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Justin Long personally reached out to Melanie Lynskey and Ryan Phillippe to join his film, Lady of the Manor — and they both are happy he did.
“He’s just such a joy, such a happy person. He’s like a ray of sunshine. So doing a really silly comedy, I knew already that our senses of humor were really aligned. So I felt like it would be a good fit and it was so fun. His favorite thing in the world, I think, is being part of an ensemble and laughing and being with a group of actors and improvising,” Lynskey, 44, exclusively told Us Weekly of Long, 43.
Phillippe, 47, for his part, told Us: “We’re about the same age. We’ve been in the industry over the same course of time and have been friendly throughout that. So I’ve known him for a while. And he kind of reached out to me and said, ‘My brother and I are going to make our first movie as directors and we cowrote this. Would you take a read?’ And I said, ‘Yes, of course.’ And as soon as I started reading it, I found myself laughing on every page.”
Ryan Phillippe, Melanie Lynskey, and Justin Long Shutterstock (3)
The Dodgeball actor also stars as Max, who meets Lynskey’s Hannah when she gives a tour at Wadsworth Manor. Hannah is a pot-smoking hot mess who is haunted by the ghost of Lady Wadsworth, played by Judy Greer. Long asked Lynskey if she “liked the idea” of playing Hannah, and she was relieved after reading the script.
“I love him so much. I was just glad that the script was funny and made me laugh. I was just glad that I wanted to do it because he’s a hard person to say no to. He’s so sweet and so positive,” she told Us.
For Phillippe, departing from drama to play Tanner Wadsworth, an arrogant, “absurd and silly” character, was a fun change. “Most of my career has been drama or action or whatever it is. And so those opportunities to play something where I can take a little more license and it can be a little more freeing [are worth it],” he explained. “When you’re playing the protagonist in a film, there’s a lot of rules that kind of go along with that in terms of behavior and how accessible you have to be. And to play a character like Tanner just gives you a lot of freedom and [allows you] to not take it so seriously. … The thing that was so appealing about him to me was just that notion of arrested development and a guy who is clearly not young anymore, but still behaves like a college student. I grew up as about as far from this type of guy as possible but met a lot of them in my life. And so it was kind of an opportunity to play in that realm. One of the first things I said to Justin was, ‘I see this guy in pastels. I just want lots of pinks and then salmon and baby blue and all that kind of thing.’ I’m like, ‘I want to have a fake tan.’ Like, immediately after reading the script, I had a picture in my head for what this guy should look like.”
Ryan Phillippe as Tanner Wadsworth in ‘Lady of the Manor’ Courtesy of Lionsgate
The cast bonded on the small Florida set, which was a creative and positive environment thanks in large part to Long and his brother Christian Long’s work ethic.
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“It was great. They are almost the same person, really. They have such a close relationship that’s really sweet and such a natural and easy handoff in terms of their approach to making the movie. And when Justin was working in front of the camera, he was always comfortable that his brother was holding it down as the director. And I thought he was really prepared, really enthusiastic, so kind to the crew. The crew really loved working for and with both of them,” Phillippe told Us. “And I think that’s the best thing you can say. That the people enjoy the experience, and they were treated with respect and kindness. And Justin is such a good dude that way. He’s a really special individual. His brother is similar and cut from the same cloth. I was just happy to support them and to help them get the movie made.”
Lynskey added: “It would be hard for him to step away to do the directing part. He’d be like, ‘Oh, I keep forgetting that I can’t just hang out! And I have to go and work.’ But he was such a good, natural director. And Christian was really good on keeping him on track too. … I just adore Justin so much. We’re both very, very close with our siblings. And I think we’ve developed that kind of bond with each other. I would just look at him sometimes at the monitor with his headphones on and just paying attention to something and laughing and just feel filled with this pride and this happiness for him, that he was making his dream come true. And he was getting to do it with his little brother. It’s just amazing.”
Melanie Lynskey as Hannah and Justin Long as Max in ‘Lady of the Manor.’ Courtesy of Lionsgate
She also appreciated how it was a women-led comedy. “I feel like it’s kind of a part that Seth Rogen would do. You’ve seen men playing this kind of part and it’s accepted, but there’s still this weird standard for women where they have to be a certain level of cute before they get to be messy or they have to be sweet and kind, and they get to be a little bit of a loser or whatever. And I like that she just was kind of selfish,” Lynskey explained to Us, noting it was a “dream” to finally work with Greer. “[Hannah] was a mess and she wanted to be comfortable and was not thinking about anything else. And it felt really kind of feminist to me to get to play a part like that.”
Lady of the Manor was filmed right before the COVID-19 pandemic surfaced in March 2020. Phillippe was vocal with his costars about the news headlines he had been reading at the time.
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“A lot of people still hadn’t heard about it, but I had done enough reading and seen enough projections about what it could potentially be that I would say to them, you know, ‘You guys have heard about this, right?’ And they’re like, ‘What are you talking about?’ Like, ‘No, I think this could be a real thing. And, you know, this may really affect or disrupt life as we know it.’ And they kind of laughed at me,” the Shooter star recalled to Us. “We finished and about a month and a half later is when everything in the world shut down in March. And I remember getting a text from [Judy] saying, ‘Oh, my God, how did you know? You were right.’ … This was the last project prior to COVID that any of us did where there was still kind of that freedom to interact on set in a social manner, the way we’re accustomed to, and things are much different now. I’ve done five projects post-COVID and it’s a completely different way to work. And there’s so many rules and things that you have to be considerate and careful about it. It’s changed fundamentally everything obviously, but certainly, the way that you work on a film set and how collaborative it is. And it still is, but it’s just very different. But this is the last time where there wasn’t that kind of concern.”
Lynskey admitted she was a bit “naive” about the situation in the early stages. “I just didn’t know that this pandemic would take over the world and it would be the thing for such a long time,” she said. “I remember at the time Ryan was talking about it in January of 2020 and we were at this party, my little daughter was running around and kissing everybody. And he was like, ‘She’s not going to be able to do that for much longer.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ You know, and he was absolutely right. The world just changed, and I look back on it as the last moments of true freedom, getting to be in a group of people. And let’s really hope that the world goes back to that or some version of that at some point.”
Lady of the Manor is now in select theaters, on Apple TV and everywhere you rent movies. It’s available on Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday, September 21.
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