Interview: Your Highness star Justin Theroux!
Justin Theroux is a talented guy. As a screenwriter, he has given us TROPIC THUNDER and IRON MAN 2. As an actor, the man has appeared in a number of films including AMERICAN PSYCHO, MULHOLLAND DR., INLAND EMPIRE, CHARLIEíS ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE and he currently is stealing a few scenes as the baddie in YOUR HIGHNESS.
YOUR HIGHNESS is a comedy written by Danny McBride & Ben Best and directed by David Gordon Green. Justinís take as the resident villain Leezar is a fantastic, truly hilarious performance, and it only adds to the fun that McBride and co-stars Natalie Portman and James Franco bring to the table. This is a funny as f*ck flick.
JoBlo.com recently had the chance to talk with Justin who excitingly enough, proved to be a fan of the site. It was only fair, as I personally am a fan of the actor, particularly his work on the HBO series ďSix Feet UnderĒ. He certainly proved to be a fantastic interview, due to the fact that he is an incredibly nice guy. He talked about how f*cking funny Your Highness is, and a little about who inspired Leezar. And for ZOOLANDER fans, the sequel is discussed.
This weekend, make sure you check out Mr. Theroux and crew in YOUR HIGHNESS.
You really should keep the hair-do youíve got goin in this flick.
Iím tryiní dude, I mean, Iíve got so much hair falling out, but if possible Iím gonna keep the f*ckiní dream alive.
How the hell did you get involved with this production?
Look, I have no idea how I got involved. I was very, very lucky. But I think it was because I worked with Danny (McBride) on Tropic Thunder and I knew David (Gordon Green). There was a thing years ago that me and David wanted to do together that just never came to fruition. I literally got this call completely out of the blue, they were like, ĎHey, would you be interested in doing this thing?í and I was like ĎYeah, you f*cking kidding me?í and so they sent me this script, I read it and I immediately got the joke. So I was ecstatic to do it, like super stoked.
What kind of research did you do? Did you watch EXCALIBUR or things of that nature? Danny had mentioned BEASTMASTERÖ
Yeah, like them I did all the research just by sneaking into movies when I was fourteen, you know what I mean. I was a huge fan of the fantasy genre, of TIME BANDITS, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, KRULL and LABYRINTH and NEVER ENDING STORY, all those kinds of movies. So I knew exactly what the joke was when I was reading it. And then when we got in I had the luxury of trying to create this guy, so we literally just kind of Ė you know, I had been watching a bunch of stuff, I had been watching other great baddies like Gary Oldman in BRAM STOKERíS DRACULA and all those others. Basically, we stole the hair from Gary Oldman in Dracula, we stole the teeth from Willem Dafoe in WILD AT HEART, we stole the make-up from David Bowie in LABYRINTH, and we stole the acting style from Nicol Williamson in EXCALIBUR, the guy who played Merlin. I just remember he was so over serious. He had this delivery that kind of made me laugh so hard when you are watching it with a comedic, you knowÖ
I just sort of stole that performance style, over serious, dead eyed, and then voilŗ, we have Leezar. [Laughing]
Danny and I had talked a little about this, but lately there seems to be a resurgence of ďstoner comedyĒ lately.
Why do you think that is?
Listen, movies and weed have been linked for as long as movies have been made and weed has been available. So I think thatÖ I donít know why that is, I think its fun, itís a good time. Look, itís not CITIZEN KANE, we are not trying to make that but there is something really funny about that. There is something funny about putting, just in speaking generally, there is something really funny about putting contemporary parlance and habits inside a period piece. Weíre not doing anything new there, they did it in LIFE OF BRIAN, they done it withÖ you know, Dannyís particular style of humor is such blunt instrument comedy. Itís really funny and particular to his voice, so I havenít seen a movie like this one, ever. There is a certain charisma to Dannyís writing and to Ben Bestís writing that comes off well in this movie. Itís not everyoneís cup of tea, but I really find it super funny. This film was a gift that came from the heavens.
How comfortable were you with getting into the improvisation that was involved?
Iím very comfortable with it if the materialís good. I think itís almost like Danny gives his script short shrift, he is a really funny writer. I think all good comedies, in particular, if the script is tight and good itís only giving the actors a higher platform to do their acrobatics off of. Thatís what is so great about this script is that it was already really funny so it doesnít take too much special sauce to make it even funnier. Itís become sort of a weird past time in comedies to be like, ĎYeah, we improvised the whole thingí but the bedrock of this script was really good and tight. And there was a good story believe it or not. I believe that even if you strip the comedy away from this movie youíd still have a really great quest movie.
So in that sense, the comedy is just the gravy. There is super funny shit in this, itís just a really fun run, you know.
I really appreciated how you mentioned ďspecial sauceĒ by the wayÖ [Laughing]
It seems really fitting for this movie.
Yeah, totally! [Laughing]
I also found your character so likable, even though he is a villain. Heís identifiable. He is so dysfunctional. All good villains, if you are talking about real actors like De Niro or whatever, when they are doing really good villains you actually know what their damage is. Me and David had a very serious discussion about it, like whatís his damage, you know. What made him go dark? And the bottom line is, David added that he is nineteen-years-old, which is true [Laughing], heís a virgin and heís been raised by three offensively horrible women, and he is being asked to lose his virginity essentially during an eclipse in front of his ďmothersĒ on a platform with a really hot girl. So dysfunction starts to become more clear as he is highly dysfunctional. And as a villain, itís a weird trajectory because he goes from weirdly being confidant when you first see him to really more and more neurotic as the movie goes on.
