by Cezar Greif
AUGUSTMAN 2017

In the fast-paced world of Hollywood, Justin Theroux stands out. For starters, he doesn’t mind being called “Mr. Jennifer Aniston,” his wife since 2015. Then there is the general demeanour. When he pulled up in his black Mercedes at our shoot location north of Los Angeles on a cloudy day, there was no high pretence. Just an actor ready to get to work (he even confessed later that “I don’t call a photoshoot real work”). Contrary to many other stars, he was agreeable to drive himself an hour out of the city for the sake of the shoot.

And despite being in his mid-40s, he’s able to convincingly dress like someone in his 20s — perfectly fit, wearing black denim with combat boots. One of the few actors who is also a top Hollywood screenwriter, he seems to be at ease in any situation, whether talking to the media, mingling with other celebs, buying groceries at the supermarket or facing paparazzi. With screenwriting credits like Iron Man 2Zoolander 2 and Rock of Ages, as well as important roles in Girl On The Train and Mulholland Drive, Justin Theroux is a major player in the film industry. Not to mention his new foray into television, with a leading man part in the critically acclaimed HBO series The Leftovers. We sat down with him to find out if there was anything that could rattle his lock.

Did you play a lot of Lego growing up?

I didn’t play that much Lego. I had friends who played Lego. There was something frustrating about the geometry of Lego. But I did like the fact that you didn’t have to follow the box instructions, which I was never good at. I couldn’t do model kits. But if I was given a random assortment of Legos, I could make something fun.

You’re in the upcoming The Lego Ninjago movie. Tell me about that. Have you seen the other Lego movies?

It’s pretty cool. I just saw a rough cut of it. All of these movies have these insane elaborate worlds. This one I feel is “elaborate multiplied by 10.” It’s such a hodge-podge of not only locations, but also cultures. It’s like kiddie Blade Runner in a way. You don’t know if you’re in LA, or somewhere in Asia. It’s really cool. They get incredible writers and directors to do these movies.

I know for the Batman Lego Movie with Will Arnett voicing Batman, they leave a lot of room open for improvisation. The jokes are baked in the script, but they let you riff on top of it. The writers are great, I don’t want to take anything away from them. But occasionally in the recording room, you stumble upon something and then build don it.

Going back on your career, this time as a writer, how do you reflect on Tropic Thunder a few years removed from when it was released?

Ben [Stiller] had a really good idea for that movie and we developed it together and kept working on it. We worked on it for a really long time. It wasn’t a movie that we wrote in a year. It was an eight-or-nine-year process, sending it back and forth, waiting for it to get greenlit, etc. We worked on it all the way up until we shot the last frame so we were constantly editing, tweaking and perfecting it. It was one of the last great higher budget R-rated comedies that you don’t get to make any more.

There are no films like that any more.

Ben really went for scope. He wanted it to look like a Vietnam war epic. The locations weren’t in Vietnam, but they looked authentic. We were in the jungle. Often with comedies, they want to make them smaller and film them in cities in California or New York, but we went all the way to Kauai (in Hawaii) and shot it there. The look was incredible. The explosions and helicopters were real. There was no cheating.

You even made Tom Cruise look cool.

He’s cool, man. He really went for it. He obviously does what he does very well, which is his Mission Impossible movies, Jack Reacher, etc. But sometimes he’s willing to go for a big broad character. And I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe he would say those words. He had some vile lines that he totally embraced and really loved. (laughs)

Tell me about Zoolander 2. There’s some serious fashion knowledge in there.

We went deep on it. We actually went to Paris and did a ton of research. We went to different fashion shows and talked to Anna Wintour, Valentino and a lot of the fashion houses. It also has to do with the costume design, and our costume designer was fabulous. We tried to be as absurdly authentic as possible.

Was there a different direction compared to the first movie?

We had to take into account that there was such a long period of time between the two movies. We knew our models Derek and Hansel were obviously going to be a lot older so we ran with that. We knew the fashion world had changed so much in the period of time we hadn’t been with them. There was barely the Internet and no social media when the first Zoolander happened. It was a stranger, newer world to them. They were out for such a long time and there was a lot to take into account.

