Grammy-winner Justin Timberlake makes a breakthrough performance as an actor in Columbia Pictures’ critically acclaimed drama The Social Network, the controversial film about the beginnings of social media megasite Facebook.
Timberlake plays Sean Parker, the smooth-talking Napster founder-turned-Facebook president who pulls Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg into his venture-capital-rich world while persuading the young upstart to bury his biggest investor, and friend, Eduardo Saverin.
“I read it and I thought it was a perfect screenplay,” says Timberlake of The Social Network, which is written by The West Wing’s Aaron Sorkin. “I knew that it was in the two percentile of material that is just great. And then I heard David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,Zodiac,Fight Club) was going to be the director,” so Justin kicked down the door as hard as he could.
On paper, Timberlake is the polar opposite from Parker. The megastar doesn’t use Facebook and is famously tight-lipped about his personal life. Though more than 3 million people follow him on Twitter, he follows just 18, including his mom. “The biggest question I’ve heard from people is, ‘Why would they make a movie about Facebook?’ ” he says. “And I try to say, you know, it’s not really about Facebook. Facebook is the catalyst for some deeper themes.”
The irony wasn’t lost on Timberlake that he plays the co-founder of Napster, the music-sharing service that spread like wildfire in 1999, sending the music industry into a tailspin. Major labels began suing college students over copyright violations.
“There’s more irony in there that says who’d have thunk the music industry doesn’t have more of a sense of humor,” says Timberlake, whose own album sales were pillaged back when he was the curly-haired teen heartthrob in pop group N’ Sync.
Landing the role of Parker was the challenge. “When I wrote it and Justin’s name came up, I had, I think, the same reaction that director David Fincher had, which was, well, you know what, the guy kills on SNL, so the least we can do is give him an audition,” Aaron Sorkin says.
“We were convinced he could overcome his fame baggage,” Fincher says. “Anyone who’s seen ‘D ——— in a Box’ knows that this guy is fearless.” The Saturday Night Live sketch won Timberlake and partner-in-crime Andy Samberg an Emmy for their R&B digital short, which exploded on YouTube after airing in 2006. The premise: Timberlake and Samberg serenade their girlfriends at Christmastime with gift boxes tied at waist level.
Timberlake’s most intense monologue in The Social Network takes place in a pulsing club outside Silicon Valley. “Look at my face and tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about,” Timberlake demands on screen, cementing his seduction of the nerdy, tech-savvy Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg. “David famously does 50, 60, 70, 80 takes, and you never heard Justin saying ‘Omigod, we got it already, can we stop?’ — it would be, ‘Are you sure you’ve got it? I’m up for 10 more,’ ” Sorkin says.
Timberlake calls Fincher’s directing style “mentally and emotionally and physically exhausting,” but it’s “also artistically just like breaking free. It’s freedom. Because you get to do so many takes that you get the opportunity to mess it up.”
Opening soon across the Philippines, The Social Network is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.