Justin Timberlake belongs to no sort of Social Network. The singer-songwriter-actor considers himself a novice when it comes to using computers of any kind, yet Timberlake excels starring as Napster founder Sean Parker in the David Fincher-directed, Aaron Sorkin-written story of how Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg came to change the world and earn billions of dollars in the process. Not many know that Parker was on the launching pad of the rocketship called Facebook. The Social Network showcases that fact and so much more!
You can pardon Justin Timberlake for not being wired in every possible way. Since the age of eight, Timberlake has been too busy with show business. After announcing his presence to the world famously on The Mickey Mouse Club opposite Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera — and then with his band ‘N Sync — Timberlake has always stood a few inches higher in the talent department than those around him.
Timberlake can sing. He can dance. And, as he proved with his performance in The Social Network, Timberlake can stand toe-to-toe with actors such as Jesse Eisenberg in the most buzzed about movie of the year.
Although he is relatively new to the game of acting, when we bumped into Timberlake at The Social Network premiere party in New York City — which also served as the kick-off party for the New York Film Festival — he was completely at home accepting accolades from New York film community stalwarts such as Harvey Keitel and Kevin Spacey. The very next morning, Timberlake arrived ready to talk with us about the talk of the town — The Social Network.
Justin Timberlake talks about The Social Network
SheKnows: Why do people like social networking?
Justin Timberlake: There’s a line that Jesse’s character says that it’s a party and you’re throwing it. I think that’s the thrill behind having your own Facebook page and creating your own profile. It’s your world. What makes the film so intriguing, in the bigger picture of things, is if you zoom out, I think social networking in general is still a hypothesis. I find that people are still asking the question: Is it a good thing or is it a bad thing? It shows how kind we are. It shows how cruel we are. The accessibility and instant gratification of having all of your photos and profile lined up, I think that’s what makes something like a Facebook so great to people. We still wonder if it’s going to create great things in the world or if we will just waste away with it.
SheKnows: Do you have an online obsession?
Justin Timberlake: No, I don’t think I’m obsessed with anything online. I’m a few years clean [laughs].
SheKnows: You did get to meet Sean Parker, albeit briefly. Did you gain anything from it?
Justin Timberlake: I briefly bumped into him here in New York once, but we spoke for all of two minutes. Ironically, I met him before I was cast in the role. There was probably a three-week period where I was going through the audition process and it had been announced that I was going to play the role on the internet. I went through a three-week period of, “Damn it. I better get this role because everyone thinks I’m playing it [laughs].” I met him before I was cast in the movie. He seemed very nice. We didn’t talk very much. He said he had read the script and he too thought I was going to play the part. That was awkward. He seemed like a nice guy. We said hello, and it was in passing. That’s it.
SheKnows: Are there similarities for you in acting versus music performances?
Justin Timberlake: I’ll give you a synopsis of a conversation I had with David Fincher about making this film and his process. Obviously, I’ve spent a lot of time on stage. The rehearsal process for getting ready for a tour is probably like writing a screenplay and putting together the shot sheets. Putting together a stage production took about ten months from concept to getting to the first show. It’s very similar to theater. You have a very long, long drawn-out methodical rehearsal process because you only get one take on stage. I wanted David Fincher to know that, to use a bad football analogy, I wasn’t going to be a whiny wide receiver. I’ve come into this movie completely knowing my role and excited about it. I thought of my role as more of a linebacker, if he wanted me to make a hit, I would do it 98 or 99 times.
Justin’s acting arrival
SheKnows: As someone who probably doesn’t rehearse a song live 99 times, was filming The Social Network taxing?
Justin Timberlake: I find the actual method of it all a really fulfilling process. It’s more collaborative. Everything I put together on stage, I’m the buck and everything stops with me. You have to instinctively trust what you’re doing as much as everyone’s offering advice. To get to toss the ball around — another crappy sports analogy [laughs] — with such great actors, it’s a completely different fulfilling collaborative, creative experience. To have the freedom to go in and mess it up for 97 takes, you felt satisfied. Plus, we all just wanted to please David.
SheKnows: Wasn’t David known for deleting dozens and dozens of takes?
Justin Timberlake: That was David’s process. Working digitally in this film, that’s what David would do, he would use the first 20-25 as if they were rehearsal. If something good came out of it, in his mind that was more of a fluke. You literally would get to the twenty-fifth take and he would say, “Great, print that one and erase all the rest.” I was kind of like, “Really? You’re going to erase them all? [Laughs] OK, cool, so we’re starting over.” Again, I can’t stress enough, that it was very freeing. It was a feeling like you were running wind sprints that turned into a marathon. It was fantastic to be a part of that process. After you got used to the fact that is how he works, you felt less like it was draining. David said the money for this film went into the time for us to make this film. How amazing that is for a director to say that he wants time for my actors to act and for me to direct them. He is one of the bravest directors you could be lucky enough to work with. I’ve never met anyone so hyper-smart.
SheKnows: Did any of your music videos ready you for making big budget Hollywood movies?
Justin Timberlake: Making music videos, which we don’t do anymore because there’s no point [laughs], back when we used to make those dinosaurs called videos, I never thought about it. I guess a video like Cry Me a River, that I worked on with Francis Lawrence, that was the most similar to a movie I’ve ever done. I worked on a video for a song I wrote called What Goes Around with Sam Bayer that Nick Cassavetes wrote some dialogue for — those two are the most similar to making movies. But, I find them much easier to tell a narrative if you have four minutes, like in a music video. You can jump through things much faster. I guess, it would be very similar to making a short film. What Aaron (Sorkin) said about how he fell in love with dialogue as a young person, I feel like when you read every script he’s written, it is very musical. I would use music to describe Aaron’s dialogue. There’s a rhythm to it. Every writer has a different rhythm; Aaron’s is just better [laughs]. There is a lot of musicality to acting, I can find a lot that is very similar between those two.