Your current TV show The Leftovers has a lot of fans in Europe and Asia. How do you feel about the show going into final season?

It’s going to develop similarly to the way it developed between the first and second season — obviously there’s an ending to it now. I don’t want to give away what that ending looks like, but it stays very true to the kind of storytelling we did in the first two seasons.

There is another big geographical change. We go from New York in the first season to Austin, Texas in the second. Now we are in Australia for the third. So it’s this weird tryptic — this jewel box of storytelling that I think is very satisfying.

We heard that fans are organising a campaign to renew it for another season. Are you aware of their enthusiasm?

I’ve heard about that. That’s not going to happen. It’s not the kind of show that wants to have a fourth or fifth season. Everyone knew this, even the creators. There’s only so much grief and sadness an audience can take. Our show has a monopoly on these kinds of emotion. It’s not like Game of Thrones where you can keep telling this epic story. And while it’s a smaller story than that, it still deals with very big issues.

I read in an old GQ story that you were not more famous “by design.”

My friend Damian said that. I think he’s right. I’ve never put pressure on myself to get leading man parts, or action star parts, or parts that might do better for me financially. I’ve always chosen my parts, asking myself, “Do I really want to do this?” And sometimes there are smaller parts that are better, and I find myself doing those instead of bigger parts that I wouldn’t have as much fun doing.

What are your future plans? I read that you might be doing a Space Invaders or an Air Guitar movie?

These were in development but they did not pan out. There are a few comedy ideas I’m working at, and I want to focus on those. I’m in this period where I’m developing those things and trying to get those off the ground. I have a couple of other scripts that are ready to go.

What is your relationship with the public and paparazzi? I read that you wish you could walk around NYC with your wife.

You have a slightly different relationship with the public. You’re a little more guarded but you walk around when you can. I guess it’s a luxury problem.

When it first happens you get shocked, but as the years go on, you don’t pay attention to it. It does get a little bothersome when you’re trying to have a quiet day out.

So when you’re at the supermarket, you never turn your head towards the area where all the tabloids are.

(laughs) No, I don’t. I try to stay focused. (more laughs) Occasionally, I’ll walk by something I cannot miss, but I usually don’t read the headlines.

You wear a lot of black. Is there a specific reason for that?

It started in my teens and has to do with my punk roots. But it’s also because you only have to do one load of laundry. (laughs)

I like that answer.

It’s true. When I had less money, I’d want to wash everything in one go. I think it’s just simpler. It’s not anything mysterious. It’s not because I’m depressed, brooding or anything like that. I think a lot of people, myself included, adopt a uniform early on that they like. It pretty much hasn’t changed since I was a kid. Combat boots, a pair of black jeans, an old T-shirt, a leather jacket — I’ve been wearing these for about 30 years.

We love some of your looks where you wear a colour T-shirt with everything else in black. It seems you have a vintage collection. How did this start?

T-shirts are the one thing that I will spend money on if I do shop. It’s not an expensive habit but I go to great lengths to find the T-shirts that I want. If there’s a missing T-shirt in my collection, or something that I lost in my 20s, I’ll try to find it again. I have a pretty deep selection. It’s not exclusively vintage. I also have some new shirts and a couple of graphic design ones. Sometimes it’s just a blank T-shirt that fits perfectly. Perfect texture and perfectly soft. Occasionally I’ll splash out and get an expensive T-shirt that’s hard to find.

We see you often wear black leather riders with a skull on the chest. Which brand is this?

There’s one I have with a little skull button on it.

Yes, that one.

It’s from a place called The Jean Shop in New York. They perfected this incredible way of curing leather. I think it’s washed sheepskin or something. They shrink it. Then they stitch it and wax the jacket. It’s just perfect. It’s hard but soft, too. It felt pretty broken in the moment I got it.

You have a lot of black denims. No blues?

