Tusk is the first film in Kevin Smith‘s quasi-trilogy, True North Trilogy. The film follows Wallace (Justin Long), a podcaster who drives up to the backwoods of Canada to interview a Howard, a man who wants to tell his stories to someone. Little does Wallace know, Howard is a psychotic man who kidnaps his victims, then turn them into his favorite animal, the walrus.
During the film’s press day, Justin Long talked about what it was like being in the suit, working alongside Kevin Smith again, some of his most scariest scenes in Tusk, confronting some of his fears, and more. Hit the jump to read the full interview.
What was it like to be in the walrus costume, we were told that it was like being on those bouncy balls?
It wasn’t built for comfort, which was nice for me because any discomfort or vulnerability helped me out with the mental state I had to be in. But the prosthetics themselves took about three hours to make, and there was cowl, and then they just shoved me into the suit. Just like stuffing a turkey. And I would poke my head out through this hole, and they would just snap on the cowl – it was Robert Kurtzman’s design, which is an ingenious design, and he had very little time to do it, which makes it that much more impressive. They would demagnetize the tusks so I could get my head out through the hole, and put on the tusks afterwards. So the whole process took four and a half hours, but then there was constant maintenance to the suit. And I just remember being incredibly hot – just so hot that I – just drenched in sweat, it was a nightmare. Those guys did a hell of a job.
Was it hard to convey that emotion of being a walrus?
No, because I am a bit claustrophobic, so that helped. I tried to amplify whatever discomfort or fear I had, and it kinda pushed me into this pretty dark place. And I also had a fear of being caught in a dishonest moment on camera, and so that fear was very compelling. Especially in a movie like this, if you half-ass it or don’t embrace it, it will literally show. So I tried to embrace the Walrus.
So how did you find your voice?
It’s funny you should ask, because I tried to approach it from an academic standpoint, and get – very professional and prepared, and I found that walruses have incredible vocal range, like they – very vocal stylings, then once I was in – in it the moment it was whatever came out, any of that footage went out the window.
What were those underwater scenes like? Was it scary?
It was very scary. Just being in the suit and being in the water, you are much more vulnerable. You are at the mercy of whoever is manipulating you. During those sense it helped with those sense of fear like I could easily drown. Just the vulnerability, the lack of control, you can’t move your body. Interestingly, in between those scenes, Michael was keeping an eye on me and making sure I had water. He was checking in with me. He was very doting. He was wonderful to work with, but wasn’t necessarily asking if I needed water when I was outside the suit. He got very caretaker-y.
You worked with Kevin [Smith] before, are you always on the same page every time you report on his sets?
He’s very collaborative. That first meeting I had with him, I went over to his house, and we just got into the character. We were talking about the potential to say a little bit more about the character, it was just originally a Hammer horror movie. It was guy shows up, this other guy turns him into a walrus, it’s nuts, they look for him. But I felt like, without sounding too pretentious or too heady about it, it felt like there was an opportunity to say this man lost his humanity, and maybe discovers it when he gets turned into an animal in a Kafka-Metamorphosis kind of way. But it was also, this was over the course of a couple of hours and a significant amount of blunts, and next day I was like, “oh he is not going to remember any of this,” and a couple of days later he sent me a draft that implemented everything we talked about, it was just an interesting and funny thing. I love giving myself over to the director, especially one that I trust, who has a body of work that I admire. But I never done anything this drastic or intimate with any director. He left us alone when we were kind of grooving, and he’d check in once in a while, and I always knew, because I do have this inherent trust, I knew it was worthwhile when he’d check in on us.
Did you do a weigh in before and after filming?
I should have. But I did lose a lot of weight because I could feel all these puddles of sweat collecting in the suit, and it is really unappetizing. One of the interns, one of Kurtzman’s guys, had to take me out of the suit, and you’re locked up in this thing, and not to get graphic, it’s like me-soup. Me in my own juices in hours. I’m like a camel, I have tremendous bladder control, I would stay in that thing for hours, and the poor guy was like cutting into a Tauntaun.
Being clastrophobic, was it a relief for you every time you got out of the suit?
Oh yeah, I wanted out. It was such a wonderful relief to get that stuff off you, and it felt like shedding what it represented, it was like that shell – a little emotional prision. Like what Will Ferrell said in Anchorman, “I’m trapped in a glass case of emotion,” but I was trapped in a “latex case of emotion,” and so it felt like, not only was it a physical relief to take it off, but it was getting me away from being in that dark place. I just had to conjure whatever I could, it wasn’t fun. I was sleeping like a baby afterward.
Is there another Alvin in your future?
I hope so. I got more in me. I heard they were doing a fourth one. Alvin and the Chipmunks in space, I don’t know, what haven’t those little rascals done?
Walrus! No I’m not kidding. I play all sorts of mammals.
Tusk is now open in theaters.