coming up, we'll mangle some classics from the Disney songbook, we'll cater to the lowest common denominator, but right now, let's welcome to our stage our VIP, Justin Long.
JUSTIN LONG: Thank you. Also, catering to the lowest common denominator.
EISENBERG: Talking to you is catering to the lowest common denominator? No.
LONG: Yes. Close.
EISENBERG: You are well known for so many roles, Hollywood hits, "He's Just Not That Into You," "Galaxy Quest"...
LONG: Yes, thanks.
EISENBERG: You were on the TV series, "Ed."
LONG: Yes. Thank you.
EISENBERG: And, of course, you know, these very memorable Mac ads where you played the Mac.
LONG: The Mac, sure.
EISENBERG: The one that everyone rooted for.
LONG: In theory.
EISENBERG: In theory.
LONG: Yeah, before the backlash.
EISENBERG: What was the backlash?
LONG: Jonathan Franzen(ph) wrote a really interesting essay about the whole Mac versus PC marketing campaign and what it said about the current state of the world and how much disdain he had for it. But he - I'm also a huge fan so I was weirdly flattered to just be mentioned by him, even though it was - he called me insufferably smug.
Yeah. He said I played the part with insufferable smugness.
EISENBERG: Well, I think that was what the role demanded, yeah.
LONG: It kind of called for it.
EISENBERG: I mean, now, John Hodgman who played the PC, he broke away from his PC image by growing a mustache.
LONG: He did. And I remember the first time I saw him post - he said it was something he was trying to do, like an experiment, like he was growing something in a culture, like a Petri dish and it worked. And he's got a really - I don't know if you've seen him with his moustache, but it's really powerful. It's the opposite of this that I'm trying - you can't see at home, but I have this really disgusting kind of radiant pubic is what it's - how I like to describe it.
I have strong follicles, but they're sparse. You know, I don't have - so it creates a...
EISENBERG: Oh, my god. I have strong follicles, but they're sparse.
LONG: It's true. Franzen, you can quote me on that.
EISENBERG: That is like you have some confidence, but you're still working on your self-esteem with that. It's like a combination. Did you do anything specific to try to distance yourself from the Mac role?
LONG: Stopped working for a bit.
EISENBERG: That was that. You just laid low.
LONG: That helps.
EISENBERG: We all know you from being the star, the lead in all these Rom Coms(ph), right? And so when people, again, when you are dating...
LONG: Sounds really pathetic.
EISENBERG: ...do the women just assume you're going to be this great boyfriend?
LONG: Well, I hope not.
EISENBERG: Are you a good boyfriend? Are you a good boyfriend or are you a bad boyfriend? Let's be honest.
LONG: I think I'm pretty good.
EISENBERG: OK, good.
LONG: I think I'm - yeah, I mean, it sounds insufferably smug were I to say yes.
EISENBERG: Yeah. That's all right.
LONG: But I did a movie called "He's Just Not That Into You" which, hold for applause, hold for applause, wait, no, I'm kidding. but I would have a lot of - it was a big movie among a certain demographic of women and they would - a lot of them - and a few men, but they wouldn't admit it.
Anytime a guy would come up to me about that movie, they'd say - they'd look around like they buying crack, you know, like - or about to flash me or something. They'd be like, hey, man, I seen "He's Just Not That Into You, " I saw it. My wife made me see it. And it was always like my girlfriend or my wife made me watch it, but, you know, the people that would come up to me, I could spot them a mile away about that "He's Just Not That Into You" crowd.
Except for once, this guy, huge Hispanic guy, tattoos, like enormous, looked like a bouncer, came up to me and goes, man, man, I saw you in something. Where are you from? Oh, yeah, "He Ain't Feeling You No More." It took me a second.
EISENBERG: Yes. That is the sequel, I think, yeah. And you're very good at celebrity impressions or you are well known for being - you have a bunch.
LONG: I would disagree with of those statements, but...
EISENBERG: Really, interesting.
LONG: ...thank you. I love doing...
EISENBERG: Well, that's going to be a problem with what we for the show soon.
LONG: ...it's going to be a problem for our plan. I love doing them. I do love doing them and, you know, you start imitating teachers and trying to - I was a little pipsqueak so...
EISENBERG: Oh, you were the class clown?
LONG: ...I was the - yeah, classic. I mean, I won't even get into it 'cause it's so cliqued. And people I've worked with, you know, I like to pick up, especially people that I admire. That's why I do impression that, like, of Sam Rockwell or Cole Houser, you know, people that aren't necessarily go-tos for (unintelligible).
EISENBERG: All right. So here's what we're going to do based on that, Justin. We're going to bring you back later in the show for your own Ask Me Another challenge. But right now, I want to know if you would to use your celebrity impressions talent for a game with some contestants.
LONG: I would love it. Let's do it.
EISENBERG: All right. Fantastic. Justin Long, everybody. Let's welcome our next two contestants, Rich Steeves and Miriam Siddiq. Miriam, a movie buff as a child, you wanted to be the female Steven Spielberg; is that correct?
MIRIAM SIDDIQ: That's true, yeah.
