by Tiffany N. D’Emidio
ECLIPSE MAGAZINE 2001

Writer/Director David Lynch, who is best known for such off-beat, cult classics like Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, is back in action, in his latest homage to film noir, or maybe just film weirdness, Mulholland Drive.

Love, deceit, a mysterious wad of money and the fantasyland of Hollywood make up this complex tale played out by a talented ensemble cast, created in the innovative and somewhat surreal mind of David Lynch.

We recently sat down with cast member Justin Theroux to talk about what it was like working with David Lynch, and the lowdown on Mulholland Drive. For those that don’t know, Justin Theroux is best known as Ben Stiller’s writing partner.

What was your experience working with David Lynch?

It was wonderful working with David. I had never met David or seen David, didn’t know what he looked like. He was just a calm, centered, wonderful individual. So working with him just was very ordinary, in a very wonderful way, because he’s a very good director, and he’s very good at sort of stripping away all the shit. He was just a very calm guy. I wish I had more stories to tell about how bizarre and strange he was, with llamas on the set, but he was nothing like that. He was a straightforward, great guy.

Were you familiar with his work before you started the movie?

Yeah, I’d seen most of his films before. Yeah, I was very familiar with his work.

What is your take on the movie as a whole?

The movie as a whole? All right, everybody get their coffee, water… [Laughing and sarcastic] Maybe order up some dinner. It’s such a wider thing than what I’m about to say. But if you want to sink into what I think the nuts and bolts of it are… It’s sort of this. It’s sort of a weak-minded woman whose fantasy begins in a fantasyland of a woman who moves to Los Angeles and has this idea that she’s going to sort of give an amazing audition, meet powerful directors, and she’s going to have this amazing career, and she’s going to be discovered. Sort of all the Hollywood cliches that anyone fantasizes about what Hollywood’s going to be like, and it’s sort of a bonus to all of this. She also meets this girl who has amnesia, who has an accident, who gets this little mystery sub-plot. She’s a little Nancy Drew-ish on LSD mystery that she has to unfold. Then, the film takes this very dark turn two-thirds or three-fourths of the way through, where it appears to the viewer that it’s getting weirder. But I actually think it’s getting realer, and it’s just snapping out of fantasy and into reality, which is that she is this weak-minded person who’s very much on the fringe of Hollywood and the dream, and she’s very much on the outskirts of something wonderful. It’s sort of the case in Hollywood.

I know you did some theater work in New York. Do you relate to that Hollywood?

I think it’s cliche. I think it’s not true. I mean, I’ve been in Hollywood, and I’ve met tons of people who sort of believe if they just go to Hollywood and they have no training, no talent, no nothing whatsoever, yet somehow miraculously get discovered, which has happened. Just look at… some who were models before they were actors, which is not to say they aren’t good, but they have the chance to do what they wanted to do, and think that’s the type of person LA attracts. I think the people New York attracts, in contrast, are people who want to be good actors, who wanna be good writers or directors. There’s a kind of genuine nature to New York, a friendliness, a camaraderie. You meet people and they say, “Yeah, I’m an actor,” but if you dig a little deeper, you ask where they studied or what they like to do; there’s no foundation to their statement. It’s like being in Florida and saying you’re an astronaut and it’s just not the case. I’ve never flown a plane, I don’t know how to drive a rocket, so there’s really no reason for me to say it, but LA is a dream place where you can say you’re a screenwriter and someone will believe you. You may not get very far, but yeah.

What drew you to this character?

I would have played a tree stump with David Lynch. The character is great, but David was the draw.

Maybe it’s my interpretation, but I was wondering, watching the movie, was your character based on Steven Soderbergh at all?

I’ve been asked that about one hundred times, I don’t even know what Soderbergh looks like… but no.

He’s the spitting image, he looks just like him with who the character is — a former independent art director who’s now gone more mainstream and doesn’t know who he is. It’s some people’s view of Soderbergh.

Yeah, I don’t know. That’s interesting but the look, I mean… these are my glasses [referring to a pair of glasses sitting on the table]. David just wanted them, and the hair was a result of me just getting off the plane, and they photographed me like that and David said, “I want you exactly the way you looked the first day I saw you.”

So why were you carrying around the golf club?

That is the one thing that David sort of endowed with meaning and backstory.

Go see this film. Whether you’re a fan of David Lynch or not, you will enjoy the twists and turns of this suspense-filled, complex movie.