September 2, 2010 / 2:10 AM / 10 years ago

Justin Long reclaims his acting mojo in "Distance"

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Nobody ever said Hollywood relationships were easy, and the on-again off-again affair of Justin Long and Drew Barrymore certainly proves that out.

Cast members Drew Barrymore and Justin Long pose at the premiere of "Going the Distance" in Hollywood, California August 23, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Are they still on? Are they off? This Friday, as the pair’s romantic comedy “Going the Distance” debuts in theaters, it looks as if they are on, although one never truly knows.

But if there is something Long is certain about, he told Reuters earlier this month, he has reclaimed his love of acting — his “mojo,” as he put it.

Long, 32, worked on television as a teenager and broke into movies in geeky roles in comedies such as 2004’s “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.”

Despite the fact that he has starred in some big-budget flicks like “Live Free or Die Hard,” he is perhaps best known as the Mac guy from the “Mac vs. PC” commercials for Apple computers.

The ads’ success helped make for an easy life and career, and it was only when he returned to a small theater in Massachusetts in July that he reclaimed his soul as an actor.

“Doing the play woke me up and revitalized my level of passion and love for acting,” said Long. “I feel like I kinda got my acting mojo back this summer.”

If only he would have said the same about Barrymore, which is what all the tabloids want to know, anyway. The pair have been locked in an up-and-down relationship in recent years when they were often apart shooting different movies, which closely follows the plot of “Going the Distance.”

In the movie, Long portrays a low-level music executive and Barrymore a fledgling newspaper reporter whose one-night stand turns into a summer fling in New York City.

When she heads home to San Francisco, the two decide to give a long-distance love affair a try, but soon find that flying between coasts, communicating by text message and having phone sex are no substitute for being together full time.

Was Hollywood movie art imitating the real life relationship between Long and Barrymore?

“I hesitate to really give it a detailed answer because it’s really personal,” Long told Reuters. “Were I to really answer that question truthfully, it would be an intrinsically personal answer. I’d rather not half-ass one for you, yet I guess that’s what I’m doing.”


At an August meeting with reporters to promote the film, they stayed away from one another for the most part, but a few days later at the film’s premiere, where Long’s parents accompanied him, they appeared cozy.

Both decline to clarify their status with the media, yet only about a week ago, they were pictured together smiling and hugging at an event in Essex, England.

Perhaps it all just makes for good publicity for the film, but whatever his personal feelings may be, Long has the utmost respect for Barrymore’s work in “Going the Distance.”

“When you’re working with somebody and when you know them (personally), you never know how it’s going to be in a professional light,” said Long. “But I saw firsthand day after day how much joy she took in what she did. I saw the way she treated people she worked with. It was nice to witness.”

And maybe that is exactly what he needed to see, career-wise, because when talking about work, Long said that until recently, “I was a dude in flux.”

After coming into his own in comedies such as “The Break-Up” and “Accepted,” and working in his fair share of horror flicks including “Jeepers Creepers” and “Drag Me to Hell,” Long hit the big time opposite Bruce Willis in “Live Free or Die Hard.”

At about the same time, along came the Mac commercials and Long found himself living the Hollywood life with movie stars for friends, including Barrymore. Yet, something was missing.

“I had moments in the last couple of years where I just felt like this sense of complacency started to creep in,” said Long. “I don’t know if it was doing the Mac commercials, which don’t require any heavy lifting at all, or not stretching much in movies or not doing enough theater.”

To battle those moments, Long took a role in “Samuel J. and K.”, a play at the Williamstown Theater Festival in Massachusetts. The festival has a good reputation, but is far from the spotlights of Hollywood and Broadway. And it worked, as Long said, to help him reclaim that mojo.

Moving forward, he next appears in Robert Redford’s upcoming period drama, “The Conspirator” alongside an all-star cast that includes James McAvoy, Kevin Kline and Robin Wright.

“To improvise in 1860s vernacular with 1860s colloquialisms was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever been asked to do,” Long said of his role. “I hope I get to do more smaller dramatic parts like that because I loved it.”

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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