Justin Timberlake Interview – THE LOVE GURU

     June 16, 2008

While I’ve interviewed many people while working on Collider…I have to admit, Ithought it was pretty coolto be able to ask Justin Timberlake some questions. While I won’t claim to be a huge fan of his music, I will say I’m a fan of his acting. The reason for that is…he hosted two episodes of Saturday Night Live and both were very funny. Also, one of the episodes included the best SNL Digital Short, Dick in the Box (which he co-wrote). So getting to sit down with one of the biggest celebrities in the country to talk about SNL, making Love Guru, his music, singing Dick in the Box at Madison Square Garden…it was very cool.

But before getting to the interview…the reason I got to speak with Justin was, he’s co-starring in The Love Guru with Mike Myers and Jessica Alba.

In the movie, Mike plays Pitka, an American who was left at the gates of an ashram in India as a child and raised by gurus. He then moves back to the U.S. to seek fame and fortune in the world of self-help and spirituality. Of course, his unorthodox methods are put to the test when he must settle a rift between Toronto Maple Leafs star hockey player Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco) and his estranged wife. After the split, Roanoke’s wife starts dating L.A. Kings star Jacques Grande (Justin Timberlake) out of revenge, sending her husband into a major professional skid – to the horror of the teams’ owner Jane Bullard (Jessica Alba) and Coach Cherkov (Verne Troyer). Pitka must return the couple to marital nirvana and get Roanoke back on his game so the team can break the 40-year-old “Bullard Curse” and win the Stanley Cup.

As usual, you can either read a transcript of the roundtable interview below or listen to the audio as an MP3 by clicking here. Finally, here’s a link to the movie clips from The Love Guru.

Again, The Love Guru hits theaters this Friday.

Question: Do you have the OCD where you have to fix everything? (he’s adjusting all the recorders that got put down in front of him)

Justin Timberlake: I have OCD mixed with ADD, you try living with that.

Q: When you tried on the costume and you looked at yourself in the mirror—

Justin Timberlake: I said,” This is going to be funny. I know! All I have to do is show up now and this is going to be funny.”

Q: What do you think they saw in you, that Mike Myers saw in you, that he thought you could pull this off?

Justin: I can’t say, really, I would assume that my interaction with Mike promoting Shrek the Third was probably most likely my couple of stints on SNL, that Mike knew that I could, I guess, play the part.

Q: Did he just send you the script or did he call you up and describe it to you?

Justin: He called first and then he sent the script and our conversation went something like, “Hey, I want you to come play the villain in this new movie I’m working on. I’ve been, you know, worshipping the character.” I don’t know if you guys know Mike’s process, but it’s pretty amazing, right? I wish I would have gotten to workshop Jacques Grande. That was pretty amazing. Now he’s just going to be too famous, I’m not going to be able to show up and do it.

Q: Did you work on the accent, did you get a coach on the accent?

Justin: Both. Yes. I figured the best way to do it way to get the accent down proper. And so I got the accent down proper and then when we got to set, for the first couple of days that I was on-set I just kept the dialect coach with me, and said, “You have to help me find ways to milk this.” Because we’re in a Mike Myers film, OK, so we have to be funny. I didn’t think about it, somebody just pointed this out to me, I’m the only other caricature really in the film. I mean, between Mike and myself, everybody else they play it kind of straight. But we are the antagonists in the film. I’m the other guy who’s basically in a clown suit.

Q: Does it help you to stay in character between takes? Did you keep the accent?

Justin: As much as possible. I would say something and then repeat it, you know, in zee accent, to try to, you know, to try to sort of keep it fresh. But you’re kind of just going, you know, a lot of it, like I said, was picking out certain words where you could mess with the rhythm of them and sort of make them funny.

Q: Was comedy always something that you could do easily?

Justin: I don’t think it’s easy.

Q: Why do you find you’re funny? Where does that come from?

Justin: Well look at me! Apart from that. I know that there are certain people in the world like Mike who just enjoy making people laugh. My earliest memories as a kid was I would always try to make my mom and my stepdad laugh at dinner. Or make my friends laugh in class. And I don’t know, it’s something I just really enjoy doing. Especially to be part of something like this, you don’t get this call every day. Because Mike doesn’t do this movie but every so often. So, you know, I jumped at the chance I think.

Q: Did you go anywhere in that outfit to see if anybody recognized you?

Justin: No, but funny enough, the first day that I worked there were, you know a handful of crew members who didn’t know it was me. For the first half day. Actually the director came up to me and he said, “this is so funny, you’re going to love this, a couple of the crew members just came up and said, Hey, isn’t Justin Timberlake supposed to start today? Doesn’t he start shooting today?” And he was like, Yeah. “Did he not show up?” And it was like, That’s him. So when stuff, when things like that started to come to my attention, I was like, This is going to be something memorable.

Q: You’ve hosted two very good episodes of Saturday Night Live. Do you get nervous when you’re hosting, and let’s talk about Dick in the Box. This is our first time being able to talk about it. Did you know it was going to be what it was? I heard you even performed it in concert.

Justin: Yeah, no, we totally were thinking Emmy. I was looking at Andy, I finished the last lyrics and melody, and I said—Emmy. Uh, no. We knew it was funny to us. We knew, we were laughing and that must count for something. And I think comedy translates that way, you know? Just like I feel like live shows translate that way, if you’re having a good time it bleed onto people. But it was something, you know, Lorne wanted us to do, you know, after the Chronicles of Narnia, Lorne said, we’re having Justin on the show, we have to do some sort of digital short. And Andy [Samberg] and I just got together, and I remember, him and his co-writers, I think one of them said, “What about the old Dick in a Box Joke?” And we were like, That could be funny. Then all of a sudden, I can’t remember who said it, but it was like, “What if we made a cheesy, early nineties R&B song out of it?” I was like, I got that. And we just started writing it. They had written down a bunch of lines. You know, we came back the next day and one of his co-writers had done a bunch of lines. So I just basically modified the lines, added words here and there and put it together like a puzzle and put a melody to it.

