Author Unknown
THE OBSERVER 2001

“I didn’t anticipate how awful Los Angeles can be,” said 30-year-old actor Justin Theroux, en route to change his address to the brownstone apartment off of Washington Square that he’d just bought. Mr. Theroux had spent the last 10 months in L.A. filming the CBS drama The District, in which he plays a public-relations guy. But since 1990, he’s called New York home.

Coming off a starring role in Mulholland Drive and a minor role as a D.J. in his friend Ben Stiller’s recent movie, Zoolander, Mr. Theroux is now in a position to really plant himself here, he said. “It’s boring to talk about how awful L.A. is. It’s better to talk about how great New York is.”

But true to form for someone who loves New York, Mr. Theroux had a few biting things to say about some of its trendiest neighborhoods. “I’ve lived in every neighborhood,” he said. After a brief stint on the Upper West Side, he moved to a loft on 30th Street between Fifth and Madison avenues.

“That was a hideous apartment,” he said. “[The bathroom] had just a toilet, so I’d have to go shower at this gym which I had to join down the street, where I obviously never worked out. Every day I’d sort of trundle down to the gym with my towel and a toothbrush.”

Before long, he’d scored a sublet on Bleecker Street and Bowery — his favorite New York apartment so far. “It had a bathtub in the kitchen-slash-dining room, but it was really beautiful.” When his roommate decided to “get married and have a baby and all the rest of it,” he had to go.

First, he talked with his friend Philip Seymour Hoffman — they’d done a play together, called Shopping and Fucking, years ago — about buying a building and splitting it in half.

But buying a whole building “turned out to be a headache,” Mr. Theroux said. The two stated looking for their own places — and he went to “every neighborhood below 14th Street,” spending most of the last year (when he could get away from The District) apartment-hunting.

“Soho was prohibitively awful and touristy,” he said. “I think it’s a wrecked neighborhood, ever since they paved over the cobblestones.” Tribeca was worse. “I had to do a sort of lunch date down there,” he said. “And I realized what a nightmare that was. Little Hyannisport,” he dubbed it.

Finally, he found a co-op apartment off Washington Square that he liked. And luckily, the owner, anxious to sell, could be talked down to a price tag “in the 700 range.” “This is my first adult-style place!” Mr. Theroux said. “I couldn’t stop laughing in the closing; it just seemed so absurd that I’d actually be purchasing an apartment.”

The duplex has a big outdoor deck. “It’s about 1,000 square feet… It’s in an 1840s brownstone, and it’s just beautiful: Wood floors, old quirky little pieces of molding — it’s not contemporary at all.”

He’ll have a few months to settle in before things get hectic again; he’s doing a play in Boston, Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme. “It’s a big Irish behemoth about the Irish Ulster Division that was the first division to go over the trenches into France during World War I, and it was sort of a famous slaughter.”

He’s also developing a pilot with Mr. Stiller, a comedy. If it works out, he’d be the star and the show would ideally be shot in New York. Then again, he’s thought that before. “With The District, they had said it was going to be such-and-such a cast, and they were going to shoot in Baltimore or New York,” he said. “And then when they called again, they said it was going to be different actors, in L.A.”

No matter where the work takes him, Mr. Theroux said, he’ll keep his place in the Village. “It’s no secret that L.A. is a good place to go and do a money grab and then come home.”

Brokers said Mr. Hoffman is still looking around intermittently, mostly in Tribeca. Though one lamented: “I don’t think he’s serious.”