On a recent Saturday, I drove to the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to sit down with two of the architects of this year's first big summer movie. Justin Theroux, the screenwriter of the film, is also known for his work in front of the camera, and the last time I saw him, he was wearing a ridiculous wizard's costume for his role in the David Gordon Green comedy/fantasy "Your Highness."
"I look a little different now, right?" he laughed. "I was all Lazar-ed up last time."
We chatted about my reaction to the film and the first thing I brought up was the obviously improvisational nature of much of the work in the film. I asked him about building structure and plot when things are that fluid on-set. "It's not hard," he said. "I'm not a novelist."
He explained that he prefers a collaborative atmosphere. "Moviemaking is a socialist endeavor." His background as an actor prepared him for the idea that these things can change dramatically each day. "I like writing. I like that challenge. If someone says, 'Oh, and Mickey wants a bird in this scene,' I want to be able to figure out how to do that."
I asked if it helps on a film like this knowing exactly who he's writing for. After all, when you've got voices like Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke and Sam Jackson and Robert Downey Jr, why not make the most of their specific voices. "It helps that I'm an actor and I know what actors hate to say. They can sniff out exposition. If anything, I did a lot of that for these guys, and it's a joy." He talked about knowing Rockwell for 20 years in New York. "I called him up and I was like, 'Dude, you're going to do this role. It's great. You're going to love it.'"