Tusk: Justin Long on the Secret of Walrus Drool
Justin Long couldn’t help getting up and acting out the walrus from Tusk on the floor of the London Hotel. Kevin Smith’s latest film stars Long as a podcaster who interviews a Canadian man (Michael Parks) who drugs him and mutilates him into walrus form. Long remembered me from old interviews too; really old, since he remembered me clean shaven with long hair, my look that ended in 2010, coincidentally the same year his “I’m a Mac” campaign ended. Tusk opens Friday, and we got the exclusive on walrus drool from Justin Long himself.
CraveOnline: Is this the future of movies? Stop basing them on comic books and books. Base them on podcasts. It’s a wealth of material.
Justin Long: Yeah, that’s what they do on the show. They cultivate these ideas and stories, all the while stoned out of their minds. That’s the part I can’t fathom. If I were to smoke pot, I’ve often done that where I write down a bunch of ideas and thoughts. Oh, this would make a cool story or a funny joke. And the next day I read them and I think, “Oh God, what was I thinking? That’s ridiculous. That’s the dumbest idea in the world.” But Kevin never has that next day. The next day he’s like, [mimics toking] “Yeah, that’s still a good idea.” Just for the sake of creativity and unique approach to storytelling, I’m all for it. If it can yield something different.
I don’t know how many podcasts are as out there as Kevin’s.
I don’t know. I didn’t know that podcasting was such a thing until I did the movie. So Kevin’s is the only one I listen to regularly.
I think Wallace is based on him. I don’t think all podcasters have lucrative empires like SModcast.
Well, that part is based on him but his personality, I tried to base it more on certain standup comedians whose comedy is usually directed at other people, at the expense of other people. Like drive time radio guys have that caustic, kind of acerbic, mean-spirited humor. That’s what I felt like he should have. Kevin is obviously not that.
No, I didn’t mean his personality was like Wallace, but the idea of being that successful at podcasting. So was it real drool coming out of your mouth in the walrus suit?
Yes. Yes, I’m proud to say it was 100%. You know what wasn’t real drool though, I needed help with a shot where I’m waking up. I asked the makeup lady for some egg yolks to use as drool. I got it from Sam Rockwell in The Green Mile used egg yolks when he was waking up from his stupor. You know when they drug him and he’s drooling. They gave me a little egg yolk for that because I was getting so hoarse from doing that scene, I didn’t have enough moisture in my mouth. That’s why I like you, Fred. You’re the only one who would ask that and I’m glad you did.
So this is a CraveOnline exclusive on the walrus drool? No one else has that.
Yeah, hot off the presses. You got a hot scoop. Yeah, no one has asked about that, unfortunately.
Was it ever possible to get comfortable in that suit?
Not entirely. I had moments where I could rest a little bit. It was always most comfortable because when I was in it, I had to support myself. I’m like this most of the time.
In a pushup position?
Yeah, so to rest it was comedic but I was in such a dark headspace that I couldn’t appreciate the comedy at the time, but they would just roll me over onto my back. I would just lie like this and someone would come with a straw so I could have some water. It must’ve looked ridiculous. I remember people coming in, my girlfriend, people from the set, producers would come in. I remember that vantage point that I had, it was like an upside down dutch angle, seeing people seeing me and getting all giggly. I felt a little humiliated like a zoo animal would feel. I got that sense a little bit because I was in such a dark headspace during all that stuff.
You can’t help getting up and demonstrating. Were you confined for way too long?
I was. It was four days. They would let me out every couple of hours to pee because I preferred staying in the thing. It was such an ordeal coming out of it. It was about four days of that.
Four days seems fairly reasonable.
Well, the whole shoot was 15 and then two days with Johnny, so 17 total.
Johnny? Do you mean Guy LaPointe? I’m playing along.
Oh, thanks. I don’t know, some people are very forthcoming about it and some people are like, “It’s out there.” It’s funny because it’s not like a little cameo. It’s a pretty significant part, so Guy LaPointe, he did two days.
Was it dangerous to go underwater in the costume?
I don’t think so because I always had somebody near me, close enough in case I started bobbing under. It wasn’t balanced. There was no buoyancy so I was in danger of going under. I guess it was potentially but they’re so careful on those movie sets. There was something infantilizing about it, where you feel you’re at somebody’s mercy and you’re wholly vulnerable to these elements you can’t control. I couldn’t move, but I sort of welcomed any of that discomfort and that vulnerability. Then I would try to amplify it and it helped make that stuff as real as I could.
Not to imply they were unsafe on the film. I’m sure they were safe, but just to imagine losing so much of your mobility and then going underwater.
Oh, it was very scary. It’s interesting though, I remember Michael taking really good care of me in between those takes. Michael would make sure I was up. He made sure I was comfortable, had water and wasn’t afraid. He would stay with me during those takes. Not that we didn’t get along the rest of the shoot, but it wasn’t to that extent.
You’ve been able to really alternate between having lead roles in movies like Tusk or Going the Distance or A Case of You, and sometimes just funny cameos or guesting on shows like “New Girl.” Is that the dream to have that balance, or it just works out that way?
I love playing character roles. I love getting to do weird little parts. I love that Kevin’s entrusted me with playing those characters and I used to play more of them. I did a whole string of smaller character plots. I think doing more romantic comedy leading stuff took me away from that unfortunately. I guess it’s striking a balance. I’m not that deliberate about it. A lot of actors are like, “Yeah, I’ll do one of these, one of those.” If I see any value in it, even if it’s just this’ll be fun to do, then I’ll do it. I have a lot of fun playing those small parts.
Were Accepted and Live Free or Die Hard a turning point?
I guess so. I think I got Die Hard because Bruce had seen Accepted. He went with his daughters to see Accepted so that helped get that. For a while it was just a domino effect. Then Die Hard opened up a lot of jobs and led to some of those more romantic comedy jobs I think.
When did the Mac campaign end? It just occurred to me I haven’t seen one in a while.
It’s been four years. It was over in 2010. It started in 2006.
Was that a fulfilling experience?
Oh yeah. It was just such an easy fun job to do. I miss doing those. Obviously it wasn’t heavy lifting. The challenge with those was just trying to be as off the cuff and friendly with Hodgman. The intent of those commercials, there was an arrogance underneath them. I would always try to take the bite off of it. That was the challenge with those but it was easy with Hodgman because we had become such good friends so quickly. So it was just like playing with a buddy.