TSR Exclusive: ‘Going the Distance’ – Interview with director Nanette Burstein

As we all know, relationships are hard work. And as a select some of us might know, relationships that take place in long distance can easily be more difficult. While we have had plenty of romantic comedies about missing a person while they’re away, we rarely see the torturous long distance relationship handled in the way that director Nanette Burstein presents it in her new film, Going the Distance. Finally, someone has acknowledged that acts like Skyping and Youtube video sharing are our modern equivalent to a typewritten letter or bouquet of flowers.

The new film stars Justin Long, Drew Barrymore, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, and Christina Applegate. I talked to the director about the differences between her film and other romantic comedies, and also how she was able to get hilarious performances out of her talented cast.

Read Jeff Bayer’s scorecard review of Going the Distance here (9/10)

In our modern age we have been without the long distance, computerized movie. We had something like
You’ve Got Mail, but that wasn’t really like this. Why did you decide to make the first movie about a long distance relationship that relied on our modern technology?

I think it’s the first movie, or romantic comedy, about a long distance relationship. We all felt like given the times, you can’t help but include Skype, phone sex, and texting, and whether or not you were 3,000 miles away or just down the street, we use those methods [to keep in touch] anyway.

Speaking about that … do these characters have Facebook?

They do. I think that he [Justin Long’s character] does. But I don’t think that she [Drew Barrymore’s character] does. She’s just not into it. Some people don’t want to record their lives, or are weirded out by their privacy, and I can see her character not being into it. But he would, especially since he’s looking for music.

Do you think his friends have Facebook?

Totally. You know that Charlie Day’s character is totally playing Mafia Wars.

Did you always have Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis in mind?

Yes.

It was great to see Charlie Day out of the show, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

I know; it was his first movie. And then he has one next year with Jennifer Aniston, as the lead (called Horrible Bosses). And that was because they loved him in this film.

Is there a specific reason as to why these main characters have jobs in dying industries?

Yeah, because the economy is hurting everywhere. And we really wanted to show how hard it was to get up and leave and move to that city to be with another person. So if you were in a field that was particularly challenged, it would be even more challenging.

Were Justin Long and Drew Barrymore always first choices?

Well, in the very incarnation of the script the characters were younger. They were in their mid-20’s. But we decided to age it because it seemed more like your love life and career are more personal at thirty-one then say twenty-five. So once we aged it up, Justin was really interested, and I really liked him. But Drew was interested and I was thinking, “Wow, she’s always been America’s Sweetheart, but she’s never played this role.” And I love her acting, when I saw her in “Grey Gardens” I was totally blown away. When I met her in person I said, “Oh my god, you are this character.” It was perfect.

Are you thinking about doing more documentaries in the future?

Yeah. I would like to do another narrative next.

Do you think it would be a romantic comedy?

At least a comedy. It doesn’t have to be romance I like making people laugh.

You do. I liked this movie … as a guy, because I could see it in both aspects, as either a “chick flick” or a bro-mantic comedy.

It’s kind of like Knocked Up. Great reference for all of us whne making this. It was a good reference for what we were going after – the guy and the girl’s point of view. And totally relatable to each sex. And there’s a raunchy humor to it, but it’s ina realistic premise. And it had a lot of heart.

Was there a lot of improvisation? Particularly with Charlie Day?

All of them. Jim Gaffigan, Charlie, Jason Sudeikis, Drew Barrymore, Justin. I consciously cast people who were very good at improvisation. I think that’s what comedy so funny – you’re able to rip.

Do you want to stick to making more modern films?

Yes, I do. I can’t imagine I’d regress into another period.

What are your thoughts on online dating? Do you think it’s a legitimate source for romance?

I think anyway you can meet someone, as long as you constantly connect with them, it’s fine. For a lot of people, maybe they only work with a couple of people, and they’re beyond the bar age, and it becomes a question of how to meet people.

What directors inspire you?

I really love a lot of the films from the 70’s, like [those by] Woody Allen.

Yeah, Going the Distance is a bit like if Judd Apatow did Woody Allen.

As far as comedies go, I think that Something About Mary is a brilliant movie for this genre. And Annie Hall.

Quick Questions

Favorite Fruit?
Orange

Favorite Recent Summer Movie?

The Hangover

Book You Wish You Had Written?
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

If you could be someone for 24 hours?
President Barack Obama

Age of first kiss?
10. It was summer camp!

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