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Ryan Phillippe Dishes On Lady Of The Manor, Moving Into Comedy, And Getting Back To Directing - Exclusive Interview

After his dramatic turn on "Big Sky," Ryan Phillippe was ready for some light comic relief. Cue "Lady of the Manor," a buddy comedy with an unexpected twist, co-written and co-directed by actor Justin Long and his brother, Christian Long. Phillippe rounds out an already stellar cast that includes Melanie Lynskey, Judy Greer, Luis Guzmán, and Justin Long. 

"Lady of the Manor" follows stoner Hannah (Lynskey), who gets hired to give tours of Wadsworth Manor, the so-called ancestral home of Tanner Wadsworth (Phillippe). Things get a little complicated when Lady Wadsworth's ghost (Greer) appears to Hannah, who has been portraying the late Southern belle as part of her job. Phillippe stars as Tanner Wadsworth, a pastel suit-wearing trust fund bro used to getting what he wants, when he wants it. Speaking to Looper, Phillippe explained, "It's a really fun buddy comedy. I think Melanie Lynskey and Judy Greer are excellent in it, and I'm excited for people to watch me play this completely ridiculous guy." 

Looper caught up with Ryan Phillippe to find out all about "Lady of the Manor," whether he plans to do more comedy, and if he might return to the "I Know What You Did Last Summer" franchise anytime soon.

Teaming up with Justin Long

You're promoting "Lady of the Manor," which is Justin Long's directorial debut. What attracted you to this movie, and what was Long like as a director?

Well, Justin, I've known a long time. We've sort of grown up or come up the same time in the industry and have been friendly throughout. He reached out to me, said that he was about to make his first film as a director, along with his brother [Christian Long], they co-wrote and co-directed the film, and asked me if I'd take a look. And as soon as I started reading it, I laughed throughout. From every page, there was a laugh for me, and this character that he was proposing I play was just so ridiculous that I got really excited about getting into playing this dude who is so far from who I am. I enjoy playing these characters where fewer rules apply to them.

Often, if you're the protagonist in a drama, you've got to be kind of the very identifiable accessible leading male. And when you play a character like Tanner, there's a lot more liberty and license to be taken. And so, that got me really excited and immediately I said to him, I was like, "Oh, I want this guy in pastels. I want to wear just all pinks and light blues, and I want to have a fake tan." I think, also, the fact that the character's so immature for his age and still acts like he's a college age person, and clearly he's not — it's just kind of ridiculous, that state of arrested development ... The guy hasn't evolved past his 20s even though he's approaching his 40s. That's funny to me.

I love that you're responsible for Tanner's wardrobe, because that really made the character.

Yeah, it really did. I was like, "As much as we can push it." Well, because also when you go to the south in the States, you see a lot of wealthy guys sort of wearing those clothes, and I've never understood it. But this was the perfect opportunity for me to try to understand it.

Taking on comedic roles

What was it like working with Melanie Lynskey and Judy Greer?

They are incredible, both as people and as comedic actresses, actresses in general. This was the last project I did pre-COVID. We did, actually, spend some time hanging out together and going out to have some beers and that, and Judy is just such a life force. I'm surprised she hasn't done standup. She's such an effortlessly funny person. So quick-witted. And then, Melanie I've been a fan of for years, but I had only met her a couple of times in passing and was really excited to work with her. And at its heart, the movie is kind of like a buddy comedy between the two of them in some weird way, and I think they had great chemistry and their scenes together are really funny to me. Really hilarious.

It was really nice to see you in a comedy because we see you more often in action or serious roles. Do you enjoy taking on those more comedic roles?

I do. I do. Because sort of, like I was saying earlier, there's a lot more freedom that comes with a comedic role and it's a completely different work experience. I just finished doing the "MacGruber" series with Kristen Wiig and Will Forte and, again, you go to work and you laugh all day. It's very different from going to work going "Oh, I have this crying scene later on," or "I have to pretend like my wife is dead or I've lost my child." Those things take a toll on you emotionally and physically, and so it is nice to do something lighter and something that's a little more silly.

MacGruber is coming back...

Can you share any gossip about the upcoming Peacock series "MacGruber"?

The scripts are hilarious. It's so surprising that we ended up making a series from a movie that did not perform well at all at the box office. Never thought we'd be revisiting that world again, but I'm so happy and grateful that we were able to because it's such a great group of people to work with. I've always been a bit of a comedy nerd and I loved "SNL" growing up, and so to work with those people in that capacity is such a good time. But the show is going to come out around Christmas [2021] on Peacock, because that's the time of year that the season takes place. But it really picks up right where the movie left off in terms of the humor and just how raw it is in some places. Will Forte is just such a phenomenal actor, and wait until people see his performance in this series. It's excellent.

And I'm very much the straight man in "MacGruber," but there's challenges within that. Certainly, just holding a straight face and being able to take some of this ridiculous stuff as seriously as I'm meant to is really difficult at times.

A horror revival?

I'm a big horror fan and I loved you in "I Know What You Did Last Summer." What was it like working on something that's become a cult classic? Did you have any idea it would become this huge?

Well, it gets a lot of replays on television so, throughout the years, people are finding it and discovering it. And like you said, there's a huge faction of people out there that just love horror, and so they've sought it out. There's a new series on Amazon coming out, "I Know What You Did Last Summer." It's been re-imagined and we're all in support of that and excited to see this new show. It is kind of crazy how it makes you feel like you've been around forever when they're remaking projects that you've been a part of. But it's also, I guess, in some ways like a compliment, certainly, that something held up and had that much of an impact that it's stayed in the public consciousness for this long.

Do you think you'd do another slasher?

Oh yeah. Yeah, I would. It's really all about the story, if there's something fresh, if there's something that you haven't seen before, and if you feel like you'll have a good experience with the people you're working with. But I'm open to any genre.

Getting ready to direct again

You made your directorial debut with "Catch Hell" in 2014. Are you planning to direct again?

I am and I have. I've done some music videos. I did a couple of music videos for Post Malone and one or two other musical acts. And now my son [Deacon Phillippe] is starting his musical career and I'm sure I'll direct some visuals for him at some time. But yeah, I love directing and I've got a project right now that we're in the early stages of putting together that is for me to direct. It would be an action piece.

I think when you work in the industry as long as I have, I've had so much experience that you want to do something with that knowledge, and directing allows you to kind of utilize that. And so it's very rewarding and it's a position I'm very comfortable with. I wish I could do more of it. It's very time-consuming. It can take up your entire year if you're directing, and seeing a movie from its inception to post-production, it's a huge, massive undertaking. You just have to prepare to set that time aside when it's time to make a film.

That brief Big Sky appearance

What was your time like on "Big Sky"?

Well, it was great to work on and it wasn't as brief as it might seem because of all the complications that go along with doing ... We were the first show back, one of the first shows back, post-COVID or when they started to kind of get things back into production. It was a little difficult. Initially, there was a two-week quarantine prior to the filming. It was very strict, and then there were a lot of rules on set. Now, they're starting to adjust some of them based on more information and more experience working within this pandemic. "Big Sky" was really only supposed to be a two-week commitment for me and I was up there for two months. It was a lot longer. And then, they wanted to add me to a few flashbacks and those sorts of things. But I was always really in support of the project itself and was excited to work on something that David E. Kelley was a part of. I'm excited that they're coming back with a Season 2 and I can't wait to watch it.

"Lady of the Manor" is out now in select theaters, on demand, and on Blu-ray and DVD.