Justin Paul Theroux was born in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 10, 1971. His father, Eugene, was a corporate lawyer, while mother Phyllis was a novelist, as was his uncle, Paul Theroux, author of The Mosquito Coast. Cousins Marcel and Louis Theroux would also follow a career path in writing as journalists and television presenters in England. However, Justin struggled to find his own way as a teenager; he was ejected from several schools for various reasons in his late adolescence and early teenage years before finding a foundation at the Buxton School, a boarding school in Williamstown, MA. Its curriculum required him to make his own meals and perform various chores in addition to maintaining his studies. Not surprisingly, he became grounded as a result of the regimen. Theroux also gained his first exposure to acting at Buxton, and settled on drama and visual arts as his focus. After graduating from Bennington College in Vermont, Theroux attended the British American Drama Academy, where he further honed his acting talents in a variety of Shakespearean productions. He moved to New York City, where he supported himself as a painter before becoming a member of several prestigious theater groups, including the Roundabout Theatre and Actor's Playhouse. While appearing in a production of "Three Sisters" with Jeanne Tripplehorn, he befriended her then-fiancé, Ben Stiller, who would have a major impact on his later career.
His feature film debut came with a minor role in Mary Harron's "I Shot Andy Warhol" (1996), which preceded a string of little-seen independent features, including "Fattening Frogs for Snakes" (1998) by underground director Amos Poe. Theroux's Hollywood debut came in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997) as the mysterious cowboy who romanced Janeane Garofalo's surly reunion organizer. A string of high profile television appearances soon followed, including an author with premature ejaculation issues who dated Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) on "Sex and the City" (HBO, 1998-2004) and a recurring stint as a mobster on "New York Undercover" (Fox, 1994-1998). In 1999, he filmed the pilot for David Lynch's "Mulholland Dr." in which he played a pompous film director who discovered that unknown forces were railroading him into casting an unknown actress, played by both Melissa George and Laura Elena Harring, as the lead in his feature film. When the network rejected the pilot, Lynch turned the project into a feature film, which became one of his most critically acclaimed efforts.
Theroux reunited with Mary Harron in 2000 for the controversial film version of Bret Easton Ellis' "American Psycho," in which he played a vain business associate of psychopath Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale). With the release of "Mulholland Dr" (2001), which earned Lynch the Palme d'Or and an Oscar nomination for Best Director, Theroux's profile began to rise in the industry. He soon balanced supporting turns in features like the cult favorite "Zoolander" (2001), where he displayed impressive breakdancing skills as the Evil DJ who aided villainous designer Mugatu (Will Ferrell), as well as on television shows like "The District" (CBS, 2000-04) as a wily public relations chief who aided D.C. police commissioner Craig T. Nelson in developing a new managerial tool, the real-life CompStat program, for police work in that embattled city. Theroux's versatility as a character actor allowed him to shift effortlessly to broad comic fare like Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003) as a psychopathic Irish gangster inspired by Robert DeNiro's turn in "Cape Fear" (1991).
In 2003, Theroux joined the cast of "Six Feet Under" as Joe, a neighbor to Rachel Griffith's Brenda, who offered a stable, caring relationship in the wake of her tumultuous affair with Nate Fisher (Peter Krause). Though they came close to a semblance of domestic tranquility, Joe's tranquil approach to sex rankled Rachel's impulsive nature, and she soon returned to Nate in the show's fourth season. By this time, Theroux had earned a reputation as something of a scene-stealer, especially in eclectic comic fare like the feature version of Strangers with Candy (2006) and The Baxter (2005), which featured members of the comedy troupe The State. He also reunited with David Lynch for his most unusual film to date, Inland Empire (2006), which the director shot without a completed script. Theroux played Devon, an actor working on a reportedly cursed film that played out its script in what appeared to be the performers' real lives.
That same year, Theroux wrote and directed Dedication (2007), an indie-minded drama about a writer who teamed with a new illustrator (Mandy Moore) to produce the latest in his series of children's books. The feature screened at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival before receiving a miniscule theatrical release and modest theatrical praise. The following year, Theroux earned his breakout project by writing "Tropic Thunder," a broad action-comedy with old friend Ben Stiller and Robert Downey, Jr. as vain Hollywood actors whose jungle war film turns into a real fight with Asian drug runners. The picture's success came on the heels of a well-received turn in "John Adams" (HBO, 2008) as John Hancock, and led to an even bigger screenwriting assignment: Iron Man 2 (2010), which he earned through his connection with "Tropic" star Downey, Jr. Despite a harried production schedule and physical issues involving a bad back, Theroux turned out a script that blended high intensity action and special effects with sparkling, screwball comedy-style dialogue delivered with precision by Downey and co-star Gwyneth Paltrow. "Iron Man 2" went on to be the third highest-grossing release of 2010.
Theroux's success as a writer did not affect negatively on his burgeoning acting career; rather, he continued to log appearances on television shows and in features after 2010, including a recurring stint in the third season of "Parks and Recreation" (NBC, 2009- ) as a self-aggrandizing litigator with whom Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope has a tentative relationship, and as an over-the-top wizard in the failed fantasy-comedy Your Highness (2011). In 2011, he was announced as one of several writers laboring on the script for the film version of the popular Broadway rock musical Rock of Ages (2012), but the news was quickly overshadowed by a flurry of news reports that alleged he had left his girlfriend of 14 years, costume designer Heidi Bivens, to launch a relationship with actress Jennifer Aniston, with whom he starred in the rather underwhelming indie comedy Wanderlust (2012). The connection to Aniston - a tabloid favorite for her supposedly unlucky-in-love life post-Brad Pitt - boosted Theroux's profile in the mass media to stratospheric regions, particularly after the couple announced their intention to marry in August 2012.
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