David Lynch described Justin Theroux, star of Mulholland Drive, as a “great guy [with] so many great characters in him.” In a lavish presidential suite at the Rittenhouse Hotel, TN talked with this `great guy’ about Lynch, the film and his success.
Q: Prior to this [Mulholland Drive] were you a David Lynch fan or admirer of his work?
A: I was an admirer of his work but wouldn’t classify myself as a Lynchian. Once I got the job, I revisited his work. I watched his movies and got an idea for what he was going for. I [felt that] I needed a re-education of his films to work with him.
Q: A lot of your scenes are very lively and energetic. How much did [Lynch] let you improvise?
A: He’s all for accidents, not improvisation. He loves when things happen naturally. I like to work that way, too. I’m not a big improviser. It could get ugly. He thinks long and hard about things. Very superstitious. All about good omen and bad omens. [It is a] fun environment to work in.
Q: In the past, you’ve been involved in guest starring roles on shows like Sex in the City, Spin City and Ally McBeal, and also acted in several films. Do you have any particular favorites?
A: If it’s a project I believe in, I don’t care how small the part is or whatever. If I think it’s a valuable thing to do, I’ll do it. TV stuff is just never as fun as you want it to be. You’re an actor, you do things to survive and get by. You have to. I’m not a believer in overnight success. [Acting] is more of a blue-collar lifestyle than I thought it would be. You take the roles that are given to you. You don’t get to choose.
Q: Did you enjoy the movie?
A: Yeah, I did. The whole movie confused me [however], until I saw it a couple of times.
Q: What parts of the script were problematic for you?
A: I read the script which is not much different from what’s there [on screen]. I was basically an audience member having to play a part and David was not forthcoming [with information], [which] was a real service to [me]. If David had explained everything, I would have probably lost some of the interest in [acting]. It’s a beautiful thing.
Q: How did you come across this part?
A: I was told to be put on tape for David Lynch. He doesn’t audition his talent, they just ask questions [like] where are you from, what do you read, where’d you go to college. A month and a half later I got a call that David wanted to meet me. [David and I] sat around and talked, had coffee. [We didn’t] talk about the film. [Instead], we talked about his photographs, his paintings, art in general. Then he offered me the role which was a big shock.
Q: At what point in the filming did you realize that it was going to be a movie and not a television show?
A: We didn’t realize it at all. I was completely pessimistic and was sure that we weren’t going to be picked up. I was correct. The quality [of the film] was getting too good. They [ABC] went young and canned us.
Q: The film is very self-reflexive on the movie-making process. How did your previous experiences help you prepare for your role as Adam, a young director?
A: My first question to David was ‘David is this guy an extension of yourself in any way?’ He said ‘No. No. No. Absolutely not.’ I basically invented my own back story. I came to the conclusion that Adam was probably a NYU brat [who] made one good film and was quickly sucked into the Hollywood system. He then sold himself out as quickly as possible for money, prestige and power. It [was] fun playing the guy crumbling once he realizes [what] little power he does have.
Q: David Lynch loves for everyone to walk out of the theater with a different interpretation. What is your take on the film?
A: The film, if you’re a cynic, has so many meaningless scenes. But David, he’s a Jungian, he employs those symbols to create mood. There is a story line there. David [just] uses other things to tell the story. I think it’s a story about a weak-minded girl’s fantasy on what Hollywood really is.