For as long as there have been movies about ghosts, there have been movies that highlight the humorous side of otherworldly visitors, though they rarely lean as heavily into the realm of romantic comedy as much as Lady of the Manor, written and directed by Justin and Christian Long. As if the material itself wasn't inventive enough to elicit laughs, the cast is full of a number of hilarious performers, which includes Ryan Phillippe reminding viewers of his comedic talents. Lady of the Manor is currently available to rent On Demand and hits Blu-ray and DVD on September 21st.
Past and present collide in this supernaturally funny buddy comedy when stoner-slacker Hannah (Melanie Lynskey) is hired to portray Lady Wadsworth (Judy Greer), a Southern belle who died in 1875, in a tour at Wadsworth Manor. Hannah, a hot mess, figures she can fake it —until the ghost of Lady Wadsworth appears! Lady Wadsworth tells Hannah it's time to change her wild ways — and she'll haunt her until she does — in this hilarious movie co-starring Justin Long and Ryan Phillippe.
ComicBook.com caught up with Phillippe to talk his own personal encounters with spirits, embracing his humorous side, and seeing projects he previously starred in getting revivals.
ComicBook.com: I know Lady of the Manor is not a horror movie by any stretch of the imagination, it's not spooky, but given the nature of this movie, I wondered if you have personally ever seen a ghost? Have you ever had any spooky encounters?
Ryan Phillippe: No, I haven't. And I've looked for them, I've sought them out. There's been various times I've been on locations throughout my career and people are saying, "Oh, no, this old hospital building you're working in is haunted," and they're like, "Don't go up to the third floor." And, of course, I immediately go up to the third floor.
I've sought out experiences, but haven't had any, so I remain a skeptic. I've also had friends who have a fear of ghosts, and I'm always confused as to why. Because I'll pose the question, "Well, how many people do you know that have been hurt, killed, or injured by a ghost?" And usually the response is, "None." So it's like, what are you afraid of? I think it's fun to think about, but it's not something that I worry about.
I do like thinking about a production wanting to shoot a scene and them having to say, "Wait, no, Ryan's not here, he's out looking for ghosts."
That was really something that happened. Absolutely.
You've done horror movies before and when I look back at your career, there are fewer straightforward comedies. Is that because there are fewer comedies that get you excited enough to get involved or is it because you play a good smarmy, smoldering hunk in so many projects that you don't get comedies offered to you much?
I would say that, that's not the way that people tend to think about me, so it is a case of there being fewer of those projects to come my way, but I usually jump at them when they do, because it's such a refreshing change.
The experience of making something comedic compared to dramatic is night and day. When you're having to either do emotional scenes, or crying, or your wife's just been killed, or your child's missing, those things take a toll on you physically and emotionally at the end of the day. So to get to go into work and just be silly, and there's a lot more freedom and license that comes with playing a character like Tanner in Lady of the Manor, where there's just far fewer rules than if you're the protagonist of a drama, and you have to be that leading man and that accessible, relatable character.
I get excited when something like this does come my way, because it's a chance to really play and to not take things so seriously. When I first read this script, I told Justin, I laughed almost every page, and then I immediately had ideas for how this guy should look. I'm like, "I want to wear a lot of pastels. Pink and salmon colors." And I was like, "Do you think it'd be okay if I get a fake tan? I want this guy to have a really [fake tan]."
And he loved those ideas. It turns out a different side of your creative self, to play a character like this, and when you're not the lead and you're not the guy that everybody has to root for, it's very freeing.
The original script is what excited you to get involved so obviously you didn't want to deviate too much from it, but were there other personal choices about your character that deviated from what was in the script, especially since the film had such a tight-knight, collaborative feel?
We would do improv and alternate takes once we got what was scripted, and I love that. My first time experiencing that was on the first MacGruber film, where it was such an interesting thing to see that they would shoot what was on the page and then people would pitch ideas like, "Hey, Will (Forte), say this, or maybe on this take say this, or improv this part of it." I like the excitement that comes along with those surprises and with trying to incorporate a new phrase or a thought into something that you've filmed one way the first time.
Justin, I've known for a long time. We're about the same age, and we've come up in this industry and been friendly throughout. I was also excited to support him and his brother, Christian, who co-wrote and co-directed it with him. And they just knew ... I guess he had a sense of what my sense of humor was, in ways that people who don't know me might not. He knew that I would have fun with this character.
I think there's elements of this guy that are somewhat ... There's some connective tissue between this character and my character in Cruel Intentions, who's a rich guy who lives without consequence. The thing about Tanner that was really appealing to me is how immature he is at his age. This sense of arrested development you get about him is that the guy hasn't evolved beyond college, even though he's in his late 30s, or pushing 40, or whatever it is. That, to me, was a lot of fun to deal with.
You need to know that I am now unofficially going to think that, if Sebastian survived Cruel intentions, Tanner is who he would eventually become.
You would also have to see it through the Southern lens, too, of there's just a specific style of dress that a lot of rich Southern guys seem to have and behavior that was unique to this character.
We see a couple of hints of it in the credits of the fun you guys had on set, but who do you think ruined the most takes by laughing?
Oh, that's a good question. I pride myself on not breaking very often, but sometimes it happens. It's just inevitable when you're saying or doing something that's so completely silly. I think I might want to say that Judy broke the most. I think it was Judy. She's so fun and so funny. She would just let loose, but there were times I think that the absurdity of the moment got to her. And she would ... I wouldn't say ruin the takes, that's not the best connotation. But if you break, it means that something good is happening, or something funny is happening usually.
I mentioned earlier that you're no stranger to horror and I Know What You Did Last Summer was a breakout hit for you in 1997. Now that Amazon Prime is adapting the original novel into a TV show, were you hoping you could drop by for a cameo, just to give a wave to the new generation of stars to pass the torch or is it more that you've done your time and you're happy to let a new generation take over?
I think it's a mix of both. I'd be open to doing a cameo in something like that. I love the project, and I love the fact that it's held up over time and it still gets a new audience. Every couple of years, people are discovering it in different ways, and all of us original cast members are very much in support of this Amazon series.
I've heard the new cast is really great, and I can't wait to watch it. We've contributed a little bit from a publicity standpoint, to support the series. It does make you feel a little bit like a dinosaur, the fact that they're remaking projects that you were in. It's like, "God, how old am I?" I heard, also, Amazon's doing a Cruel Intentions series. So I guess they're just going to go through my catalog and make shows on [my old movies]. It's cool, man. It's exciting. It means that you made something that mattered to people and that they still want to revisit, and that's a compliment.
At least with MacGruber, you were involved with that movie getting turned into a TV series.
Yeah, and we had the best time shooting that. We just finished about a month ago, and it's hilarious. Will and Kristen (Wiig) are two of the best people to work with and two of the funniest people on the planet. That's just the case where, you go to work, and you're literally laughing all day. You can't believe you're being paid to be there sometimes. So I'm excited for people to see that, and it's going to come out around Christmas, and hopefully we get to make more.
Lady of the Manor is currently available to rent On Demand and hits Blu-ray and DVD on September 21st.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.