by Liz Smith

“The problem with so much entertainment today — movies and TV — is that the audience has lost the ability to contemplate the pause, and so often, everything is in the pause.”

That’s actor Justin Theroux musing on the fast-paced, quick-cut, limited attention span of today’s film fans. Of course, Theroux, who made a tremendous impression on this season’s final two episodes of HBO’s Six Feet Under, is co-starring in one of the year’s fastest-paced, jump-cut movies, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. (There are no pauses in this movie, believe me!)

Justin plays the bad-to-the-bone ex-boyfriend of Drew Barrymore who teams up with cast-out angel Demi Moore to take down Drew, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu. He’s nasty, but sexy. In the movie, Justin displays a “six-pack” stomach off which you can bounce a dime. How did he do it? “Fish, morning, noon and night. Nothing but fish and water and endless training. Now I’m free!” (He still looks pretty ripped, though he sheepishly admits he’s back to burgers and other cuisine sins.)

Of his experience on the film, Justin says he came away full of admiration for all his fellow players, particularly Barrymore, who functions as actress and producer. “The only way I can describe her attitude is — fluid. She was so centered and graceful in juggling her roles. And she knows her business — and everybody else’s — better than most directors who’ve been in the business 20 years. But she doesn’t hit you over the head with it. You always forget because she’s still so young.”

What was the difference between working on a mammoth project like C.A. as opposed to the smaller films, such as Mulholland Drive and I Shot Andy Warhol, that he’s used to? “Well, here they come to you and say, ‘You can choose between these six machine guns and six hatchets,’ whereas on an indie it’s like, ‘here’s your hatchet and I hope you brought something to wear!’ This luxury was a shock to the system, and not unpleasant at all.”

Justin arrived for our chat at Cafe Dante on MacDougal Street riding a motorcycle. He rolled his own cigarettes. He was utterly unaffected. Is he prepared to be a big star? “I don’t know. I want the kind of success that gets me the work I want to do. I want to be the man people might stop on the street and say, ‘Oh, you’re that guy… You were in such and such and you were good.’ That’s where the satisfaction is. It’s OK if they don’t know my name.”