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Alpha Dog - Justin Timberlake interview

Justin Timberlake in Alpha Dog

Compiled by Jack Foley

JUSTIN Timberlake talks about appearing in Alpha Dog and why the movie appealed to him in the first place…

Q Tell us about the movie.
A: It’s called Alpha Dog and it’s based on the true story of a gang of rich kids in Los Angeles who kidnapped a kid because his half brother owed them money from a drug deal. They partied with him for two days and then shot him. The kid my character is based on is now doing life imprisonment for his part in it.

Q: These were pretty bad kids?
A: I don’t know. I think they just thought it was fun to be cool and I don’t feel any of them thought about what was going to happen. They just wanted to be cool and they kept going with it, with the exception of my character who says maybe we should think about this. The movie is about bad parenting and about loss of perspective because of bad parenting.

Q: Did you know much about the character you play?
A: The director Nick Cassavetes and I went upstate California together to meet him in prison and we did a lot of research. The film just spoke volumes to me. It felt like an opportunity to sink my teeth into something.

Q: The film also stars Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone and several other experienced actors. How did they react to you?
A: When I came onto the film all the other actors were probably not looking forward to having to deal with me but I wasn’t worried about it and I just showed up to work the same as everybody else. I wanted to be a player in the film. If you go in with the right intentions then the outcome ends up OK.

Q: You seem to be getting into acting in a big way. You have two other films coming out soon, Black Snake Moan and Shrek 3.
A: To me acting is a hobby and I’m inspired by it. And if I’m going to spend time doing something that I’m not really inspired to do, then why am I doing it? I don’t know if that sounds sort of new agey or whatever, but it’s true. I’ve been lucky enough to have a musical career that has gone pretty good and acting is something I have always wanted to do.

Q: What is the difference for you between performing in front of a live audience and doing a film in front of cameras?
A: Much more psychology goes into doing a film. Performing onstage is all about reacting in a grand way. You’re playing an arena of seventeen or eighteen thousand people and it’s your job to make sure the person at the back feels as cool as the person all the way in the front. Being on stage is a bit of a façade. You get to walk out there and be the coolest version of yourself that you could possibly have imagined and then you come off stage and you’re just like everyone else.

But film is much more intimate. It’s about having a conversation like we are now. With film the huge grand gestures just don’t work and you have to strip yourself of all that. The other thing is you don’t get the instant gratification. Onstage you know if you’re sucking or not because the audience is going to let you know. But with film you have to hope it edits together well and you have to trust it more. You don’t have an instant reaction to what you’re doing.

Q: You were a teen idol at 15 and you’ve dated a lot of famous and beautiful women including Britney Spears, Alyssa Milano and Cameron Diaz. What have you learned about women?
A: As much as I’ve learned, I’m still a man so I have some kind of learning disability. And women wouldn’t have us any other way.

Q: Have you thought about having children?
A: I’ll wait until I’ve grown up first.

Q: How did you become an entertainer?
A: I was very shy as a kid but when I found out I could perform and have people’s attention everything changed for me. My mom likes to joke that until I was eight or nine I only knew what my sneakers looked like because I constantly walked around with my head down. But all of a sudden the stage made sense and that’s what brought me out of my shell and a monster was created. It felt like it came naturally and it was fun. Even as a kid I would find the one person whose attention I didn’t have and I would zone in on that person. It became a challenge.

Q: Did you have any heroes when you were a child?
A: My idol when I was growing up was Michael Jordan the basketball player because of his work ethic rather than his talent and because of what he went through to be as good as he was.

Q You were a Mouseketeer in the Mickey Mouse Club when you were 13 and when you were 15 you joined ‘NSYNC and traveled the world as the star of a boy band and the idol of millions of girls. How was it to be on the cover of so many magazines at such a young age?
A: I was always so removed from it. I always cared so much about what I did that that stuff didn’t really register. It definitely messes with your mind a little bit when you’re a teenager and not equipped to deal with all the attention but I learned very quickly that the more I didn’t pay attention to it, the more I realised what a soap opera it was and you have to remove yourself from it otherwise it will drive you completely insane.

My parents instilled in me the mindset of always being humble so I’d like to believe that all the teen idol stuff went in one ear and out the other. Now when I’m on the red carpet I’m just there to do a job – but it’s the coolest job in the world.

Q: How do you go about writing your songs?
A: I’m a very melody-driven writer and I have a rule that I don’t write anything down because if I can’t remember the melody than it wasn’t worth remembering. So it’s my way to test myself in the studio. When I was a kid I could sing pretty well so melody always made a lot of sense to me.

Q: Who are your favourite singers?
A: I grew up listening to a lot of soul music – Al Green and Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder but my favourite band is The Eagles, because they melted so many different styles of music together and it was sort of unheard of at the time.

Q: What movie did you see as a child that made you want to be an actor?
A: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off because I was in school at the time I saw the movie and I wondered if I could pull something like that off. And when I saw ET I was like: “Wow, movies are amazing.”

Q: What is the most important thing in your life?
A: Definitely my family. My parents divorced when I was about three and I don’t remember a lot of it but they were very good about letting me know that it wasn’t about me and had nothing to do with me. They were both supportive of me and it was pretty painless for me. My step-dad is probably the greatest man I’ve ever known.

The best advice I’ve ever been given was when he told me to enjoy my life because one day I’m not going to be as agile as I am now. He told me to have fun and that’s been a huge part of my life for the last two or three years.

Q You’re a bit of a workaholic, but what do you do when you’re not working?
A: I seek complete silence and time on my own. I think it has a lot do with the work schedule and how much you work. You have to offset all that activity with nothing. Or with something that’s fun to you and relaxing.

Q: You’re a very wealthy man. What do you spend your money on?
A: I like nice things but I’m the kind of person who if I’m in a store will talk myself out of buying anything. My step-dad’s a banker and I learned the right way to spend and save. When I was ten he bought me stock in Wal-Mart and I had no idea what was happening but it was my first lesson in money. It was interesting because as a ten-year-old kid I would come downstairs in the morning and my dad would have the sports page and I would have the Wall Street section. Then we’d switch over and that was how our mornings went for a couple of years.

Q: What are the five most important values to you in your life?
A: My relationship with my mom, my family, peace of mind, my friendships and my career.

Read our review of Alpha Dog