Lynn Hirschberg: Justin, it’s nearly impossible to
transition from megafamous pop star to actor, but in the past
year—from The Social Network to Friends With
Benefits to In Time, a futuristic thriller that opens
October 28—you’ve made it look easy. The first time I was
conscious of you being in a film was when I saw Southland Tales
at the Cannes film festival in 2006. You were practically the only part
of the movie the audience didn’t boo.
Justin Timberlake: It wouldn’t be the first time I got booed. In my younger days, I got booed a lot. I had bottles thrown at me by an AC/DC fan when I played a benefit in Toronto for SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome]. I got to the show and the bill said the Rolling Stones, AC/DC, the Guess Who, Rush, and Justin Timberlake, and I remember thinking, One of these things is not like the others. And, boy, did I find out quickly. I started singing and there was an assault of beer cans and bottles. I developed catlike reflexes from that experience.
Were you in Cannes when they screened Southland
No, I wasn’t there. To me, Southland Tales is performance art. I still don’t know what that movie is about [Laughs].
I seem to recall that your character was covered in blood. Why
were you attracted to such a dark role? In all your early films, you
played characters who were the polar opposites of your light,
mainstream, teen-idol persona. Was that intentional?
In films, I didn’t crave the type of attention I had sort of stumbled into in my music career. And I do not audition well. I’m really not good at it. Early on, I did movies like Alpha Dog and Black Snake Moan because the directors didn’t ask me to audition.
My sense is that your film career changed when you started
hosting Saturday Night Live in 2003.
Yeah, I would say that. Hosting SNL was something I’d always wanted to do. The show allowed me to play to my strengths—mixing music with comedy seemed like a way into that world. And then, the second time I hosted, I did the digital short.
“Dick in a Box”?
Yes. Thus started my love affair with Andy Samberg. We have two kids now—two boys. One of them is named Samberg and the other is named Timberlake. So they’re Timberlake Samberg and Samberg Timberlake. I think it’s supercreative and egoless to name your kids after yourself [Laughs].
Samberg says he was nervous when he pitched you “Dick in a
Really? I remember telling Andy that it was important to me to make the song really singable. Melodically speaking, the songs that came out of the Nineties boy-group era we were channeling were really good songs. And a lack of self-awareness is a very important detail in that short. We had an elaborate backstory, too: For instance, our group’s name is 2:30 a.m.