Why Justin Long and his brother wanted to do a pals comedy about a ghost

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“Lady of the Manor” stars Judy Greer and Melanie Lynskey, and is Long Brother’s first feature film.

Justin Long is no stranger to comedy, and audiences are no strangers to his comedic chops either. The 43-year-old actor has starred both on the big and small screen in several blockbuster feature films – “Accepted,” “On Hold,” and “Dodgeball,” to name a few – and also launched a popular podcast with her brother Christian. , with whom he also teamed up for his writing and directing debut.

Justin Long and writer / director Christian Long on the set of Lady of the Manor.Brian James / Lionsgate

Long and her brother’s feature debut ‘Lady of the Manor’ (in which Long also stars) follows Hannah (Melanie Lynskey), who we first meet sitting on her couch between jobs ( that is, running weed for a drug dealer.) It is during one of these runs that his life inevitably changes. We’ll spare the details for the comic value of the film, but the ordeal puts Hannah in a new job as a tour guide at Wadsworth Manor, currently run by the very tall but spoiled son of the Wadsworth family, Tanner (Ryan Phillippe.) C ‘is at the Mansion, where she now lives and works, as she meets the ghost of Lady Wadsworth herself (Judy Greer) who is stunned by Hannah’s performance during the tour. It’s the dichotomy and relationship of Greer’s good and correct Lady Wadsworth with the laid-back, rule-less Hannah that ultimately starts the story.

“Lady of the Manor” was born, however, in the same way we meet Hannah – with a freshly wrapped bowl.

“My brother and I had done a lot of short films and were looking for an idea that would work for a feature film… We were smoking a bit and we were high and then the next day we were looking at the notes and seeing the ‘Brilliant’ ideas from the day before. – and most of them are absurd – but there was one we kept coming back to, ”says Long.

This idea was what Long describes as the comedic version of “Psycho”. The one where Norman Bates’ mother didn’t make him the villainous murderer we all know, instead she was just bossy: reminding him of his ways, correcting his wrongdoing, and in general, just being a mother. This idea, coupled with the Long brothers’ love of buddy comedies, is where the script for “Lady of the Manor” began to form. Then they took that formula and wrote the two lead roles for women.

“It had less to do with a ghost comedy and more to do with this traditional formula of a strange couple,” continues Long. “We were so lucky. Judy had been on our podcast, so we had her in mind and were struck by her humor and speed. I love improvising and she is one of the best I have ever seen in terms of improvisational skills and inventiveness. We needed someone who could improvise and bring an innate comic sense to this part… Judy really did it, she made this part so much funnier than it was written.

Judy Greer as Lady Wadsworth and Melanie Lynskey as Hannah in Lady of the Manor.Courtesy of Lionsgate

We meet Lady Wadsworth at the start of the film in the 1870s with her husband (also played by Phillippe.) Potty and have sex in her old bedroom, that’s when she makes a deal: Wadsworth will teach Hannah to be like more to a lady, and Hannah will become herself when the day’s sightseeing is said and done.

Lynskey herself had a tall order to act as a foil for the good and clean lady of Greer’s house, but it seemed like a cinch for the actress like a perfect, effortless stoner. .

“Melanie was someone I had worked with a few years earlier on a pretty serious drama movie… but we laughed so much while making this movie. Between takes, Melanie and I were two peas in a pod and we were going out. and we had so much fun in Louisville. I fell in love with her and her husband Jason Ritter, they are some of my favorite people and just magical and hilarious. I knew how funny Melanie was, but I didn’t had never seen her wear a movie like this – a brother comedy, ”says Long.

Brotherhood comedy normally takes the form of a few common themes (belching and cock jokes), as does “Lady of the Manor”. But the chemistry between Greer and Lynskey coupled with the silent comedy sniper Ryan Phillippe brings a fresh take on what a “brother” comedy should be. Even the normal buddy comedies that Long talks about are great in their own right, but lack that feminine touch.

“Having women in this comedy proves it doesn’t matter to the genre, it’s funny. I watch some of the classics, and you could so easily have actresses who are more than capable of bringing that heart and that humor. That’s what Judy and Melanie did, ”says Long. “Christian and I had a moment where we wondered if women were going to be put off by stuff like that, but Melanie and Judy adopted it and they would improvise around it, they would look into it.”

Courtesy of Lionsgate

The pairing of two imperfect fits and forming an unlikely friendship even has a romantic side, as Long puts it. Think “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”, “Tommy Boy”, “What About Bob”, what those movies did was bring two souls together that had nothing to do with each other, and the results are hilarious but also a little bit. heartwarming.

“There is something beautiful about a person who is different from another and the way they get along when they don’t. It has always been a real pleasure to watch this on screen. There is something really romantic for me in these kinds of films… we just fell in love with films like that, ”continues Long. “That’s another thing Melanie and Judy brought to this. We thought the script was funny and felt like there were enough comedic moments, but there are moments that are so unexpected and touching and it was all in the performance.

Long also plays in the film the role of Max, a professor at a local university in Savannah, Georgia (where the film takes place) who befriends Hannah and ends up in a love triangle. But it was the co-directing with his brother where Long was able to stretch his creative and comedic muscles.

“I loved him. I can’t imagine doing it without my brother, he’s the funniest person I know and he’s also always been very good with language… I tend to be, like you. can hear it, longer. [for me,] being in your 40s and continuing to learn is an exciting process.

Courtesy of Lionsgate

“Lady of the Manor” was something the Long brothers wanted to do in part to get something written and published for them, but it’s also supposed to be there to make the audience laugh. It’s not a movie that’s going to send a message or shake up society, but it doesn’t try to be. It’s funny and at times hilarious and fits in wonderfully with why we all love comedy in general: to provide an escape from real life.

“We did it right before the pandemic and even then our goal was quite modest: to have a feature created,” says Long. “It was to do something that was just funny and enjoyable where people for an hour and a half could break away from the world and laugh, nothing too big of a deal. We wanted it to be a fun diversion. Now we think it is. will be really a good thing to bring into the world. ”

“Lady of the Manor” will be released in select theaters, on Apple TV and Everywhere You Rent Movies on September 17, and on Blu-ray and DVD on September 21

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