Before Justin Theroux Was Mr. Jennifer Aniston

by Annette Bourdeau


Remember when Justin Theroux wasn't just known as Mr. Jennifer Aniston? Pre-America's Sweetheart, Theroux was quietly celebrated for his roles in movies and TV shows that have gone on to become cult classics, from "Zoolander" to "American Psycho." Now, of course, he's most frequently seen showcasing a variety of fedoras in paparazzi shots alongside Ms. Aniston. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

This week marks the release of "Wanderlust," the movie that brought Theroux and Aniston together in the first place. Aniston and Paul Rudd play uptight city slickers who stumble upon a wacky hippy commune. Theroux plays Seth, a heavily bearded commune resident with long, greasy locks. Crazy antics ensue.

We recently saw Theroux sporting long hair on the big screen in "Your Highness." While the medieval stoner flick was universally panned, Theroux was quite good as the diabolical bad guy. It takes a strong actor to be able to pull off a ridiculous long, silver hairdo like that, but Theroux managed.

Even though he largely flew under the radar before hooking up with Aniston, he's been involved in some enormous projects. He's written blockbusters like "Iron Man 2" and "Tropic Thunder," as well as the screenplay for the blockbuster-to-be "Rock of Ages."

But it's his smaller-scale projects that stand out the most in my memory, like his stint as Leslie Knope's too-good-to-be-true boyfriend Justin on "Parks & Recreation." In a totally random coincidence, pre-Aniston Theroux is actually in the episode where Leslie expresses sympathy for Jennifer Aniston's love life, solemnly advising, "Oh, Jen. I just want you to be happy. Stay away from John Mayer." Who knew her guest star would prove to be a suitable Aniston suitor just one year later?

Random moments aside, I've compiled a list of my own top 5 favorite Theroux roles -- from film and television alike.

1. Adam Kesher in "Mulholland Dr." Theroux was perfect as a sleazy Hollywood type in this dark David Lynch flick. While "Mulholland Dr." is mostly known as the movie that launched Naomi Watts' career, Theroux more than held his own against the powerhouse performances by Watts and Laura Harring. No easy feat. I can't imagine anyone else in his role.

2. Timothy Bryce in "American Psycho." Do you think Timothy could get a reservation at Dorsia? Probably. Theroux is slick, suave and perfectly coiffed as one of Patrick Bateman's shallow, greedy Wall Street buddies.

3. Joe on "Six Feet Under." Did you hate Joe at first? Even though he was nice and charming and perfect, it just seemed wrong to see Brenda with anyone other than Nate. But Joe really grew on you after a while, to the point where I was actually rooting for him and Brenda -- not Nate.

4. The Cowboy in "Romy & Michele's High School Reunion." Before he found fedoras, Theroux rocked a mean cowboy hat as the mysterious cool guy in "Romy & Michele." Oh, how he tormented poor Janeane Garofalo, cruelly tossing her his discarded cigarette butts when she asked for a light.

5. Jared on "Sex & the City." I don't know whether it's a compliment or a slight to be cast as two different characters on the same show. The case for the latter, of course, being that you're so non-descript and un-memorable that nobody would say "Hey, but he played Jared!" when Theroux returned as author Vaughn in a later episode. Either way, my favorite Theroux "SATC" character is Jared, because he heroically swept in and rescued Carrie's crushed confidence by hitting on her at a party after Big made her feel less-than.




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