The Social Network - Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg
The Social Network - Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) and Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) © 2010 Columbia Pictures

When you look at Justin Timberlake’s bio you wonder how he has time to breathe! In addition to his multi-platinum album FutureSex/LoveSounds, which produced four consecutive #1 singles, and his critically acclaimed FutureSex/LoveSounds tour, he has also found time to carve out a movie career for himself. Receiving critical acclaim for his performance in Alpha Dog, he has also appeared in Black Snake Moan, Southland and has voiced lead roles in Shrek the Third and the upcoming Yogi Bear.

In his new movie, The Social Network, Timberlake plays Napster founder Sean Parker, who brings Mark Zuckerberg’s (Jesse Eisenberg) Facebook to Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists.

How did you research Sean Parker?

Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) © 2010 Columbia Pictures

I think there was kind of a collective movement with Jesse, Andrew and myself. We all felt like what we needed was there on the paper. Then we moved into the wonderful mind of David Fincher to find out exactly where this film was going to go.

Just for playing my character, I actually stayed as far away from anything on the internet that I could. You meet my character when he meets Facebook, so I wanted to be excited about that.

I understand you did get to meet Sean Parker, how did that go?

I briefly bumped into him here in New York one time. We spoke for probably all of two minutes. Ironically, I met him before I was cast in the role. While I was going through an audition process, it was announced (on the internet) that I was going to play the role. I (felt), ‘Damn it, I better get this role because everyone thinks I’m playing it.’

Sean seemed very nice but we didn’t really talk about much. He mentioned that he’d read the script and he thought that I was going to be playing the part, but at the time I wasn’t, so that was awkward.

What challenges did you have with the role, as most of the audience will think Sean’s an ass?

Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) © 2010 Columbia Pictures

It became clear to me after my first reading of the script that there was going to be a version of this person in the film that wasn’t the hero. But no one sits behind a laptop twirling their mustaches. That’s the beauty of this film to me, that you really get to pick who you side with.

I had a friend who recently saw the film and said to me, ‘You know, I don’t agree with anyone in this movie, but I don’t disagree with anyone in this movie.’ I think that was really telling. And I think that’s what makes the dynamic of these characters’ tick. I feel like you defend your character.

No one believes that what they’re doing is wrong in life, and so I attacked it that way.

Do you maintain a Facebook page?

I don’t have a personal Facebook page, but it is nice to know that through the world of philanthropy that you can send out a message and raise money for free healthcare for kids. It is a fantastic thing in that way.

It was hard enough to do voice work in an animated film (Yogi Bear) at the same time that I was doing this, the double-duty of it all. I just didn’t have time to look at pictures of my friends!

What feeling do you get from acting versus music?

Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) and Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) © 2010 Columbia Pictures

I’ve spent a lot of time on stage and the rehearsal process for getting ready for a tour. My last tour, it took about ten months from concept to actually getting to the first show. (On stage) you have a very long drawn out methodical rehearsal process, because you step up on stage and you only get one pass at it.

David said, ‘I know that you probably like to get your performance altogether because of your instinctive nature coming from the stage. I want you to know that I’ll try to be cognizant of you starting to grow tired of as many takes as I like to do.’

I stopped him right there and, using a really crappy sports analogy of a football team, told him that I wasn’t going to be a whiny, wide-receiver.

I came into this movie completely knowing my role and completely excited about it. I thought of myself more as a linebacker, that if he wanted me to I would do 99 takes.

Everything I put together on stage, I’m the buck and everything stops with me. So to get to toss the ball around with such great actors is a completely different, fulfilling, creative experience. And to have the freedom to go in and mess it up for 97 takes, and then get to the 98th take, and if it’s good, David says, ‘We’re moving on,’ then you feel (great).

I think we all just wanted to please David. If we did that, we were all satisfied with our performances in the film.

Why are we so fascinated with Facebook?

(Because) it’s a party and you’re throwing it; I think that’s the intrigue behind having your own Facebook page and creating your own profile. It’s your world. As we’ve been promoting this film, I get the idea that collectively none of us are really that savvy at using Facebook or any other social networking site.

I think that what makes the film so intriguing is the bigger picture, if you zoom out, that social networking in general is still a hypothesis. I’m ridiculously stupid when it comes to computers and social networking, but I think the hypothesis is, is it a good thing or a bad thing?

The accessibility and the instant gratification of having all of your photos and profile lined up, I think that’s probably what makes something like Facebook so great to people.

We still wonder if it’s going to create great things in the world or are we going to waste away with it?

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter. More by Judy Sloane