Interview: Drew Barrymore and Justin Long talk about ‘Going the Distance’

By Todd Gilchrist According to the tabloids, Drew Barrymore and Justin Long have plenty of romantic history in real life. But in Going the Distance, they deal with the very real challenge of keeping a relationship alive from two separate cities (one supposes in comparison to separate movie productions). The new film, directed by American Teen documentarian-turned-feature filmmaker Nanette Burstein, is a funny, sweet and surprisingly sensitive portrait of long-distance romance, and Long and Barrymore do a terrific job bringing it to life.

Hollywood News recently sat down with Barrymore, Long, and the rest of the film’s cast and crew at the Los Angeles press day for Going the Distance. In addition to talking about some of the more interesting challenges of long-distance relationships, including phone sex, the duo addressed their first on screen kiss, and talked about keeping a straight face while sharing the screen with such a formidable cast of supporting performers.

Hollywood News: Drew and Justin, early on in the film, you two have a dinner date, and you’re asking him questions about certain things, and I wanted to ask you yourself, what are your top three albums, and also, what are your favorite movies?

Justin Long: Ooh. Nice. Albums? I would say Tangled Up In Blue, which is actually Blood On The Tracks, sorry, Bob Dylan, Blood On The Tracks, Joni Mitchell, Blue, and Rubber Soul, I think, are my top three.

Jason Sudeikis: You forgot the new Justin Bieber.

Long: Well, that’s assumed, yeah. That’s given. The Bieb’s Greatest Hits. Leave it to Bieber.

Drew Barrymore: I’m gonna go with Annie Hall, Lost In America, and Sullivan’s Travels. Those are my three favorite – some of my favorite movies.

Long: Albums!

Barrymore: Spank me! No, I’m just kidding. Oh God, albums – a Radiohead album… I’m such a music nut too, this is really sad. It’s like sometimes, when someone says, “Let’s go to breakfast,” and it’s like you’ve never eaten before, and your brain just goes blank. I’m gonna call a brain blank on this one. I’m sticking with movies.

Long: I’m gonna say for what it’s worth, Annie Hall, Back To The Future, and… we’re gonna do Way Out West. Well, it’s a little more of a sentimental movie for me, Way Out West.

Hollywood News: Drew, Erin is more modern, sassy, and outspoken than some of the rom-com characters you’ve played. I wonder if the fact that she was a more modern woman attracted you to the part?

Barrymore: Yeah, I definitely was excited to play… I just wasn’t in that place in my life where I wanted to play a cuckoo, wacky role-reversal scenario. I wanted to play someone – you’re all travelers, and you try to make distance work with relationships, and someone who can hang out with guys, and loves women, but isn’t – has spine and is funny and I feel like I relate to that kind of person right now in my life. It was a pleasure for me to get to improv and work on a much more free-flowing way where you could play around and you don’t have to be so censored, because you had an R-rating. That, to me, was just an absolute pleasure.

Hollywood News: What was the most challenging scene?

Barrymore: My most challenging – well, one of the challenges I was most excited about was doing the drunk scene, and me and Nanette really focused on what type of drunk is she, and what can we ad-lib, and what can be spontaneous, like, if you were really angry, how would you just let loose? It was the most fun day at work ever, because I just really let loose.

Long: A monkey flinging poo. I would say some of the naked stuff was a little uncomfortable, but I think the most challenging was trying to keep a straight face around these clowns. A lot of this intimate, sexual stuff around a room full of 30, 40 grown men was a challenge.

Hollywood News: I thought the casting of Christina Applegate and Drew as sisters was genius, because you both started in this business when you were kids, and you’ve lived your whole life in the public eye. When did you realize that you were going to have this relationship of your personal life with the rest of the world, and how has it affected you?

Barrymore: I thought it was interesting. I thought 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 celebrated it. I was horrified, in the corner, but I’ve known her forever! We have a lot of parallels. It worked for us.

Hollywood News: The key moment in any romantic comedy is that first kiss. When you see something like that in a script, is it something you think about, or is it just part of the role, and you just think of it as one more part of the job?

