by Dave Cuozzo
EAGLE ONLINE 2001

No movie is currently arousing as much curiosity as David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Complex and odd, Lynch’s film is one of brilliance. Its sensual tone and out-of-control mystery story have inspired heated debate amongst those who have seen it.

The film also features an array of new faces. Naomi Watts and Laura Harring lead the cast and with new offers pending are expected to be seen a lot more in the future. But what about Justin Theroux, the young actor who plays the film’s enigmatic and self-gratifying director? Theroux recently sat down to roll his own cigarettes and discuss Mulholland Drive and his future.

Theroux is more a stage actor than a film actor. He’s done many plays in New York City, but could not help taking a trip down Mulholland Drive.

“It was David, you know, I expected someone really strange like his movies,” Theroux said, “but really, he’s a great guy, really sweet.”

When one asks Theroux to shed some light on the film, he grins. “I think it’s really a film about Hollywood,” he says. “I really don’t like Hollywood. I’m more of a New York person. But a lot of people come to Hollywood like Naomi’s character, ready to pursue their dreams and then… it’s not what they thought. I think the film is about that, the unreal part of Hollywood that people don’t see.”

One of the more puzzling, least-Hollywood-esque casting choices in the film was former country star Billy Ray Cyrus as the pool boy sleeping with Theroux’s wife.

“Billy was great,” Theroux said. “David had no idea who he was when he came in to audition. On the set, everyone would hum ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ when [Cyrus] wasn’t around. But really, he was great. He even gathered everyone around at the end to give a big speech thanking everyone.”

Some critics and viewers have speculated that Theroux’s Mulholland character was based on Steven Soderbergh, who recently won his first Oscar for directing Traffic. Theroux bears a striking resemblance to the decorated director. In the film, Theroux’s black hair is spiked like Soderbergh and the slightly tinted black glasses make him a dead ringer.

Theroux, however, contends that any resemblance is coincidence. “You know, I’ve been asked that a few times and I’m surprised,” he said. “We never went for that effect. David never mentioned it. These glasses are actually mine. David just liked them so much that he said to keep them on. But the character is not based on Steven as far as I know.”

Throughout the interview, Theroux rolls his own cigarettes. “I just did it back in high school and in New York,” he explains. “It’s cheaper than buying them and it really tastes better. It’s a shame not as many people do it anymore.”

Theroux plans to return to New York soon to take a role in a stage production, though he isn’t certain which one, yet. Mulholland Drive is currently in theaters.