‘Long Shot’ Director Says He and Seth Rogen ‘Had to Up Our Game’ When Charlize Theron Came on Board

“We tried to look more on top of it when she was brought in,” Jonathan Levine says

“Long Shot” director Jonathan Levine says that he and Seth Rogen really had to reel it in and get their act together once Charlize Theron came on board because she “brings a level of credibility and authenticity.”

“We felt we had to up our game to do right by her because she [Theron] brings a level of credibility and authenticity,” Levine told TheWrap. “She brings it, and we wanted to have the movie support that. If you were a fly on the wall on our meeting pre-Charlize, it would not look that impressive, but then we tried to look more on top of it when she was brought in.

“She is very similar to Seth — she’s always questioning and always wanting to push things, and she’s very hard on herself. In my mind, she’s the best actor in the world. ‘Long Shot’ is different than what she’s done with her action movies and dramas and even comedy films — this was a very specific kind of thing. When she first realized how we were doing it, how we were changing things from take to take, she really thought it was fun because she loved the challenge,” he continued.

“Long Shot” stars Rogen as a recently unemployed writer who gets a job writing campaign speeches for the secretary of state (Theron), who also happens to be his former high school crush. They try to keep it professional — until, of course, they fall for each other.

“I loved the combo of romance and comedy against the political background, and the idea to make this modern-day fairytale that still subverts the trope of the genre,” Levine said. “The script was first written in 2012 and we had to rewrite it because the political world had changed a lot since then — and that was a challenge.”

Speaking of challenges, one particular scene was both the most difficult and most fun to shoot. We’re talking about the scene where our protagonists meet for the first time at a party, during a performance of Boyz II Men.

“One of the most difficult things as a director is time management,” Levine explained. “When you are doing a crowd scene where your two leads meet, then you add Andy Serkis’ character — logistically, you could get overwhelmed. I was trying to make something more cinematic than you have seen in comedies recently: I had to think about how often I used the crane, how often they just stood there and told jokes, and then you have this amazing band I’ve loved since I was a kid. The balance of all those things was a distillation of the challenges of the movie as a whole. We had three days to shoot that scene, which is never enough time.”

But being face-to-face with a band he admired when he was a kid was “kind of amazing.” “I took the time to remember how lucky I am listening to the music that I first heard when I was 10 years old — I started crying and I didn’t try to hide it. It was really moving,” Levine said.

“Long Shot,” as most of Rogen’s films, are filled with raunchy sex jokes and R-rated one-liners. Ever so often, Levine said, he would stop shooting if the jokes were too mean or if he found certain zingers to be stupid.

“There were two or three times where I would walk up to Seth and ask, ‘really, dude? TOO MUCH!'” Levine explained. “When I first started working with Seth on ’50/50,’ I realized quickly he wouldn’t say a single line the way it was written because he was always looking to improve them and he’s so naturalistic — he never wants to feel like he’s seen as a joke.”

Levine also explained he filled the rest of the cast with great improvisers, and also had three comedy writers on set at all times who would watch the monitor and improve jokes in real time in between takes.

Levine and Rogen have also worked together on “The Night Before,” so what has the filmmaker learned from working with the comedian?

“He’s an open book — from the moment I first met him, I was just struck by how incredibly ambitious, sophisticated, and thoughtful he was. To me, he is one of the greatest geniuses of film comedy — he’s just next level great.”

“Long Shot” hits theaters on Friday. It also stars O’Shea Jackson Jr., June Diane Raphael, Ravi Patel and Bob Odenkirk.