Long: Yeah, I was like, “Necessary evil. Okay. Here we go.” No, the first kiss for us in the movie was very sloppy, we were drunk! We were stoned! Sorry. We were stoned and it was just so easy to do, we’re so comfortable. Is that what you mean? I like to think about… my grandmother. Just because she’s always been an inspiration to me, in my life. I think you just hope that you’re invested in the scene, hopefully, and sometimes it can be a surprise when you’ve never kissed anyone before you’ve just met recently, and people have different ways with kissing, and sometimes it can be very jarringly uncomfortable. There can be very little movement involved, and then a quick, sudden movement from the tongue that you don’t expect.

Barrymore: I just was lucky, for me, because he’s a good kisser. So I was like, “Phew! Thank God.” It’s the worst when you’re kissing someone 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. At least it was a real team effort.

Long: She’s a great kisser too, I just want to reiterate. Right back at you.

Hollywood News: Drew and Justin, you had that couple cute scenes where you exchange your gifts, the Tom Cruise poster and the Centipede shirt. What’s your most cherished item in your house?

Barrymore: Any of my dogs are my most cherished thing, I’d have to say.

Hollywood News: Was the phone sex scene scripted or off the cuff?

Barrymore: I think the Marky Mark was written, for sure and I was so excited to hit that. I really wanted to hit hard.

Long: I think you told him that and he got – – remember that?

Barrymore: I did tell him that. I ran into him at an award show and I was like, “I just talked about how hot you are in your underwear and you’re sexy.”

Long: It didn’t go over great. I think in his defense, it is a strange thing to just come up and say. I don’t think he was prepared for it but I think he was flattered.

Barrymore: Who would not be excited about that? And 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 just thought this is one of those things that’s going to fail miserably and be a really gross, upsetting moment or it could be fun and exciting. It was just one of those scenes you just have to kind of go for it not knowing if it’s going to work or not but don’t compromise along the way because you’re afraid of it.

Hollywood News: And you were on the phone with each other.

Barrymore: And we shot it simultaneously.

Long: We were comparing who had a more awkward experience, me as a guy in front of a room full of men simulating masturbation, or Drew. I said, “All the guys in my room, all the crew guys were trying to make jokes to keep it light. They were making sex jokes. So it made it kind of more awkward. I’d have to laugh and then get into this weird sexual mode.” But I think Drew had it more awkward because she said everyone in the room was being stone cold silent and respectful and it made it that much weirder for her. They were tiptoeing around whispering and we’re in this very intimate – – but then Nanette kept coming over to me and she kept describing cinematically how to masturbate, how it would look better if I – – She’s like, “You know, try kinda up like this. You can kind of go in like this.” I was like, “Nanette, I think I know how to do it. I’ve had a lot of experience.”

Hollywood News: How did it feel to have a real ensemble in the group of actors you guys assembled for this movie?

Barrymore: I find that films for me watching them work best when you’re kind of really invested in the whole group of people. I love films, whether it’s like a Judd Apatow or Christopher Guest, they have this great sort of 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 it’s like their friends or family or it’s just this group of people interacting, I love when the chemistry goes far beyond just the couple. This movie stands on that and Jim Gaffigan who’s not in this room right now, I almost sabotaged every single one of his takes because he’s so funny. I think this movie, if you like it, at least one of the reasons I like it best is because of all the people in it.

Long: I pride myself on being able to hold it together and being stable and keep it together. I’ve never had a harder time keeping a straight face than working with these guys. Rob Riggle and Kristen Schall, we were so lucky to be surrounded by all these people.

Barrymore: I ruined most of her takes. I felt terrible.

Hollywood News: Do you see this as a recession romance?

Barrymore: I just feel like I personally want something that I can escape into and sort of forget 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. 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 come and save you and make you laugh. I think the question is more eloquent than the answer actually.

Long: I disagree. I was indifferent about the question and I loved the answer. I also think the fiscal realities of both the characters play a large part and it was nice to see that played out, something that a lot of people, especially now can relate to and just 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 B and what is involved with that.

Barrymore: You’re like I can’t. You want to see each other but you can’t because of money or schedule.

Long: I ran out of fuel for my hot air balloon.

Barrymore: Obligation, absolutely.

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