We can’t really talk to Justin Theroux about “The Girl on the Train.” In the movie version of the mega-bestseller, the actor and writer plays Tom, the ex-husband of Emily Blunt’s public transit-riding voyeur, and one of several potential perpetrators in the missing person case that forms the plot. Most of his big stuff doesn’t happen until the third act, and we’d never dream of spoiling it (even though so many readers already know what happens). But there’s plenty of other things to talk about. Theroux, 45, is a renaissance man: he stars in “The Leftovers,” and co-wrote “Tropic Thunder” and “Zoolander 2.”
We talked to Theroux about refraining from spoilers, actor cliches and David Lynch.
Since we can’t say much about your character, we can talk about Emily Blunt’s protagonist. I found it was an empathetic portrayal of someone who’s a hot mess, as well as a voyeur, which is usually portrayed as creepy.
But that’s something we all do anyway. You ride the subway and stare across the aisle. We think, ‘They’re probably this or that.’ We probably don’t do it to the extent that she does, but we do it every day. It’s human nature.
I feel like journalists and actors and writers are the only people who can people-watch and not seem creepy. It’s like, “We’re just doing our job!”
Exactly. It’s about observation. It’s important to stay street-level and listen to strangers — to a tolerable degree, if someone’s allowing me to. I know that sounds like a dumb actor thing to say.
Do you hate actor-speak — when actors wax poetic on their “craft”?
Yeah. That’s why I love watching James Lipton. It’s a s—tshow every show. I love watching DVD extras, particularly war movies, where the actors say, “Oh, we were in a war!” No. It’s our job to pretend to make some faces. That’s it. [Laughs] Just say the words that other people wrote. It’s not like we’re doing brain surgery.