Q: What about performing it in concert, didn’t you do that?

Justin: We did it at the Garden.

Q: How did that go over?

Justin: Imagine a sold-out Madison Square Garden singing the whole song. It was pretty magical. As far as getting nervous for SNL, it’s just pure excitement. You get that little bit of nervousness because you know the next hour and a half you’re just going to be running. You don’t have time to think about it. I think that’s why they give you a week to figure it out, because you really don’t have time to think about what’s happening. If you’re able to, do me a favor and YouTube the Christmas episode with Dick in a Box, and watch the opening segment. Because I went from a suit into the Cup of Soup in literally 30 seconds. It should give you an idea. Because there’s no commercial break between the intro with Alvin and the Chipmunks and the next sketch, and I walk in to the next sketch. And it’s a short amount of time. So that’s how fast you’re changing clothes. You don’t have time to think about anything when the show is actually being taped.

Q: Was acting always an extension for you of music? Was that always a plan of yours?

Justin: Funny enough, I remember, it’s interesting, my dad and I just had a conversation, my stepdad and I just had a conversation. He goes, “You know, it’s so funny that you’re actually still finding a way to get into film.” And I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Remember when you were 14 and you were recording demos in Nashville.” The television show had gotten canceled and I was going back to school and I was about to start high school. Our next think was to drive out to LA for pilot season, and that’s what I was going to do. And I got a phone call from Chris Kirkpatrick, and said there’s a label in Germany that will sign us and we’ll have an manager. Didn’t know he’d end up serving 25 in jail—but it’s not my business. It’s just funny how it all kind of works out.

Q: So you’re surprised at the way things have turned out for you?

Justin: A lot. A lot. Every day I kind of look at it and say, How did…but it’s interesting, one thing kind of leads to the other. I don’t know, everybody says, “Everything happens for a reason.” I don’t know about that, but I know that one thing leads to the other. I think I’ve just been lucky enough to have some opportunities thus far to do films that I think are either good dramatic roles or good stories to tell or, you know, Jacques Grande.

Q: Do you get nervous right before a concert, do you get nervous going on set?

Justin: Not before a concert.

Q: What about going on set for a movie like this?

Justin: I think it depends. You sort of feel—for instance, take a film like Black Snake Moan? Basically, I was just an emotional wreck the whole movie, my character. So there’s a lot of concentration that goes into filming those scenes, you just feel the weight of them more than anything. I think for a performer, because that’s really what we all are, I think that the focus kind of—anytime the nervousness comes in, the focus jumps in as well and it overbears it in a way. It supersedes it. I think you just become uber-focused.

Q: You’ve done huge arenas, have you done stadiums yet? You must have done stadiums. Going before 50,000 people, butterflies or anything?

Justin: Oh, yeah, you get butterflies. It’s not like, “Oh my God, I hope I do good.” You just kind of get caught up in the electricity of it. If that’s what you mean, “Oh, yeah, that still happens to this day.” And when that stops happening, you should stop. It’s addictive, you know what I mean?

Q: Do you know anything about hockey, and are you a Celine Dion fan?

Justin: I’m a Celine Dion fan. Maybe not as obsessive as my character. I knew a little bit about hockey, but obviously I learned a lot. I got a crash course in how to play goalie, which is not easy at all. I was OK, I did pretty good. I got to actually, I’ll tell you what’s fun, is you get in these situations, because that’s what I really wanted to do when I was a kid, I wanted to be a pro basketball player. That’s the only thing I cared about when I was a kid, I played AAU ball, I played junior Olympic, I did the whole thing from the time I was eight until I was 14, and then all of a sudden I was 14 years old and I got the phone call saying, Hey, they got us a record deal. All right, that sounds pretty promising.

Q: What keeps you grounded? How are you able to avoid the whole celebrity thing, all the fame thing?

Justin: I think that it all goes back to, a lot of it goes back to family. I think it’s how you’re raised. I think that a lot of people, it does, it is at some point or another you have a moment where things become, it becomes pressure. Because you do feel like people are watching you, and you do feel like you’re going to affect people and you feel the weight of that. So you start to feel pressure. Then you deal with it one of two ways—or maybe three or four ways. But I think a lot of it has to do with however you were prepared before that moment. For me, my mom and my stepdad, I was born and raised in a home where, you know, we were always taught that everybody puts their pants on the same way every morning. So just because you have, just because you can do one or two things extraordinarily. I know when I was a kid it was Michael Jordan. I remember when I was really young and my parents telling me, He’s a great basketball played but that doesn’t make him superhuman, you know? That makes him a great basketball player. I think that’s just what I was taught. How it’s affected me in my adult life with what dealing with what might become too much pressure to meet people’s needs or fascination, is I just let it go. I don’t invest in it. And I stay away from it as much as I can.

Q: What was the most fun moment on set?

Justin: Well the set was kind of a party the whole time. I think the most fun moment on set was actually getting to take slap shots from Rob Lake. That was probably the most fun moment on set. Meeting these legendary hockey players and then like skating around with them and them giving me tips on how to actually play goalie. I’m never going to do this after this movie’s over, it’s too painful. But I didn’t tell them that, I was just like, Thanks man, thank you.

Q: Any new records?

Justin: Not of my own, but I do have a lot of creative juice going into writing and producing my artists on our indie label. It’s called Tennman records. Tennessee Man. That’s me.

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