HT Talks To...Justin Long and Maggie Q

Miles away from the disquieting cyber-terrorism themes and violent action of director Len Wiseman’s Live Free or Die Hard (now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Unrated DVD from Fox) are its real-life co-stars. The baby-faced Justin Long finds the humor in just about everything, while the hypnotically beautiful Maggie Q is as charming as her onscreen henchwoman is deadly. Veterans of both Hollywood blockbusters and more obscure indies, together they offer a unique exposé of an actor’s life.

How’s it going?

MQ: Good. Good.

JL: Was that technically the first question? We’ll get that out of the way. “Very revealing!”

Maggie, you play a particularly nasty villain. how do strangers react when they recognize you?

MQ: Oh, God: Hate me! But people who are more intelligent go, “Oh my God, your character. I hated it! So, you were great!” But it’s very hard to take those compliments, because you’re standing on the street and somebody’s telling you they hate you at the top of their lungs.

JL: They’re like, “I didn’t see Die Hard. I just hate you!”

MQ: I had a problem with the Germans because they hated the fact that I got hit in the face, and they’re like, “You don’t hit women like that!”

JL: And Americans are like, “There should be more punching of women in it.”

MQ: “I don’t think you got beat up enough!”

The fight scene in the elevator shaft was intense. we’re in a digital filmmaking age, but it seemed pretty real.

MQ: It’s not unreal. It was very, very hands-on, and when I’m falling off the car and I’m dangling, that’s me! And I’m getting hit and smacked, and it’s pretty crazy. The action director, this guy Brian Smrz who’d done X-Men and a bunch of other stuff, he’s really great.

JL: No vowels in his name.

MQ: Because I’d been doing it for so long, he knew I knew what I was doing, so he was almost preparing me less than he should have been. [laughs] So he ties me onto the hood of this car, and the car goes over the edge, and it spills down into the shaft. I’ve never been so terrified in my entire life.

JL: They knew how adept she was at doing those action scenes. They didn’t take as many precautions as they normally would for most actors. You know, they always treat actors with kid gloves.

MQ: The gun guy walks up to me the first day, and he hands me my gun, and he walks away. I go, “Mark! Dude: You didn’t brief me at all on my gun.” He’s like, “You know how to use a gun.”

JL: They’re very safety conscious, but yeah, with Maggie, they were just like, “Is it loaded?” “No, probably not.”

With all of your training and experience, could you kill a man?

MQ: [sweet as sugar] Oh, certainly!

JL: [laughs] “Oh, certainly!” Jesus! You said that way too casually.

MQ: When we were doing our training for Mission: Impossible, we had these guys come in, hostage negotiators, and this one guy who would do missions for the U.S. government in the Middle East. We set up obstacles, and we stormed rooms, S.W.A.T. protocol, blow by blow, exactly what they do.

JL: She killed all of those guys.

Justin, you were a Bruce Willis fan, right?

JL: I was, but not just Die Hard. I was a huge fan of 12 Monkeys and Nobody’s Fool. I like—I even told him, “Look, I love Hudson Hawk.” I’m like, Pulp Fiction...

MQ: He’s had some of the greatest movies of all time. You forget what a great actor he is. He’s been around forever.

JL & MQ: [together] Moonlighting.

We could stay here all day!

JL: I know! I’d go back to the trailer, and they had DirecTV, so there was like a Bruce Willis channel, and I’d watch whatever Bruce Willis movie was on, and then I’d go back and I’d be like, “Hey, Bruce, I was just watching, uh… Die Hard: With a Vengeance!” And he’d tell me some great anecdote from the movie. It was like having my own DVD commentary.

Did you pal around?

JL: We’re very different, as people and as actors, so we weren’t hanging out all the time and buddying around. But he was always very nice to me. I just think he maybe consciously knew that that would sort of help our character dynamic. Or maybe he just didn’t like me and thought I was a huge nerd.

MQ: I think he liked you, but you were a big douche. That was a good story, though, that he maybe thought it would be good for your acting.

Being in a big-hype “tentpole” movie like this, how has your experience as performers been different from some of the other, smaller movies that you’ve done? DirecTV aside.

JL: I much prefer the smaller, kind of more intimate…

MQ: They’re so great. It’s about the acting.

JL: It lends itself to the work and the acting, and you can focus. And a movie like Die Hard, it’s so hard not to get lost.

MQ: There’s just so much involved. On Die Hard, I worked with two groups of people, one director and one action director. One unit and another unit, like I was making two movies.

JL: You’d have, like, a couple of minutes to do two or three takes ’cause they were like losing light.

MQ: And two hours to set up the next shot.

JL: They’ll use the time to indulge in the special effects and the action, but the acting is like, “Can I try this?” And they’re like, “No.” And poor Len, Len was always great.

Ok, i have to ask: Robin’s Big Date.* how did that come about?

MQ: Oh, Robin’s Big Date!

JL: Yeah. Did you see that?

MQ: Of course!

JL: Sam [Rockwell] and I are old friends, and we passed this like cheesy Halloween store, and Sam was around the next day for a couple of hours, and my friend Will [Carlough] is a great writer, and part of it was just wanting to see Sam in his Batman outfit that didn’t fit him. I was the executive producer, we shot it for $500, but my friend, unbeknownst to us, ended up submitting it to all these festivals. It got into, like, Sundance. We’re getting some money to do another one. We’re gonna have Jonah [Hill, from Superbad] play the Penguin. But as Larry Flynt.

You’re having trouble scraping together another $500?

MQ: He made like two-fifty for Die Hard.

Have you two hit a sort of happy groove at this point in your careers, maggie with action movies and justin with comedies?

JL: In Asia, Maggie’s done tons of movies. And you should see Balls of Fury. She’s very funny in Balls of Fury.

MQ: You need to have your niche, and that’s what gets you into the market. And then I think, once people sort of take to you, even a little bit, then you can start making different decisions.

JL: There’s always that danger, but it’s so hard for me to answer those questions because I…

MQ: You know what’s so hard? He’s so good at comedy too, that you don’t want to be pigeonholed in it, but there’s so much more that you’re gonna see from him for sure.

JL: You may see my genitalia at some point.

* Justin’s must-see, laugh-out-loud short film. Search for Robin’s Big Date.