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Justin Long talks 'Lavender' and looks back on 'Idiocracy'

And put this guy in a Terrence Malick movie!

Justin Long has a horror movie to promote. It’s called “Lavender,” in which he has a small but key role as a doctor who tends to a woman (Abbie Cornish) who realizes she’s blocked a traumatic memory involving mass murder, which she fears she may have committed herself. We can’t say any more about it, which would be tricky if we didn’t wind up also talking about other things, including an even scarier film he was once in: Mike Judge’s 2006 comedy “Idiocracy.”

There are big spoilers about your character here that we can’t talk about. Admittedly, I had trouble coming up with questions about your role without ruining it for everyone.
Without any spoilers, I can say part of the appeal to playing him was that he was very guarded and kind of subdued. I wasn’t able to show much and I had to keep a lot of things inside. I thought it would be an interesting acting challenge. It was fun to do — surprisingly. You would think playing a guarded character like that might be a little tedious to shoot, but it was fun. We all had to lift each other spirits in between takes, because the subject was so heavy and dark.

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And the whole movie is a mood piece, meaning it’s slow and heavy. I’m not sure what that feels like when you’re in the middle of something like that.
It was always about setting a very specific, creepy tone. The whole film, even the innocuous scenes where there aren’t any big scares of major revelations, they all had a tinge of creepiness because of the way [director Ed Gass-Donnelly] shot it. I wasn’t sure how he would put it together, how it would seem when you saw the whole thing. That can be a little scary. You have to really trust the director has a vision for it, otherwise it’s going to be a little boring. [Laughs] It’s going to be cool and creepy or boring as s—. I was hoping it went the former.

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That level of trust is unusual, I imagine. I guess the most extreme example of this is a Terrence Malick movie, where you’re not even sure if the scenes you shot will make the final cut.
You’re just a background actor in a nature movie, basically. And by the way, I would jump at the chance to do that. [Laughs]

I’ll put that it in this article: “Justin Long wants to be in a Terrence Malick movie.” I’m not sure that’s how this thing works.
You know, why not? Isn’t that kind of how it works sometimes? I’m not saying it’s going to work. [Laughs] But hey, listen, I’m not getting auditions for him, so don’t discard every available outlet.

I wanted to ask about another horror movie you were in "Idiocracy." (Which includesthis amazing scene.) I rewatched it the other week and it's a lot scarier now and maybe no longer so funny, since it's what America is becoming.
I saw it recently myself. It’s getting more difficult to find the humor in that movie. It was such good satire. I don’t know if Mike Judge realized how prophetic it would be. I’m sure he hoped it wouldn’t be. We’re not that far off from President Comacho [the wrestler and porn star-turned president, played by Terry Crews]. I was honored to be in it then, and I’m very happy to be a part of it now. It’s just becoming a little bit less a comedy and more like a drama.

It’s either the best movie to watch right now or the worst.
Sales of it rose during the election. At one point it was trending. It’s funny, because when it was released, Fox dumped it. They gave it the bare minimal contractual release. I don’t think it came out in theaters in New York. [Ed. It did not.] I saw it in Austin, and even there it was called “Untitled Mike Judge Comedy.” There were no posters. There was nothing behind it. My guess is that it was because it really goes after corporations. He attacks the power structure in America, which is corporate-based — more of an oligarchy. The interest in the studio didn’t really align with what he was saying in that movie. Now, of course, it’s so relevant.

I remember doing “DodgeBall,” and talking to Ben Stiller’s producing partner, Stuart Cornfield. I was picking his brain, and he said, “My favorite comedy script that’s out there will never be made. I’ll send it to you as an example of the best comedy writing right now.” It was by this guy Etan Cohen, who wrote it with Mike. At the time it was called “3001.”

He sent it to me, and it was brilliant. I said, “Why do you think they’re not going to make it.” He said because no one would take the chance. You would need a studio to do it, because it’s all dystopian futuristic stuff. You would need tens of millions of dollars. And they go after corporations. It was too potentially insulting to certain parts of the population. It was too risky. I think it got made because of the power Mike had at the studio. It’s a great example of maverick, gutsy filmmaking, using the studio to make a movie that really says something, that might be against their own interests. It’s really cool that he got away with it.

I’m glad people are finally talking about it, even if it’s too late.
If we promote it now, people will watch it, and maybe it will change the course of future elections. People will see the relevance of it and change their path.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge
 
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