By all accounts, Long Shot is a romantic comedy. There’s a leading lady (played by Charlize Theron), a love interest (played by Seth Rogen), and a plot line that includes seminal relationship milestones like the first kiss and the early-third-act-will-they-or-won’t-they-fight. But it’s also a movie hitting theaters in 2019, written by Liz Hannah (her first screenwriting gig earned her a Golden Globe nomination for The Post) and produced by Rogen.
The most pointed evidence that this is a romantic comedy created by millennials is that they’ve replaced the often one-dimensional, constantly supportive, best friend character with a biting, whip-smart chief of staff who provides some of the movie’s most cunning one-liners. Theron and Rogen receive top billing in Long Shot, but its most memorable laughs come straight from June Diane Raphael — who, it must be mentioned, pulled the performance together with a moment’s notice.
The actress was sent the script on a Friday, read for the casting directors on Monday, and flew to Montreal (where the rest of the cast was already on set getting ready to film) by Thursday. As she explains to EW, she was moved by the fact that, while the flick had the funny one-liners you’d expect from a Seth Rogen vehicle, its leading lady was an inspiration.
“As a woman who really wanted to see another woman become president, playing the part of someone supporting a woman’s journey towards the highest office in the land was totally wish-fulfillment and actually quite cathartic and healing,” says Raphael. “When I read the role, I understood on such a cellular level what that desire was.”
The flick, out May 3, follows Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Theron), a highly successful politician navigating an administration not totally unlike our own current powers-that-be. She runs into her childhood friend Fred Flarsky (Rogen) at a party and hires him to punch up her speeches and, despite the fact that he possesses none of the qualities that one might think are required of a politician’s partner (a decent wardrobe, a clean shave, an apartment that isn’t wholly embarrassing), they start to fall in love. Field also happens to be readying a run for President, which is where Raphael’s chief of staff Maggie Millikin comes in: She’s hell-bent on building a winning ticket which most certainly doesn’t include a boyfriend like Fred Flarsky.
Raphael’s work on this film feels a little bit fated, first and foremost because of her on-screen résumé, which reads like a who’s who of charmingly sarcastic icons (as Brianna on Grace and Frankie, Brenda in Blockers, and Sadie-the-lesbian-gynecologist from New Girl, to name a few fan favorites). One of her earliest jobs in Hollywood (before her big break writing the script for Bride Wars alongside longtime collaborator and close friend Casey Wilson) was an internship that had her reading scripts at Barwood Films, owned by Barbra Streisand.
“I guess Barbra was my boss?” she jokes. “But I never saw her or met her — I spoke to her on the phone one time. So yeah, I guess I do have a lot of experience working for icons. I really drew from that one-minute conversation.”
As viewers will know from the film’s trailer and the cast’s interview circuit, Long Shot is a little bit slapstick. Part of its joy stems from the novelty of watching Theron throw comedic punches with Rogen and Raphael, doling out one-liners and delivering an epic Molly-trip-gone-wrong-scene that has to be seen to be believed. And while Rogen’s character is very on-brand, Raphael is quick to dispel some misunderstandings about the comedian.
“He’s done all these stoner comedies, which is a real part of his persona, but he’s quite literally the hardest working person I’ve ever met in this industry,” she urges. “[On set] he would do things that were absolutely brilliant and also rewrite the next scene we were doing and then, on lunch, go work on his next movie. It was exhausting to watch and I told him to stop because it makes the rest of us look really lazy.”
But for all of Long Shot’s com it has just as much rom. Audiences have been demanding more from their romantic comedies and the team heard the call, but Raphael is also a staunch advocate for the genre in general. She believes that part of the ridicule toward the category comes from a place of misogyny: Culture is often quick to dismiss content that feels expressly geared toward women. The current rom-com-aissance has wrought not only smarter dialogue but well-rounded female character for perhaps the first time: in with fully-realized women with flaws, out with 27-year-olds who believe their lives are over because they aren’t married with children. (“I’ve always watched those movies and been like, who are those women?” Raphael adds.)
This philosophy is magnified by the many inspiring actresses Raphael has worked with — Theron, of course, but also Grace and Frankie’s Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin — who are constantly working to remove the boxes the industry would like to put them in.
“What’s been fascinating to realize is how much they are still learning,” Raphael says of her costars. “None of them are complacent. A part of that exhausts me but it’s why they’re so incredible. And you know, I think they get intimidated working with me too. [Laughs] I just try to help them remember I’m a regular gal.”