Justin Long is a master thief. He started back in 1999 when he stole scenes from Tim Allen in “Galaxy Quest.” Since then he’s robbed Vince Vaughn (“Dodgeball”), Lindsay Lohan (“Herbie Fully Loaded”) and Jennifer Aniston (“The Break-Up”), among others. In “Live Free or Die Hard,” Long does the same to Bruce Willis, playing hermetic hacker Matt Farrell, who gets caught up in a scheme to cripple the country. MTV News’ Tami Katzoff caught up with the larcenous thespian to hear about peeing his pants, getting dragged around, dissing Willis and who should play the villain in the next “Die Hard” …
MTV: When the “Die Hard” project came your way, did you need time to consider taking the part?
Justin Long: Yeah, it sounds crazy now but I had been offered another movie at the time, which I really liked. It was this romance — more of a romantic drama, which I clearly never get to do. So it was a tough choice. It was a toss-up, and I had read the script for “Die Hard” and my character wasn’t the most flattering part. He is the potentially obnoxious sidekick, and when you go to a “Die Hard” movie you want to see Bruce Willis shooting guns, kicking ass, going “Yippee ki-yay!” You don’t want to see me, little monkey boy, running alongside him, nipping at his heels. So it read a little bit like that and it felt like I might be setting myself up for disaster.
But then Bruce called me. I was such a nerd about it! At first I thought it was my friend prank-calling me. I was convinced. He was like, “Justin Long, this is Bruce goddamn Willis, how the hell are you?” And it sounded like it was too surreal. So I assumed it was my friend. I called him three days later, you know, like, “I got your Bruce Willis impression — not your best, dude,” and he was like “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And I played the message for a bunch of people and they were like, “I think that’s actually Bruce Willis.”
I was now in the very weird position of having blown off Bruce Willis and I had to call him, there was no other way around it. I was honest with him and he was like, “Yeah, I get that a lot.”
MTV: Once the shoot was under way, what sort of physical stunt work did you have to do?
Long: Most of my stuff is getting dragged. Bruce drags me around a lot, and throws me down while he shoots and looks cool and I’m curled up in the fetal position in the corner, urine in my pants. But that’s kind of what I did. I did my own peeing, too.
And we did a lot of driving stunts. The stunt guys are really incredible and I think they used the same rigs that they used in “The Bourne Supremacy.” And they really take these corners at like 60 miles per hour. It’s like being on a roller-coaster. It was really fun. It was actually hard to feign being scared, because it was exciting. It was hard to contain my glee. I wanted to be like, “Whoooo! We’re going on a ride!”
MTV: What was your worst day on the set like?
Long: I had to do this scene where we’re coming back from my apartment getting blown up, and we are getting shot at. And I am playing a guy who is always indoors. He is a recluse, he never has contact with anyone, he plays video games. Suddenly his apartment blows up, this crazy bald cop is shooting at people — and you would think, as an actor, I can’t relate to that. I have no sense of what it’s like to get shot at, thank God. So I’m thinking, “I just want to play this scene as an actor with the intention of the scene.” Not to sound like I’m on “Inside the Actors Studio,” but you want to be honest. And they wanted me to be kind of sarcastic. Like, “Dude did you see that? That was insane!” And I had a really hard time with that scene because realistically, if you were in that situation you wouldn’t be able to talk. You would have soiled yourself and you would be shaking. And I was trying to play it very serious and they kept saying that they wanted it to be more comedic. I didn’t know how to balance the two and that was very hard for me.
For me the funniest stuff is always the most real stuff. But it is a credit to Len [Wiseman] the director and Bruce, who saw through a lot of that and allowed some of those ad-libs to be a lot less jokey.
MTV: Let’s talk about John McClane — what is it about the guy that makes him such a beloved character?
Long: You know what I think the thing is? It sounds strange to say — considering he jumps out of speeding cars and does crazy stuff and ties fire hoses around him and smashes through windows — but there is something very real about him, something very human about him. He has these great moments. All those quips, all those “Come out to the coast, we’ll have a few laughs” [lines]. There is something very believable about that even though he is in such unbelievable circumstances, and that’s what I had always liked about him. I always thought he was funny. But there’s something oddly realistic about him, and that’s a testament to Bruce — just how he plays it and that kind of delivery. And he just looks cool.
MTV: So what would you want to see in a “Die Hard 5”?
Long: I would like to see Paris Hilton be the bad guy. That would be fun. Let her play a diabolical super-scientist or something like that. She is sort of like the female Jeremy Irons — let’s face it.