Justin Theroux is running a filmic trifecta at Sundance this year. He steals Zoe Cassavetes’s Broken English out from under Parkey Posey with a dazzling performance as a self-loving L.A. actor (is there another kind?); in David Wain’s Biblical takeoff The Ten, he plays what he calls “Jesus Christ, or something”; and then there’s Dedication, his first directorial effort, a New York–set dark-toned romantic comedy starring Billy Crudup and Mandy Moore, which the Weinstein Co. snapped up for a cool $4 million. We spoke to Theroux the day after Dedication’s premiere and found him sporting a hand-drawn “Brad Pitt 2006” T-shirt and a necklace made of human teeth.
Nice necklace. Are those your teeth?
One of them is. This one’s a wisdom tooth. The other two — my dentist, who will remain nameless, gives me teeth. It’s not like I go around collecting them, but I have a nice little candy dish with teeth in it in my house.
Dedication is your first movie as a director. At your first screening, what was going through your mind?
Complete and utter relief is what’s going through my mind right now. If you had asked me a day ago, it was that I was about to be beheaded or something. It was a terrifying feeling. But now it’s just relief, utter relief and enjoyment.
Not a bad price for it, by the way. Did you know people were so interested?
Everyone’s interested, or at least feigning interested, beforehand. You sort of do this dance where they say they’re interested until they’re not. But it seemed really real. Harvey Weinstein marched right up to me after my Q&A, he cut right through the audience to shake my hand. I knew he wouldn’t do that if he didn’t like the film. Daunting, and terrifying, but a great feeling.
Filmmakers sometimes say that New York is “shot out.” How did you approach filming in the city?
I really wanted to do a very pared-down New York, a New York that was very stripped of people, one that reflected the characters more. It worked out great, since we couldn’t afford extras. —Sam Adams