“Jeepers Creepers”: Justin Long Interview Spotlight

Up-and-coming actor Justin Long is tickled to death about his starring role in “Jeepers Creepers.”

The script for the new frightfest Jeepers Creepers may have scared its 23-year-old star Justin Long enough to keep him from finishing it until sunup, but that was nothing compared to shooting it.

One particularly terrifying incident happened while he was doing a stunt scene with the movie’s villain, the Creeper. “I was the only non-stunt person involved when we hit the Creeper with the car,” he says. “Something went wrong and the stunt creature came through my side of the windshield–he broke three ribs and I had cuts all over my face. That was pretty freaky.”

Then there was the Creeper himself. “We tried to maintain a level of fear. We didn’t associate with him, didn’t want to see the actor himself, avoided him off camera at all costs.”

And then there was the movie’s crew. “The shoot was such a dark, intense atmosphere that just to lighten the mood the crew would play jokes,” Long says. “One day I found a dummy hanging in the bathroom when I opened the door.”

Eerie accidents? Scary monsters? On-set practical jokes? Seems fitting for Jeepers, an old-school horror flick that’s more Texas Chainsaw Massacre than Scream. It stars Long and Gina Phillips (Living Out Loud, Boston Public) as good-natured college kid Darry and his prickly sister Trish, who run into more than a little trouble while driving home for spring break on a deserted country road.

CHOKED UP: “Jeepers”‘s Darry (Justin Long) and the Creeper (Jonathan Breck) see things peeper-to-peeper.
Jeepers isn’t the only thing that’s spooked the young actor–the audition process hasn’t exactly been loads of fun, either.

DON’T FEAR THE CREEPER: Well, maybe you should.

In fact, a recent reading for Jerry Bruckheimer‘s upcoming war drama Black Hawk Down might have caused an actor with less fortitude to run screaming from the biz. In the middle of his scene casting director Bonnie Timmermann asked him to move his chair back–not once but several times. “So I [kept pushing] it back, literally to the wall, and she still says, ‘MOVE IT BAACK!'” Long says.

“Then she says to her assistant, ‘Will you help him please?’ and he says to me, ‘I think she means to move it off camera.’ She meant for me to move it to the side! I left, freaking out. I heard that after I left she asked her assistant, ‘Are all actors that stupid?'”

A Connecticut native, Long initially followed his actress mother and brother into acting for reasons other than a love for the craft. “I thought, what a perfect thing–a lot of the guys were not into the girls as much, if you know what I mean,” he says with a laugh. “In the beginning I was terrible because I was there for all the wrong reasons. Now, of course, I love it.”

He started out performing on stage while attending an all-boys Catholic prep school and joined the Laughingstock comedy troupe at Vassar College. He starred in a few New York theater productions before getting an agent in 1999, but one failed audition after another almost convinced him to catch the next train home. Still, he gave it one last try and read two lines for the part of awkward high schooler Warren in the NBC dramedy Ed–and blew ’em away. “It’s those moments you just don’t care…I went in and said, this audition is just for me to amuse myself.”

PHONE HOME: Trish (Gina Phillips) and Darry (Justin Long) aren’t having the best of days in “Jeepers Creepers.”

A small part in the Tim Allen/Sigourney Weaver sci-fi comedy Galaxy Quest soon followed Ed to launch his big-screen career. But despite those early successes, Long wasn’t optimistic about his chances of landing the starring role in Jeepers, a studio movie executive produced by Francis Ford Coppola. “I had been so close on so many movies–I had gotten kind of bitter. This was the lead in major studio movie so I assumed they were gonna cast a name,” he says. “But I went in on a lark, and it clicked.


“Then, over the weekend my agent told me Francis Ford Coppola was looking at my tape and if he likes you you’ll get the part…that was the longest weekend of my life! It would suck on two counts–one, I wouldn’t have gotten it and two, it would have meant he didn’t like my acting. Thank god he did.”

Now, as his big-screen career heats up, Long’s role is only getting bigger on Ed, a hit show beginning its second year. Moviegoers next can see him wreaking havoc as a summer camp counselor in the upcoming dark comedy Happy Campers and delivering Britney Spears‘s first on-screen kiss in What Are Friends For. “I thought, what the hell, it would be fun to say I auditioned for the untitled Britney Spears project,” he says. “They offered me the part of her best friend. She was so much fun to work with–I was pretty nervous but within minutes of meeting her that melted away.”

So…how about that kiss? Even more important, what about the reports that she does a striptease in front of him? “I was just asked what it was like to kiss her and to be honest, I don’t know what it was like to kiss Britney Spears because I played a character who kissed a character played by Britney Spears,” he says diplomatically. “I don’t know how much I should say. It was an intimate scene and that can be awkward, but it had to be–that was the character’s’ relationship.”

Kissing Britney Spears, flying through outer space, dodging demons in the woods…sounds like acting ain’t such a bad gig. “I work because some people enjoy what I’ve been doing. I love getting fan mail,” he says. “It’s nice to hear your work is being appreciated…I’ve always known this was a flighty business. I’m just trying to keep my head and enjoy it while it lasts.”