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Thursday October 3, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday October 3, 2013 MYT 8:12:30 AM
by alison de souza
Timberlake (seen here with co-star Gemma Arterton) plays Richie Furst, a Princeton whiz kid who travels to Costa Rica to confront a shady gambling tycoon in Runner Runner.
Justin Timberlake, who stars in Runner Runner, says it takes more than just one great performance to become a great artiste.
On the list of statistically improbable phrases you would not expect to hear uttered by the pop star-turned-actor Justin Timberlake, a Malcolm Gladwell quote must surely be in there somewhere.
The reference to the author of the 2008 bestseller Outliers, which looks at what makes some people more successful than others, pops up when he is asked whether people are starting to take him more seriously as an actor.
The 32-year-old replies by referring to Gladwell’s theory that a person needs at least 10,000 hours of practice before he can master a skill.
Timberlake, a top-selling pop and R&B artiste with six Grammys to his name, is keenly aware that there have been doubts about his foray into acting, which includes lead roles in the romantic comedy Friends With Benefits (2011) with Mila Kunis, and sci-fi thriller In Time (2011) opposite Amanda Seyfried.
“There was probably a cloud over The Social Network that may have been a little unfair, but that’s okay. I can respect that,” he says, referring to his first high-profile supporting role as an early Facebook investor in the 2010 Oscar-winning film.
“And I do think it has shifted.”
He was speaking to a group of reporters in Las Vegas a day after the recent world premiere of his new film Runner Runner, a crime drama about online gambling.
Despite sharing top billing with Oscar-winner Ben Affleck, it is clearly Timberlake’s film as he plays the protagonist Richie Furst, a Princeton whiz kid who travels to Costa Rica to confront a shady gambling tycoon (Affleck).
Timberlake has also bagged a cameo in Inside Llewyn Davis. The film by critical darlings Joel and Ethan Coen, about a struggling folk singer trying to make it in New York in the 1960s, is due out later this year.
But Timberlake feels that he has to pay his dues in Hollywood before he gets anything like the credibility he has earned in the music industry, where he went from being a member of the popular American boyband ‘N Sync from 1995 to 2002, to one of the top male artistes in the United States, with three platinum-selling solo albums and hits such as SexyBack, Cry Me A River and What Goes Around... Comes Around.
This led to him receiving, rather early, a Lifetime Achievement gong at the MTV Video Music Awards earlier this year.
None of this came overnight, notes Timberlake, who has been performing since the age of 11, when he appeared on the television talent show Star Search before landing a part in the children’s show The Mickey Mouse Club. “There’s an interesting thing that has happened in movies and music, especially with a lot of the music talent-type shows on television recently, where the idea is that you can be an expert just like that.
“And I disagree with that. I always bring up Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘10,000 hours’ theory because I believe in that.”
So although “you can pop onto the scene with a great performance in a movie even if you’re an unheard-of actor, to actually have a career, it’s a marathon. You have to put together a series of movies and great performances. I don’t think any of it is about one single moment.”
Given that his acting resume is now a little longer, the public perception of his fledgling movie career “maybe has changed somewhat”.
The thing he wants people to understand is that he is not doing any of it lightly. “I’m doing it because I take it seriously and always have.”
And sure enough, Timberlake is all business as he promotes his film in Las Vegas. The lightheartedness that fans associate with his stage and screen persona is nowhere to be seen.
Instead, he is polite and thoughtful, albeit a little guarded, and with occasional flashes of self-doubt where you can almost see him playing back his own answers in his head.
For the most part, he handles the slightly bumpy interrogation well.
When he is rebuked by a testy reporter who complains that he has turned up 11/2 hours behind schedule, he looks peeved at first, but quickly recovers and apologises to smooth things over.
He also says sorry for his initially suspicious response to another question that he seemed to think might have taken his comments on another occasion, about the cookie-cutter nature of a lot of pop music, out of context.
“I just felt like there was a period of time where I was hearing different singers singing what sounded like the same song, probably produced by the same person,” says the artiste, whose previous album The 20/20 Experience debuted at the top of US Billboard charts earlier this year.
“I don’t think I’m any ambassador. That was just me thinking out loud,” he adds cautiously. “It doesn’t seem that controversial to say this, but I just think it all started to sound the same.
“For me, I guess for the first time in my career, I don’t really consider myself a pop artist. I just try to make music that you don’t hear on the radio because I think that’s the only way to move the needle,” says Timberlake, who also co-owns a record company and a fashion label, and has an ownership stake in MySpace, the social network site.
Old pop star
In both his movie and music careers, he says he chooses projects based on whether he has chemistry with his collaborators, or whether the director or producer is someone with a clear and exciting vision.
“The common thread is collaboration,” he says, explaining that he had immediately clicked with Runner Runner director Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer, 2011) and Affleck.
“Sometimes a producer and an artiste get together and they make magic, like Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson. Sometimes a director and an actor, like Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, do.
“And obviously, you get a call from the Coen brothers and you just say yes, when and where. You know it’s going to be great, and that you’re going to be a version of great in that.
“As far as my music career goes, you could liken my chemistry with Timbaland to that between Scorsese and De Niro,” he says, referring to the American rapper and producer who has been a long-time collaborator of his, including on The 20/20 Experience.
“I don’t want to sound conceited, but I do believe that every time we get together, we make something I’ve never quite heard, and I think it’s always interesting.”
Timberlake pauses before adding, with a grimace: “I’m going to pay for that comment – I know it, I know it. Somebody’s going to throw it in my face.”
Moments later, a reporter does throw something in his face: a barbed comment that at the age of 32, Timberlake is “sort of an old pop star”.
He says “thank you” and laughs.
“I don’t know, what is a pop star? It really boils down to how you look at things. I don’t look at it like that. I make music, some of it is a little more popular than the rest, but I don’t know what that means,” says the singer, whose blend of pop, hip-hop and R&B has proven to have fairly broad appeal.
His guiding philosophy in both his music and movies is to “make it for yourself”.
“When you talk about what’s important to you, if you don’t get caught up in perception, you end up making something from a pure place, and that’s the best way to work. I’ve done it other ways too, and I don’t think it was my best work. You learn that from experience.”
Also a byproduct of experience is the more healthy, grounded approach he has to the balance between work and personal life. His recent marriage to 31-year-old actress Jessica Biel (Total Recall, 2012, and The A-Team, 2010), whom he finally settled down with after a six-year, on-and-off relationship, is a sign of that.
“My family has always been first and foremost,” he says, and the decision to get married was “actually an effect of a change in my life”.
“I wouldn’t have taken that step if I didn’t realise that is how much more grounded I wanted to be.”
Creatively, he is also more settled. “My priorities have changed in that I am at a place where I feel like I’m not up against a bad situation, so I don’t have to make creative decisions for the wrong reasons.
“I don’t feel like I have anything to prove other than to myself.” – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network
Runner Runner is currently playing in cinemas nationwide.
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Entertainment, Entertainment, Justin Timberlake, Singer, Actor, Runner Runner, Jessica Biel
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