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Justin Timberlake on leaving music for movies: 'People look at me like I'm ungrateful'

December 10, 2010 |  4:02 pm


In a story in this Sunday’s Calendar section, Justin Timberlake comes clean about his decision to go on indefinite hiatus from making music in lieu of a newer –- and in light of the Oscar buzz surrounding his performance in “The Social Network” -- suddenly viable pursuit: movie stardom.

“My first two albums, I woke up and it was undeniable what I had to be doing. I had to be making an album,” Timberlake said. “It’s not undeniable to me now.”

The pop superstar has remained mostly schtum about his choice to forgo recording and performing music for the last few years (apart from the occasional guest verse or late-night performance) and even got a bit testy when buttonholed by Entertainment Weekly on the subject.

But in a wide-ranging interview with Pop & Hiss, it became clear Timberlake is abundantly aware that his career choices don’t sit well with everybody –- even while he refuses to let such outward perceptions sway his creative resolve.

“Sometimes people look at me like I’m ungrateful for my music career because I’m not putting out an album every year,” said Timberlake. “I don’t know what to say to that. There’s nothing I can say that sounds genuine to those people because I’m subject to their projections at me. I try not to be a prisoner of that. If I engage in that, then I’m not an artist.”

Timberlake framed discussion of his change of focus to acting around an earlier career transformation: from boy band phenom to solo performer. There was considerable fan resistance, he pointed out, to that transformation too.

“What I find in the modern day is that people have photographic memories,” Timberlake said. “There’s a picture of you they put in their mind and that could last for six months. Or until you do something that feels like, ‘Oh that changed my perception of him!’”

Like, say, appearing in an ensemble drama about the founding of Facebook that’s already been handicapped by many gurus o’ gold as a shoe-in for a best picture Academy Award nomination?

Asked if he had ever pondered following in the career footsteps of Will Smith –- another performer of lightweight bubble-gum pop who morphed into a major-league movie star -- Timberlake denied having such worldbeating ambitions. But he said he wouldn’t mind picking the “Seven Pounds” star’s brain for some career pointers.

“If we sat down, there’s a lot of advice I would seek out from him based on moving from music to film and doing it so seamlessly,” Timberlake said. “With Will, if there’s something I would try to emulate, it’s his tenacity.”

The performer described being guided by intuition, a follow-your-nose process that has resulted in him starring in both next year’s romantic comedy “Friends With Benefits” (opposite Mila Kunis) and the Andrew Niccol-directed sci-fi thriller “Now.”

“The one thing that’s consistent with me is I try things that are new,” Timberlake said. “I just want to continue to be inspired. If you’re not inspired, not tenacious, you’re going to half-ass it. I’m not willing to do this.”

-- Chris Lee

Photo: Justin Timberlake. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times