Justin Timberlake interview: A pop star who is worth a gamble

He plays a poker-addicted Princeton student in Runner Runner and is joined by the new Batman Ben Affleck. The singer tells Gill Pringle that he's determined to be taken seriously as an actor

Hollywood has famous couplings like Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro while the music world had Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson. But now, apparently, add to that list: Justin Timberlake and Timbaland...

“Sometimes a producer and an artist get together and they make magic like Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson. As far as my own music career – you could liken my chemistry with Timbaland to Marty Scorsese and Robert De Niro,” suggests Timberlake.

Seconds later, biting his lip, he adds: “I'm going to pay for that comment, I know it. Somebody's gonna throw that in my face. I don't want to sound conceited but I do believe that every time we get together we make something that I've never quite heard.”

His fans probably wouldn't disagree, enabling him to move more than 70 million albums over the course of his recording career which began some 15 years ago, the youngest member of boy band 'N Sync. As a solo artist, his two albums Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds brought enormous success although, in 2007, he took what would be a five-year hiatus from recording to focus on his fledgling film career.

If he expected to conquer the film world with the same ease he has his recording career, then he got off to a shaky start. His debut film, Edison – which should have been a sure thing co-starring Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman – instead went straight to DVD. Following noteworthy performances in Alpha Dog and The Open Road, his career gathered steam after portraying Facebook president Sean Parker in The Social Network leading to roles in hit films Bad Teacher and Friends with Benefits. More recently he featured in Clint Eastwood's Trouble with the Curve and today stars in on-line gambling thriller Runner Runner.

Portraying a Princeton graduate student, paying his tuition by online gambling, Timberlake, 32, is only interested in taking calculated risks: “I used to do a poker night once a week with my friends years ago but you know, you end up traveling a lot and you don't have much time for it.”

While Runner Runner serves up an example of the pitfalls of trying to get rich quick, then he also wags his own finger: “The American Dream used to be about being rich and famous, but now it's to become rich and famous –as quickly as possible,” he says from the comfortable stance of having been rich and famous almost half his life.

“The more access we have to things the faster we want them. Just touch a button and you can have almost anything shipped to you. Today people don't want to own a Cadillac; they want to invent their own car. A generation of young people wants to start their own galaxy of entrepreneurial activities,” says Timberlake whose own empire includes two restaurants, a brand of tequila, the William Rast clothing line, a financial stake in MySpace, and a golf course in his hometown of Millington, Tennessee,

Triumphantly returning to his music career earlier this year, his comeback album, The 20/20 Experience, is the best-selling title of 2013 so far, and he's poised to double down with the release of his second album, The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2.

However, in what was meant to be his glorious VMA triumph last month, honoured with the Michael Jackson Vanguard Music Award and hogging an entire 16 minutes of the televised show with a medley of his greatest hits – including a blink-and-you-miss-it 'N Sync reunion – his career high was unexpectedly hijacked by a twerking, foam-fingered Miley Cyrus.

If much outrage has been expressed about Cyrus in the aftermath of her stupefying performance, then Timberlake is diplomatic: “I think she's really smart and she's really talented. I'm not saying I agree with the presentation but I also feel like every 10 to 15 years, we pick somebody that this is what we're going to do with them: we're going to make them the model of who we want our daughter to be or not be,” he says in what might be taken as a veiled reference to his famous first love and fellow Disney escapee Britney Spears who, herself, went off the rails in her own post-traumatic, post-Justin years.

Timberlake's own transition from boy to man, has been nothing but elegant.

Schooled early on by girlfriends Cameron Diaz, Jenna Dewan and Alyssa Milano, six years ago he would meet Jessica Biel, eventually making her his wife.

“My family will always be first and foremost. That's the most I'll say about it without getting too personal. I wouldn't have taken that step if I didn't have a moment to realize that this is how much more grounded I want my life to be.”

Walking down the aisle on 19 October last year in Italy, the couple's first official co-production is not a baby but, instead, a documentary film about junior golfers entitled The Short Game: “We are both big fans of these kids and the message that comes from that movie is wonderful and will bring you so much joy.”

At Runner Runner's recent world premiere at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas the power couple strolled down the red carpet, wearing almost identical suit and white shirts. No ties.

The following day, Timberlake is still the epitome of style, dressed in a patterned shirt, jeans and pork-pie hat as he emerges, all apologetic, two hours late for our interview in a small room at the back of the casino.

Defending his Runner Runner co-star Ben Affleck, recently derided as “Batfleck” after his surprise casting in Zack Snyder's 2015 instalment of the caped crusader, he says: “I think he's going to make a great Batman. Working with Ben was extremely informative. I learned a lot. I feel like we were the same way in the sense that he's experienced being the biggest movie star in the world and now to be considered a great film-maker; it's a whole new career for him,” says Timberlake who is all too familiar with the public's resistance to his own attempts at launching a second career.

“I do think there was probably a cloud over a movie like The Social Network in a way that may have been a little unfair, but that's OK. I can respect that. I think the important thing for people to understand is that I'm not doing any of this in vain. I'm doing it because I take it seriously. But I do think you can pop on to the scene with a great performance in a movie, if you're an unheard of actor but after that, to have a career, it's a marathon. You have to put together a series of great performances.”

Runner Runner is on release nationwide

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?