Itís kind of like the bullies in high school because they are all badass until you get them alone.
Yeah, exactly, then you realize, oh, your dad used to kick your ass and you have a horrible lifeÖ thatís what makes the villain in ďThe SimpsonsĒ great, the bully in ďThe Simpsons,Ē he lives with a drunk single mom and his dad left him. Youíre like, oh I get why he is trying to beat up everyone else.
You sort of feel bad for him.
There is a real truth to that.
Absolutely, absolutelyÖ itís a way to approach a villain, what is the damage. Even in a big broad comedy Ė I donít wanna get too serious, but you have to come from a real place. You have to be grounded in a real dysfunction. Otherwise itís just a guy ripping peopleís arms off and itís not very interesting.
What is it about this particular brand of comedy that drives you to it as an actor and as a writer?
Itís Danny and David really, because in less capable hands - anyone can be sort of gross and make sort of racy jokes - weíve all seen that not be funny. Danny and David have a very particular style or alchemy when they work together that it somehow becomes forgivable and very funny. Danny can say horrible shit and it just makes you laugh and itís usually because it is coming from a very grounded performance place. And David, just when he gets back to the lab and the editing room and is mixing it down, it stays true to the story and the arch of the characters. What I love about it is a particular style of blunt force comedy thatÖ itís a weird thing, a lot of writers will go right up to the line and then theyíll use three lines to get to the punchline, and then maybe theyíll drop a pun or something. Danny walks right up to the line and just punches it in the face with his comedy. He just says the word that most people would take five lines to get to. He just goes up and says, ĎI think youíre a whore and a slut and a witch.í And you love him for it because he is so honest.
Aside from the humor, this is also a pretty impressive looking movie especially coming from this kind of comedy.
Yeah! Comedies donít get to spend this much money usually. Iíve been lucky, Iíve had two, with TROPIC THUNDER we were able to have a good budget and with this we had a good budget. Iím a big fan of the action comedy. Itís a genre that you donít get to see a lot. Nowadays they just stick people in cars and have them drive cross-country or they sort of make their jokes in living rooms in the Valley. I love it when you can really blow shit up and do all the things that a BOURNE IDENTITY or a war movie or a fantasy movie gets to do, and have the jokes within that. Itís a tradition that, unfortunately because it is tightened budgets and stuff, you donít get to do that often. Iíve been very lucky to have been able to do it twice.
Thatís true, nobody wants to take risks right now, but a film like this is a risk. Yeah! Itís a risk! But I believe it will pay dividends, I have a strong belief in this movie. The truth is, we could all follow box office weekend and things like that, but all the inequities will be sorted out once ten years have passed, and then you see what the reaction of the movie is. The first ZOOLANDER died to death, partly because it was opened a week after September 11th or whatever, but it was not a box office success. But you ask anyone on the street what they think of ZOOLANDER and itís usually in the top five or ten when it comes to comedies. You need perspective before you know youíve made something special.
When you write a script, how much of your acting comes into play?
I think it always comes into play because dialogue and things like that, which is really the core of it, dialogueís are lyrics and if you can hear the musicality of language - or if you appreciate the musicality of language I should say Ė Iím constantly reading my scripts back to myself and playing all the characters. I know what itís like to get a script that doesnít have any flow in it so when you are writing, you are basically wanting to create something that has a kind of rhythm to it that is speak-able, because at the end of the day itís not going to be something on the page, it is going to be something that is coming from someoneís mouth. So for me, I have to be able to say it loud myself and make sense of it before I can hand it off to someone. Thatís where my acting comes into play. When Iím at the computer, I can be both the actor and the screenwriter at the same time.
What can you tell about the script for the ZOOLANDER sequel?
Iím not gonna say anything about the script aside from the fact that me and Ben worked really hard on it and we are really happy with it. Weíre excited for it to get running. Hopefully whenever that happens, itíll happen. I think it is a super funny script so weíve done our due diligence to the fans and written something funny and hopefully weíll get to make a great movie.
Now after seeing YOUR HIGHNESS, I have to add that I really think this could be a hit.
I do too man. Everyone is all scared, but to me, Iím like, this is a funny f*cking movie. Itís a really funny movie. And I would like to believe, and I still do, that funny movies will do well. I think that hopefully it will be one of those that has legs and itíll stay in the theatres by word of mouth. Look, Iíve been able to go through this entire press process and look everybody that has sat down in front of me in the eye and go, ĎNo, for realÖ this movie is f*cking funny! And if you donít think it is funny, then youíve got something wrong!í I consider myself a professional in the field and this is a really funny movie, and if you are not getting it, itís on you. [Laughing] I mean, look, Iím not a big fan of jazz music and I realize that is my problem, but not all of jazzí problem. Iíll tell you something, as someone who considers themselves slightly an expert, this is a really funny movie and I hope people enjoy it.