In Sam Raimi’s bone-chilling new film, Drag Me To Hell, Justin Long stars as Professor Clay Dalton, a man whose scientific instincts are put to the test when his girlfriend, Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), is placed under a merciless curse which turns her world into a living nightmare. Long, the star of such popular films as Live Free or Die Hard, The Break Up, Dodgeball: A True Underog Story and He’s Just Not That Into You, is no stranger to horror movies either, having first made his mark in Victor Salva’s Jeepers Creepers in 2001.
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH DRAG ME TO HELL?
It was just a simple phone call, really. I’m sort of a nerdy fan of Sam Raimi’s, so I was surprised I hadn’t heard anything before that. This was before there were any sorts of rumblings or rumors that he was even doing a horror movie. I was on vacation at the time and I got a call from my agents: “Sam Raimi wants to meet you.” I said, “I’ll leave now. I’ll get on the first plane out of here.” Even before I read the script, I said to him I’d do anything to be in a movie of his. I meant it and still mean it. Fortunately, there was something for me to do. I was so honored that he wanted to work with me, because he could work with anybody, I’d imagine.
YOU WERE A BIG FAN OF SAM RAIMI?
Huge. I mean, I loved The Evil Dead. I grew up watching those movies: Darkman, A Simple Plan, The Gift – he’s responsible for some of my favorite movies and he’s always been great with actors. I was honored and really excited. It was a no-brainer. And it was a horror movie. I just love the genre too.
DID YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH HORROR FILMS?
I did Jeepers Creepers. But that was a while ago. But I’ve always wanted to do one since, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. I auditioned for all of them – Halloween 12, whatever – I would throw my name in the hat. And then I started doing other types of movies and the horror movies they were making were all stock-slasher types that I wasn’t interested in. They’re always fun to watch. I love going, having a fun date and watching a good old fashioned slasher, but this was something else. You know, Sam’s movies are, I think, far more creative, unique and stylistic.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH SAM RAIMI?
The way he treats people and the respect he has for the process is something I hadn’t really seen before. It struck me that he had this love for what he was doing that was so palatable, earnest and almost childlike. There’s this childlike enthusiasm that he has, like a kid playing in a sandbox. And that’s infectious. Everyone was always in it and no one ever complained, whatever the hours. It’s not just that you love Sam’s movies, it’s that you start to love Sam - as a person and for his energy. Of course, there’s no way to teach that. You either have that or you don’t. But it was inspiring to see it, considering how much he’s done and his place in the industry. He still has this humility and a real passion to collaborate. It was never ‘my way or the highway’.
I UNDERSTAND YOU BASED YOUR CHARACTER ON YOUR FATHER?
My dad’s a philosophy professor, a lifelong academic – beard, very stoic, smokes a pipe, you know, exactly what you would imagine. He also has these great quirks and mannerisms that I’ve always thought were unique to erudite cerebral men who think for a living. I wanted to make sure that that came across in the character. I also watched Straw Dogs again– Dustin Hoffman’s relationship with Susan George in that movie is sort of a similar dynamic. She’s from a small town, he’s more formally educated, and that creates this great kind of power dynamic. I actually audited psychology classes and interviewed a psychology professor, just to have some kind of grasp on the subject (laughs). I had a few scenes where I was actually teaching the material. I helped write it with Sam to make sure it was authentic. And final cut…all gone (laughs)! It wasn’t the fun horror movie stuff!
YOU DON’T SEEM UPSET ABOUT HAVING A SUPPORTING ROLE?
Normally you would, but in this case I was so into the movie that it made perfect sense. As a narcissistic actor, of course, I wanted to see my own work because I worked my ass off doing it (laughs.) But as an audience member? I don’t want to see me, I want to see Alison go through more crazy shit. It’s Alison’s movie. And she carries it. She puts it all on her shoulders, that little 5’-2” frame, and she runs away with it.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH ALISON LOHMAN?
It was just the easiest, most joyful experience. I had been a fan of hers for a long time. Since Matchstick Men, I thought she was one of the best young actresses I’d ever seen. I loved watching her and I always caught her films. I actually tried to do a movie with her before, about a year before we filmed Drag Me To Hell. So I was going out of my way to work with her. Still, my job in this movie is truly a supporting part, in every sense of the word. In terms of screen time, certainly, but also in terms of my relationship to the main actress. It’s her journey and I’m there to support it. My job was to just love this girl. I mean, when all was said and done, that was it. And it was easy to. She made it easy.
WERE YOU JEALOUS THAT ALISON GETS TO HAVE ALL THE FUN?
Absolutely (laughs). Absolutely. I would linger around set and she would be doing everything. She was pushed to the breaking point. You know, Sam really worked her hard, but she more than rose to it. I’ve never seen an actress work so hard. Meanwhile, I was just lingering around and secretly jealous that I didn’t get to be a part of all the mayhem. My friends are all like, “Dude you got to be in Sam Raimi horror movie!” I say, “Here’s what I do. I say, ‘Baby, everything’s going to be OK. I’m going to be in the other room. Stay here, it’s going to be cool.’” Then I leave and all the awesome Sam Raimi stuff happens. And I run back in and go, “What happened? Are you OK? I’m here for you now!” Fade out, next scene (laughs).
YOU’VE GOT QUITE A FEW FILMS COMING OUT THIS YEAR, MORE THAN HALF A DOZEN BY ROUGH ESTIMATE…
(Laughs) I want people to be sick to death of me! I want to saturate the world of cinema with my nerdy mug! No, it comes from two things. The fact is I love to work. I get very antsy when I’m not working. I just love acting and it’s my favorite thing to do. But it’s more than that. My mom was an actress growing up, a great actress, and I saw the worst side of it. I saw the business, what it can do, and how fickle and fleeting it is. And so there’s a part of me that wants to just soak up as much as I can. My career has had these little moments where each film has opened up new opportunities. Dodgeball… Die Hard… And now, He’s Just Not That Into You, has created dramatic opportunities that I never thought would be
there. And so I want to take advantage of that. There’s that feeling of not even wanting to get off the train, but instead to keep going faster. Still, it’s also dangerous. You know, you do too much and…
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU’RE ESPECIALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO? AND JUST EXACTLY HOW MANY FILMS ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
Thirty three or thirty four (laughs). I’m very excited about After Life – it’s another horror movie with some scenes I never thought I’d be able to do. I just saw Youth In Revolt, Miguel Arteta’s movie that I’m in, which is beautiful and hilarious. And I did a bunch of animated movies - Planet 51; Alpha and Omega, with Christina Ricci. I think they’re going to be good. Then there’s the Alvin And The Chipmunks sequel. I choose very carefully (laughs). It’s really less by design than default though. A lot of them just happen to be coming out around the same time.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN CURSES?
I believe in a lot of strange things. I believe in ghosts. I believe in certain myths. But I don’t really believe in curses. I shouldn’t say that, because then I’m going to get cursed for saying it. I also believe in karma, I guess (laughs).
WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR DRAG ME TO HELL?
I just can’t wait to see it again. It’s going to sound very arrogant because I’m in the movie, but I’m genuinely excited for people to see it. I’m excited for many reasons – for people to see Alison. And just for the fans. As a fan, I’m excited for my fellow Sam Raimi fans and the genre. I just can’t wait to see it again (laughs).
Drag Me to Hell - Trailer