EISENBERG: And you love reading true crime, which is interesting because Rich here is working out his - your third novel in a series?
RICH STEEVES: My third novel, yes, absolutely.
EISENBERG: And it's about...
STEEVES: A paranormal detective in Washington D.C.
EISENBERG: Yeah, that's right. This sounds good.
LONG: A great - it would make a great movie for Stephanie Spielberg.
LONG: I think.
EISENBERG: Do either of you do impressions? Miriam?
SIDDIQ: I do a mean Nicholas Cage.
EISENBERG: Let's hear it.
SIDDIQ: Loretta, I'm gonna take you to bed. Loretta, my hair got snapped off.
LONG: That's really good.
EISENBERG: All right, Rich. What do you got?
STEEVES: Wow. It's a hard act to follow up. I do mostly cartoon characters and Muppets so I can do a Kermit the Frog.
EISENBERG: All right, let's hear it.
LONG: Oh, yeah.
STEEVES: If frogs couldn't hop, I'd be gone with a Schwinn.
EISENBERG: Oh. Nice. Who knew we would have such good impressions. This game is called "Justin Time Impressions." Ah, we asked Justin to give us a list of actors that he's good at impersonating and the list was endless so we culled through it and this game is very simple. Justin will read famous movie lines spoken by various actors and all you have to do is identify the movie that it came from and the winner of this round will move on to our Ask Me One More final round at the end of show. Are you ready?
EISENBERG: OK. Look who walked into the Bell House. It's Woody Allen.
LONG: Chapter One. He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion. You know, make that he romanticized it all out of proportion. Better. To him, no matter what the season was, it was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin. You know, let me start this over. Chapter One.
EISENBERG: That is correct. Hey, it's my favorite fellow Canadian, Michael J. Fox.
LONG: Look, Marvin, you gotta play. You see, that's where they kiss for the first time on the dance floor. And if there's no music, they can't dance and if they can't dance, they can't kiss. If they can't kiss, they can't fall in love and I'm history, man. Thank you.
STEEVES: That's definitely "Back To The Future."
EISENBERG: That is correct. "Back To The Future," is that one your favorites?
STEEVES: My absolute favorite.
EISENBERG: Yeah, I love - one thing about the movie is that every chunk of dialog is basically reiterating the premise of the entire movie.
LONG: Right, right. I got to get home. Are you telling me that my mom has got the hots for me? Yeah. The best, the best.
EISENBERG: Well, check this out. It's actor Ted Levine drinking Buffalo Trace Bourbon at the bar.
LONG: It rubs the lotion on its skin. It does this whenever it's told. It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again. Yes, it will, precious. It will get the hose.
EISENBERG: That is chilling. Rich.
STEEVES: Yeah, "Silence Of The Lambs."
EISENBERG: Yeah, of course.
LONG: I - my favorite part of that movie is when he's trying to be normal. When Jodie Foster comes to the door and she's all, yes, sir, I'd like to use your phone, please. And he's like, oh, yeah, sure. I got a phone you could use, yeah. And he's just like trying to be all nonchalant. You know, are the police closer to finding anything or, I mean, just curious, just a curious, normal citizen.
EISENBERG: Oh, hey, there's my friend on a blind date with Academy Award Winner Philip Seymour Hoffman.
LONG: It's the hardest when someone has a notion about you and it's impossible to convince them otherwise. Ever since I was a child, folks have thought that they had me pegged because of the way I am, you know, the way I talk and they're always wrong. Do you know what I mean?
EISENBERG: "Capote" nailed it.
LONG: That's kind of a given.
EISENBERG: Oh, who's getting into character by tending bar, it's Sam Rockwell.
LONG: Hey, I'm not even supposed to be here. I'm just crew man number six. I'm expendable. I'm the guy in the episode who dies to prove the situation is serious. I gotta get out of here.
STEEVES: Sam Rockwell as Guy Fleegman in "Galaxy Quest."
EISENBERG: Oh. And a tight game, basically going back and forth, but it turns out just by a hair, Rich, you're going to be moving on to our Ask Me One More final round. Justin Long, we'll be seeing you in a little while for your puzzle hot seat challenge. Another hand for Justin Long, our VIP and our contestants.
LONG: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
JONATHAN COULTON: (Singing) Well, my friend the time has come to raise the roof and have some fun. Throw away the work to be done. Let the music play on. Everybody sing, everybody dance. Lose yourself in wild romance. We're going to party, carumba, fiesta forever. Come on and sing along. We're going to party, carumba, fiesta forever. Come on and sing along.
(Singing) All night long, all night, all night, all night long, all night. All night long, all night, all night - night long, all night. All night long, all night, all night - night long, all night. All night long, all night, all night long, all night, all night.
EISENBERG: Jonathan Coulton with his tribute to Justin All Night Long.
COULTON: Thank you. It's the most Paul Shaffer-esque decision I've ever made on the show. I don't regret it at all.
EISENBERG: People could not help singing. I could see a bunch of them, like - you can't help it, right?
COULTON: It's a catchy tune.
EISENBERG: You can't help it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.