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Justin Long Teases The Hollywood Stars Who Inspired His Awful Barbarian Character - Exclusive

The phrase "Don't meet your heroes" didn't exactly come from nowhere. On the one hand, Hollywood has lovely actors like Justin Long that everyone is delighted to work with. On the flip side, there are more than a few actors in the industry that got high on fame and their own ego, making everyone around them miserable. While Long couldn't be further from that kind of persona, his "Barbarian" character AJ fits that mold to a T. Unsurprisingly, AJ paints himself as the victim throughout the horror film, giving viewers some dark, parodied comedy (you'll be laughing at him, not with him).

Which Hollywood stars inspired this character for writer/director Zach Cregger and Long? Lips are sealed on specific names, but Long had a few encounters that inspired his approach to AJ. During an exclusive interview with Looper, Long teased the Hollywood stars who inspired his awful "Barbarian" character and discussed the importance of tackling subjects like assault in Hollywood. 

Hollywood horrors

On what it was like playing this darker role and if anyone he knows helped inform AJ's persona, Long said, "It was fun. It was a blast because he's a despicable person, and it was fun to be douchey." He teased some of the people he knows in Hollywood that have some of AJ's less charming characteristics, adding, "There were a couple of people that I knew that informed the character. I've been in Hollywood for a while, so occasionally, you'll meet some people like that. It definitely reminded me of some people." 

Given that Long typically plays wholesome characters everyone loves, this role was a new challenge for him. He explained, "I've never done anything, fortunately, like this character has done. That was something I had to find. That was tough to relate to. It was awful, [the] things that he does. But it was a challenge. It was a really fun challenge."

A playful but important message

Long's character is an archetype of some of the darker traits of Hollywood — between supreme narcissism, sexism, and assault. Long praised how "Barbarian" handles and sheds light on these issues in Hollywood, saying, "I thought it was an interesting way to explore those unfortunate truths. It was an interesting way to subvert the power dynamic that those truths spring from. It was a way to kind of mock a person like that, especially the guy who advertises himself to be a good guy: 'I'm a nice guy.'" We've all met that guy.

"Zach [Cregger] plays with a lot of the nuances of a situation like that in a way that is really smart, and he sheds a light on it that makes a person who does things like that and thinks a certain way seem so absurd and comical. The situation's not funny, but the level of narcissism that this guy is displaying is almost funny," Long added. "It is funny sometimes. I loved how he explored that. Zach is very sensitive and very perceptive. Many times, he'd say something and say, 'Oh, I'm sorry if that was offensive. I shouldn't have said that.'"

It's always refreshing when a director works to create a positive environment on set. On Cregger, Long noted, "He was constantly examining his own behavior, and he's an actually sweet person, as Georgie [Georgina Campbell] can attest to. But it was so interesting what he did with that story and how he shed a light on it in a way that was playful but also condemning it."

"Barbarian" is now playing in theaters.