It's not always easy being an evil wizard — just ask Justin Theroux, who plays the villain of Your Highness. His character needs to have sex with Zooey Deschanel to create a giant dragon, only to run into performance anxiety.
We talked to Theroux about the pressures a wicked magic user has to deal with — plus how he channels David Bowie's Labyrinth, Willem Dafoe and Gary Oldman's Dracula hairdo. Minor spoilers ahead...
Justin Theroux is best known for his roles in Charlie Angels and as the screenwriter for Iron Man 2. We were lucky enough to catch up with him at Wondercon and ask him some questions about his role in Your Highness.
What can you tell us about your character, Leezar? How was he raised? How does he spend his free time?
Justin Theroux: I think he masturbates a lot. I actually found his character... I was talking to director David [Gordon Green] and Danny [McBride] about it, asking about his backstory. What is he, 400 years old? David thought, wouldn't it be funny if he was 19-years-old, but just in an old body? And he's a virgin, and raised by three dysfunctional parents, all mothers. That was all the backstory I needed: 19, virgin, three mothers. That would make any 19-year-old go dark pretty quickly. Oh and he can do magic, of course.
Why does Leezar want a giant dragon that he can control, besides the obvious, are there other motivations?
I think it's just that fantasy of every immature 11-year-old, to be able to fly on the back of a dragon. And burn cities down with it. I don't think he has a moral compass, when it comes to what cities and kingdoms that he wants to do-away with. I don't know I still to this day would want a dragon who breathes fire and can burn people up.
Your Highness reminded me of a lot of classic 80 horror/comedy films from the past, what influences went into this movie?
In the 80s, there was a whole spade of films that came out like Krull, Time Bandits, The Sword and the Sorcerer, Labyrinth, Conan the Barbarian movies that had, usually, insane violence, inexplicable nudity, bizarre sexual themes and questing. Often times I referred to it as "nerd Shakespeare." It's high- and low-brow at the exact same time. Those films had very epic stories and had lots of fantasy in theme, but all the lines were delivered with extreme import.
How much improv happened on set?
There was a lot of improv but I don't want short the script. The script was really fantastic, regardless. The script got us 90% there, then we threw out whenever we could.
Was the awesome phrase "The Fuckening" something that was improvised?
I actually came up with that when I met with Danny McBride and David Gordon Green (director) we were talking about script levels before we started shooting and I said, these kind of things usually have some sort of title, or whatever like The Darkening. So what if we called it The Fuckening? And we all laughed so I knew we were on the right page. Yeah let's do that, The Fuckening!
I'm sure there were a lot of jokes during the pre-production process and on set that didn't make it through to the final cut. I'm curious what didn't make it through. And what are you hoping to see later on the DVD?
I think it's going to be a super deep DVD. There was a song that was actually shot, this duet between James Franco and Zooey Deschanel's character. I think in the end they decided that tonally, it took people out of the movie too much — a musical interlude. But there's a really fucking funny song called "Fuck These Shitty Moons," which is sort of a love song. There are tons of deep cuts stuff. There were times when I thought, even for our movie we went too far, just in terms of riffing on stuff. We burned a lot of film on stuff that was like "oh my God when did that go so dark?"
What's too far? Give us an example.
Well if I gave you an example, then you'd say "that's too far!" And you'd be angry with me. I don't want to tell you what's too far [Laughs]. I don't even know if it will make it onto the DVD. David had to ride a really fine line, which I thought he did really well, of knowing when you can allow a certain amount of contemporary references in a movie, but if you start to go too far in that direction or it will take you out of the movie. Sometimes when it's done for the sake of a joke it's OK to do it, but is you start to live in that world then you're disrespecting the time period you're shooting in.
Were you sad that you didn't get a Minotaur penis?
I thought that should have been the wrap present, everyone should have got a Minotaur dick around their neck, in lieu of crew jackets. I was sad that I didn't get to wear one, but we passed around Danny's so we all got to hang out with it a little on set.
What was in the great feast that Leezar prepares?
I made fish fingers, with mashed potatoes and green peas. And I don't know if that was the fact that we were shooting in Ireland and we just needed to quickly get some food on the table, and that was what the craft services people came up with. Or if that was actually David's intention. He's a guy who doesn't cook much.
What are Leezar's powers?
Lots and lots of electricity in his hands, that's basically his go-to move. I don't think he's... I think he relies on his mothers. His mothers are the ones who had to cast the spell on Belladonna (Zooey) to make her want to have sex with him. The sad thing about Leezar is he hasn't even perfected that skill, which is how to get women to sleep with him. Which probably, if you're a wizard, should be one of your first spells.
But then, um, he can't really get it going?
I know! Let's all remember the first time we had sex and how awkward and strange that was. Now [add] three mothers watching you. You have to do it at the exact moment that there's a lunar eclipse, and you're up on a big pedestal surrounded by purple crystals. Ok. Now go. It's kind of like being in a porn movie, it's not the easiest thing in the world. Everyone says they can do it, but I think the pressures put on Leezar were fantastic... I have to defend Leezar. I think he could have done it. There's always part two, in which we can open the movie with him just screwing someone.
Would you make Your Highness 2?
I would show up tomorrow for a Your Highness sequel. I think we should shoot three more in succession in New Zealand. Just all go there and shoot it Lord Of The Rings style.
See Leezar in Your Highness in theaters this Friday.