By Chris Azzopardi | Q Syndicate
The spy you wouldn’t mind being dumped by
No straight man has ever offered to make me a crop top, but Justin Theroux is no ordinary straight man. If you’ve seen him in all his shirtless, ripped, oiled glory in 2003’s “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” or bore witness to all that was bouncing around in his grey sweatpants in HBO’s “The Leftovers” (I know you saw that; you haven’t “stopped” seeing that), you have likely wished him gay.
The versatile 46-year-old actor is, at least, the closest a straight man can get to being gay, palling around with the new “Queer Eye” posse and portraying a deep well of gay characters during his two-decade career, from Marshall in 2000’s “The Broken Hearts Club” to an assortment of gay Englishmen in numerous New York theater productions. Significant gay cred aside, his acting instincts have resulted in an impressive mix of unpredictable career choices rooted in pathos and humor.
Theroux — imagine if he dumped you; what an honor — is not wearing sweatpants. But my mock disappointment isn’t sweatpants-related; it’s knowing that he made “Queer Eye” guy Jonathan Van Ness a crop top but didn’t bring me one. And do I let Justin Theroux wreck the shirt on my back? I do, right? “I would so do it,” he politely insists. “If you have a T-shirt and a pair of scissors, I’m happy to quickly fashion you one.”
(Chris Azzopardi) Let’s talk about how you invented sweatpants.
(Justin Theroux) (Laughs) I invented the grey sweatpants! I brought them back, I know! You know, I was the one who made a shirt for Jonathan. We were going to gay Pride and he was like, “Fuck, I gotta go out,” and so I made him a shirt. I was like, “I wanna make one of those crop top T-shirts with the tassels,” and he ended up wearing that.
(CA) Do you regularly make crop tops for your gay friends?
(JT) No, that was the first one I’ve done. It was just like, “It’s a perfect moment in time. I’m with Jonathan and I have a T-shirt and we have scissors and I think I could pull it off.”
We’ve become a good little clutch. Tan, Antoni and Jonathan have come over a bunch of times and we’ve gone back and forth, and I’ve disappeared into the bathroom with Jonathan and we’ve talked products.
(CA) Can a straight guy have a queer eye?
(JT) Keeping my fingers crossed. Season three! Maybe we should do a whole thing where it’s like, “Straight Eye for the Gay Guy.” Find some gay guy who’s not got his shit together and I can go and help him out. I don’t know if I’d be that helpful.
(CA) Recently, Jonathan was obsessing over your shirtlessness in “Charlie’s Angels.” Is that the role most gay men fangirl over when they meet you?
(JT) I mean, the first one was actually “The Broken Hearts Club,” which was a movie I did years and years ago. I remember being at gay Pride and people being like, “Oh my god, this is the guy from ‘Broken Hearts Club!’” [Playing gay] was kind of my bread and butter in New York onstage. I would do Joe Orton plays, or “Shopping and Fucking.” I’d do all these gay Englishmen. That was my thing, that was my calling card.
(CA) Why go for the gay roles?
(JT) It was something that just happened. It wasn’t like I was seeking them out. It was just something that presented itself. At the time, there was that kind of question when you’d go into the audition: “Are you comfortable kissing a guy?” “Yeah, of course.”
(CA) In 2000, some actors were being told not to play gay characters for the sake of preserving their careers. Was there any pressure on you not to play that role?
(JT) No. My agent at the time was gay, so it was never a discussion. It always boils down to, is the part good or is the play good? If the material is good, I’m happy to do it. If it’s bad, then I don’t wanna do it. But I wouldn’t want do it for a straight part either.
(CA) Did it feel like an important movie at the time for the LGBTQ community?
(JT) It didn’t, because it’s not necessarily my community. But it was one of those I was happy [about]. It was the first (LGBTQ) movie that showed – at least that I had been a part of, or had seen – just a normal relationship. No one’s dying of a disease, no one’s fighting with their parents. There weren’t big red arrows pointing at each character going, “Oh, and by the way, they’re gay!” They were functioning, normal people in their lives, which is reality. In a weird way, its normalcy was the thing that made it special and that felt like a good reason to do it.
(CA) You strike me as the kind of guy who’s surrounded by gay men for various reasons.
(JT) Yeah, of course. I went to a very progressive high school that had gay boys in it. In college, it becomes quickly normalized. But you can’t live in New York and not be friends with every kind of person, whether they’re gay, trans, straight, whatever. When this sort of cultural shift started to happen, started to spread into the middle of the country in a way that became in the public consciousness…
(CA) You were ahead of the game?
(JT) Well, I think most people in the city or in pockets of the country were kind of ahead of the game. It felt like, “Wait, this conversation is still happening? Oh yeah, I guess it still is. I guess we ‘do’ need to keep having this discussion.” [I] marvel at people who are still made uncomfortable by it. Like, how on earth? It’s like being made uncomfortable by a sofa; you’re like, “It’s a sofa.” It couldn’t be more normal.
(CA) So this movie: Was the title “The Spy Who Dumped On Me” ever considered?
(JT) (Laughs) It’s the James Bond they never made! Idris Elba, Daniel Craig, why “wouldn’t” you do that movie?
(CA) You’re long overdue for a gay role.
(JT) What’s the last one I’ve done? Maybe (my character) Kevin Garvey from “The Leftovers” is, who knows. Don’t tell anybody. No, I’m joking. (Laughs) You could argue he was really put-upon and maybe that was the reason why, ’cause he was in a hetero marriage.
(CA) What would you look for in a gay role now?
(JT) I don’t know. It’s really always the story. I want the story to be good and compelling. I want the character to be good and compelling, and that could be anything. Ala “Broken Hearts Club,” you do sort of hope that eventually these all become just the background to the characters, because it’s way more interesting just playing the relationship and playing the story than it is playing the orientation.
(CA) If you were to date any of the guys you have played in your career, which ones might you go for? Personally, I’d shack up with Joe from “Six Feet Under.”
(JT) Joe in “Six Feet Under” was a sweetheart. But if I dated Joe, he was straight, and so I think that would problematic.
(CA) He’s only straight till he drinks four beers.
(JT) Until he drinks four beers, then all bets are off! The bondage gear comes out. Like, we all know Joe liked being tied to the bed. (Laughs) I don’t know if there’s anyone I’d really wanna date. And it’s weird to think about dating yourself. Just visually awkward.
Actually, Matt McGrath’s “Broken Hearts” character was an adorable character. But I don’t know, I played some pretty fucked up guys, so they all seem like they’re not great relationship material.
— Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. Reach him via his website at chris-azzopardi.com and on Twitter, @chrisazzopardi.