In the meantime, however, that public imagination seems likely to remain fixated on his relationship with Aniston, whom Theroux met via their mutual friend Downey on the Tropic Thunder set in 2007, reconnected with on the set of Wanderlust three years later, and finally began dating in 2011, just before the film was released. They initially bonded, he says, over shared memories of gnomes and beeswax sculptures and other accoutrements of the Waldorf grade-schooling they both received. "He and Jen fell in a real, legit fashion," says Downey, "and he was willing from the jump to make sacrifices." Those sacrifices are the battalions of paparazzi that hound him and Aniston, whose love life has been in the tabloid crosshairs for more than a decade. "It doesn't feel like a hardship, it doesn't feel difficult," Theroux says, while allowing that he's seen photographers topple children in their frenzy to get a shot of him and Aniston. "It can be an annoyance, but it's not the end of the world. You have to center on what its core thing is, which is that you met someone you fell in love with. It's hard to explain. I just find myself wondering, What's the big fucking deal?"
"That could completely blow up someone's life," says Krasinski of the tabloid glare. "But if anyone is built for such a bizarre shift in life, it's Justin." Theroux isn't entirely unfamiliar with press attention to his personal life. His mother documented so much of his childhood in newspaper columns that when she once asked him an innocuous question about their bedtime ritual when he was 5, he looked at her and said, "Are you doing this for the Post or the Times?" But embarrassing print revelations by your mother are light-years removed from the headlines he spots while walking past newsstands. "It's always based in fiction," he says, citing the awkwardness of being congratulated by a Leftovers crew member on the twins that one of the tabloids had announced Aniston was expecting. "You just kind of ignore it, but then you also become reluctant to say anything about the relationship. I could say everything's good, and then it's reflected back as justin theroux: everything's good? That just creates this echo chamber, and as it ricochets around the Internet, it just gets wacky."
"I would hate that," says Sedaris, who was once in a car with Theroux and Aniston as they tried to outmaneuver trailing photographers ("thrilling but disturbing"). "On the other hand," she says, "he's just glowing. We don't even need to get together and talk for me to know how he's doing—I can see it on his face." "I think Justin's dealt with it gracefully," says Krasinski, noting that it can be painful "to see one of your friends go through that cyclone." But, he adds, "he does get a great girl at the end."
Theroux's Manhattan tour winds down at Washington Square Park, a past and present "hangout point," where he commandeers a bench by the fountain as a tall guy strolls by wearing a sandwich-board sign advertising himself as a six-foot-seven Jew who'll rap for you. "I don't know about that," Theroux says about him. "Looking a little goy in the back." He obliges a pair of middle-aged female tourists who request a photograph with him and then congratulate him on his upcoming wedding. Such exchanges are still jarring to him, but, he says, "there are worse things than people being kind." He's still pivoting, still adjusting to all these new slashes in his life. "There's a huge distinction," he notes, between wanting to act and wanting to be a famous actor. Or between wanting to be a famous actor and wanting to wear that even stranger suit: that of a celebrity, known more for existing than for a body of work. "Most of the people that jump off buses in Hollywood just want to fucking 'make it,'" he says. "And I never had that drive. Honestly. I could never visualize myself in that way. To me it seemed so cart-before-the-horse-y."
Sinking low, he settles onto the bench. "I still think a long, slow road is always the better road," Theroux says as he surveys the park that's been his refuge for more than 20 years. "Or at least for me it's been the better road."