Sex symbol with brawns and brains

Sex symbol with brawns and brains
Justin Theroux and Jennifer Aniston arrive at season premiere of HBO's "The Leftovers" in New York.

Justin Theroux had, until recently, a solid if low-key Hollywood career, making a name for himself as a character actor, successful screenwriter and, in a drama scripted by the tabloids, Mr Jennifer Aniston-in- waiting.

But as he heads the cast of the new existential series The Leftovers, which is airing in Singapore, he is fast emerging as a full-fledged leading man and sex symbol.

The 42-year-old may be in a spot of denial about this, however, as Life! found out in an interview with him last week about his show.

He arrives at the press event looking every inch the star in his sharply tailored suit and skinny tie, but with not an ounce of "I'm a celebrity'' attitude as he chats and jokes, warmly and earnestly, with reporters.

Asked if he feels there has been a trade-off in taking centre stage and the actor hems and haws politely as he downplays his position in the cast - despite the fact that his is the only face (and chiselled torso) to be seen on the promotional poster.

"I always think about things from just a character perspective and I try not the judge the size of the role. I always think of it as a character piece," he says of playing Kevin Garvey, a police chief in a small town that is one of many communities dealing with the "Sudden Departure", or inexplicable disappearance of 2 per cent of the world's population three years ago.

"With The Leftovers, I think of it as essentially an ensemble. Even though I was the first one cast, when the rest came on, I was relieved to be able to distribute the weight across, especially when you have such talented other actors," he says of co-stars such as Amy Brenneman, Liv Tyler and Christopher Eccleston.

"And the minute you start thinking about it in terms of 'This is a leading- man part', you start making dumb decisions. The expectations somehow become different. And some of my favourite performances always feel like character parts as opposed to starring parts."

Yet expectations of Theroux are undeniably different these days.

Starring roles in two of David Lynch's most acclaimed independent films - the 2001 postmodern film noir and psychological thriller Mulholland Drive and the 2006 mystery Inland Empire - established his indie credentials early on.

But he would juxtapose this with a string of character-actor parts in comedies big and small, including the 2003 blockbuster Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, in which he played the villain Seamus O'Grady in a hilarious send-up of Robert De Niro's 1991 turn in Cape Fear; and bombs such as Your Highness (2011) and Wanderlust (2012).

Aniston was his co-star in the latter, and the two began dating shortly afterwards and got engaged in late 2012. With Aniston's fame from her long-running stint on the sitcom Friends (1994-2004) - and notoriety from a divorce from movie star Brad Pitt - their relationship has been the subject of endless "will he ever marry her?" type speculation ever since.

This has often overshadowed Theroux's other accomplishments, which include several well-received stints as a screenwriter. Hailing from a family of well-known writers and journalists - he is the nephew of novelist Paul Theroux, and cousin of British documentary maker Louis Theroux - he penned the script for the Marvel comics blockbuster Iron Man 2, one of the top-earning films of 2010, as well as co-wrote the action spoof Tropic Thunder (2008).

But whereas other celebrities often complain about tabloid scrutiny in terms of a loss of privacy or feeling unsafe, Theroux's critique is mainly literary.

In an article in last month's Elle magazine, he is quoted as saying, of the celebrity press: "I can't get over how terrible the narrative is, just how poorly written it is… It's so dramatic. Like, 'They've broken up, they're together, they're storming out, storming in, rushing out, rushing in.' They make every celebrity look like a schizophrenic."

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