Rarely. I don’t love blue denim. It has to be a really perfect pair for me to wear it. I love the pair I was wearing today. It is a pair of All Saints denim. I don’t love the really hard Japanese denim. I want a little stretch in them.

You also like military-style fashion. What’s your inspiration for this type of look?

That comes out of my taste in music. That was my uniform when I was 13 or 14. Get a pair of Vietnam War-era combat boots at the Salvation Army and wear them to the ground. If they broke, I patched or resoled them. I still only have two pairs of military boots, which are incredible.

Let’s talk about vehicles. What kind of motorcycle do you like?

It’s a toss up — if I want to go fast and get around, I’ll go with Ducati. If I want more comfort, I’ll go with a BMW.

How many motorcycles do you have in your garage and when did you start riding them?

At the moment I have four motorcycles. I started really young. I was eight or nine when I rode my first motorcycle. It was a dirt bike.

Then I started using them as commuter bikes at around the age of 19. That’s when I bought my first bike, which was an old Honda.

Where was the most impressive motorcycle trip for you?

It was on a Ducati. I went to the Ducati factory in Bologna and picked up a motorcycle there. I went from Bologna to Lake Como and then all the way up to Switzerland, the Alps and then Germany. I went all over Germany and then cut west into France. It was great.

There’s an old road called the Route Napoleon from Grenoble to Nice. That’s the actual route Napoleon took with his army 200 years ago. That stretch of road was probably the most beautiful road that I’ve ever been on in my entire life. It’s fabulous but too short. I wished it was longer. You complete that, and you want to turn around and go right back to ride the same road again.

What about bicycles? You ride them a lot too.

I don’t ride them in LA. But in New York, I like using them to get around. It’s faster than a taxi and the subway. It’s just convenient. I’ve always been pretty active in New York, either on a skateboard or a bicycle.

You’re in great shape. We’re the same age, so I know how much work it takes.

I go to the gym. But when I’m in New York, it’s a very active lifestyle. You’re constantly out and walking a couple of miles a day, whether you know it or not.

Almost any city outside of LA is like that.

Yes. London, Paris and Tokyo too. A walking city is a good city. LA is quite poorly designed. You have to go to the gym if you want to keep fit.

Do you have anything you don’t eat?

I don’t eat sugar. I’m pretty good about that. It’s been a while. If it’s a really special occasion, I’ll have some sugar.

Sugar-less breakfast?

No sugar, period. I was never a dessert nut. But I was just in Paris recently and I went to this fantastic restaurant with a nine-course menu. Of course there was a dessert at the end. I wasn’t going to eat nine courses and not have dessert. But it was a small one.

How do you take care of your skin?

Occasionally, I’ll do a mask. From what I hear, all the best skin treatments are coming out of Korea. Stem-cell treatments and the like.

I’m not bad to my skin, but I’m not one of those people who are religious about washing their face in the morning or the afternoon. After I shower, I put on moisturiser and throw a little cream on. At night, I’ll do whatever is the easiest routine. That’s pretty much it.

How would you define the California lifestyle? Would you describe your lifestyle like that?

No, I wouldn’t. I neither surf nor go to the beach. I don’t like to swim in natural bodies of water. I don’t even know what Californian Lifestyle really means. I’m a little too high strung, too much of a New Yorker. In business, I’m a little more anal than Californians. (laughs)

Could you tell us something most people don’t know about you?

I worked for a circus in Tokyo, Japan when I was 19. I had a friend, a Japanese kid named Jun, who I went to school with. He was going to Tokyo one summer, and said, “Why don’t you come with me?” So I went with him and stayed there three months.

We lived in Meguro, a ward in Tokyo. The circus happened to be in town and I lucked out. I got a job selling snowcones and toys to the kids who would come. It was an amazing experience.

Tokyo is one of my favourite cities. It’s a perfect mix of chaos and order. I love how efficient and clean it is. The food is incredible too. It’s a very high-functioning city. I like New York for the opposite reason, because it’s a bit more gritty. But Tokyo is a fabulous city to live in.