Why Justin Long Jumped at the Chance to Play a Canceled Actor in ‘Barbarian’

Zach Cregger didn’t originally plan to write a full movie. The previous The whitest kids you know The comedian-turned-filmmaker just wanted to create a scene as a simple scripting exercise after being inspired by reading Gavin de Becker’s 1997 book ‘survival signals’ The gift of fear.

The book “encourages women to pay close attention to these often-overlooked red flags that men can put up in everyday interactions,” Kreger tells us during a virtual press conference for Barbarian (see above), the buzzy new horror film the exercise eventually led him to write. “Like little subtle things that men can do that could be indicative of a predator. Things like doing a woman a favor she didn’t ask you to do. Injecting a slight sexual comment into an otherwise non-sexual conversation. Touch, even if it’s not sexual, when you’re not asked. There are a lot of little things that women have to watch all the time.”

So Cregger wrote a scene where he could “ruminate” a script in which a woman faces all of these red flags and more. Now it’s the opening scene for Barbarian: A young investigative assistant (Georgina Campbell) arrives at an AirBnB in a troubled Detroit neighborhood late at night, only to find the house double-booked, with a man (Bill Skarsgård) already living there.

“I definitely related to some of it,” says Campbell. “[There are] very different ways in which a woman goes through a situation and feels fear [versus] how would a man.’

It would be too bad to reveal too much more than the above, but we can say that Justin Long eventually appears as the owner of the house — also a moderately famous actor whose career had just been sunk by allegations that he sexually assaulted a co-star . . It’s a film full of chilling scares, yet the subplot surrounding Long’s character’s “cancellation” adds another dimension to the film’s important commentary on gender dynamics in 2022.

Enter Justin Long Barbarian. (Photo: 20th Century Studios)

Kreger, who admitted he originally wanted Zac Efron for the role, realized he needed an original “good guy” (or at least one known for embodying such characters) — a “charming, likable, likeable” Tom Hanks type — for Efron turned him down, which makes you wonder if there are any male performers in Hollywood today who wouldn’t feel comfortable playing a canceled actor, given how many of their colleagues have been exposed for sexual harassment in recent years.

“I don’t care about any of that stuff,” Cregger says. “If someone were to say, ‘I’m friends with someone who got MeToo’ed and that’s not cool.’ It’s like, ‘I don’t give a f***. I’m sorry.'”

Long (Dodgeball, F is for family) ultimately turned out to be the perfect choice. The actor had no qualms playing a so-called “victim of cancellation culture” despite being so close to home in his own industry.

“If anything, it made me that much more willing to do a place like this,” Long says. “Because I think it’s an important type of character that needs to be exposed [and] to examine.

“And the way Zach uses the character to tell an important story about men and women is really valuable. So in a way, the more despicable the character, the better for the story and the overall point it makes.”

— Video produced by Kat Vasquez and edited by Luis Saenz

Barbarian opens on Friday.

Watch the trailer:

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