On Monday, we had a good laugh about Runner, Runner and how barely anyone cared about that movie or Justin Timberlake as an actor. I think there’s enough blame to go around – it’s not like this movie was all Justin’s idea, and he wrote and directed it and decided not to promote it. The studio deserves the blame. The director deserves the blame. Ben Affleck deserves the blame too. But of course, we can still laugh and laugh because poor little Justin is still trying to be a movie star and he just fails every single time. He’s like a piece of wood on camera – no charisma whatsoever. No “watchable” quality. On stage, when he’s singing? Sure. But never in any film. And now, after the failure of Runner, Runner, even Hollywood is taking notice of the Charisma Vacuum. Trade paper Variety published an essay by Ramin Setoodeh in which he’s basically saying, “Justin, baby, give it up. It’s over.”
In 2011, I sat down for a lengthy interview with Justin Timberlake, who told me that he was having the time of his life as a big screen star. Even though he’d experienced a few setbacks (“I bombed all my auditions,” he confessed), he was in the middle of promoting two romantic comedies and he had another film out that fall. Most of our conversation focused on his revitalized movie career.
Timberlake, who first appeared on “The Mickey Mouse Club” with Britney Spears and Ryan Gosling, said he had been studying acting for a long stretch. His inspiration was Will Smith, who successfully transitioned from music to “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” to box office megastar. But then Timberlake said something that surprised me. “I have no aspirations of being a movie star,” he said. “I need no more attention.” (Almost on cue, a young man came up to the patio where we sat and asked for a photo, which Timberlake briskly declined.)
I couldn’t tell if this was faux modesty or not, so I never published that part of our interview. But it seems weirdly appropriate now: Timberlake’s “Runner Runner” was a spectacular box office flop. The gambling drama only eked out $7.6 million in its opening weekend, despite the casting of Ben Affleck, post-“Argo,” as a slimy casino boss.
There are plenty of reasons for “Runner Runner’s” failure. The reviews were awful, and Timberlake (at 32!) is hardly plausible as a brainy Princeton graduate student trapped in an illegal Costa Rica gambling scheme. None of the film’s principals did much press for the movie released by 20th Century Fox, so they must not have had confidence in the finished product either. At a Manhattan showing on Sunday night, the unfortunate group inside my theater had to wiggle past the excited crowds waiting for “Gravity.” Timberlake, who is meant to anchor “Runner Runner,” struggles with most of the screenplay’s cheesy dialogue. In other scenes, he comes across like a lost celebrity hosting “Saturday Night Live” who can’t find the teleprompter.
But the real problem with “Runner Runner” stems from what Timberlake told me. Even if he can peddle zillions of iTunes singles or concert tickets, most of his groupies aren’t going to follow him to the big screen. He will never be a movie star, and it’s a mystery why he took such a long hiatus from music to appear in so many movies. Now that he has a hit new album, “The 20/20 Experience,” it might be a good idea for Timberlake to give up acting.
He put his cinematic ambitions on the map with 2006’s “Alpha Dog” and 2008’s disastrous “Love Guru.” But it was his dazzling turn as Napster founder Sean Parker in the “The Social Network” that got him noticed. (He told me that he joked with his friends about getting business cards that read, “David Fincher Put Me in a Movie.”) After that, there was a flood of offers. Since 2010, he’s appeared in more pictures — eight — than real working actors Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts or Tom Cruise.
Timberlake was the voice of Boo Boo in “Yogi Bear,” a nerdy high school teacher (“Bad Teacher”), a GQ magazine editor who couldn’t keep his clothes on (“Friends with Benefits”), a sci-fi bandit (“In Time”), a baseball recruiter in a Clint Eastwood movie (“Trouble With the Curve”) and a folk singer in an upcoming Coen brothers’ musical dramedy (“Inside Llewyn Davis”). While some of these performances aren’t bad, they pale in comparison to what he’s accomplished as a musician. An artist who can rock the MTV Video Music Awards like Timberlake doesn’t need a second mediocre career.
In his heyday, Elvis Presley had 31 Hollywood acting credits and he became his own franchise at the movies. Throughout the ’80s and mid ’90s, Bette Midler, Cher and Madonna all had viable film performances (and an Oscar win). But something changed in Hollywood around the time that “Total Request Live” marked the final hurrah for musicvideos. It could be that the millennial generation found the idea of bigscreen divas unappealing or the bubble gum pop stars weren’t versatile enough to make the leap. But whatever it was, many one-named superstars who tried to transition to the big screen flopped — from Britney (“Crossroads”) to Mariah (“Glitter”), Christina (“Burlesque”), Jessica (“Dukes of Hazzard”) and Kelly (“From Justin To Kelly”). Jennifer Lopez may be the exception, but she was introduced to Hollywood as a dramatic actress first in “Selena.” On the other hand, the Internet revolted when Justin Bieber pretended to nab the part of Robin in the new Warner Bros. Batman installment.
In the new Hollywood model, the singers who successfully bridge into film do so in supporting or character roles. Jennifer Hudson won the Oscar for “Dreamgirls,” even though it was Beyonce’s name at the top of the credits. After Mariah failed in “Glitter,” she redeemed herself in “Precious.” Lenny Kravitz is a great stylist for Katniss in “The Hunger Games.” Lady Gaga has cameos in Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete 2” and “Sin City 2.” Adam Levine makes his movie debut in “Can a Song Save Your Life?” with Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo. Taylor Swift, who had a small role in “Valentine’s Day,” was recently announced in “The Giver” with Streep and Jeff Bridges.
If there’s one lesson Timberlake can learn from all these other acts, it’s that he should stick to ensemble parts, because he can’t carry a film on his own. His best onscreen work has been wedged between other strong performances in both “The Social Network” and “Inside Llewyn Davis.” But after “Runner Runner,” I still think he should take a break from the movies. Please stop sending him scripts.
So, at the end of the day, the very least Justin could do for all of us is stop trying to make the leading man thing happen forever. Variety seems to think that if he MUST act, he should only stick to ensembles. I would argue for a more hardcore embargo though – think of how many times otherwise decent films might be ruined by fifteen minutes of Justin Timberlake. While he’s not as blatantly offensive when he’s part of ensemble, that’s still a role that should go to someone who isn’t a Charisma Vacuum. And for those of you who think I’m a complete hater – I was amazed by Justin at the VMAs this year. He was incredible and badass. Why does he insist on forcing his “acting career” on us when he’s capable of so much musically?
Photos courtesy of WENN.
Says Variety…..and everyone else in the universe.
I’ve always loved Variety, and now I love it even more.
Eh even though I think he’s a horrible actor, I think Variety is being slightly unfair. He may not be the star he hopes to be, but he is getting offers. I understand that it’s only because of his name, but I don’t think he’s harming anyone and I think a big problem is the material he’s actually in. He’s laughable as an actor, but I’d like to see him in a few good movies before I say that he needs to quit…I think only pathetic people need to quit (Lindsay, Paris, etc)
He IS harming people: deserving/trained actors struggling to get roles/their break and the audience who has to endure his self-conscious, ego-filled performances.
Took the words right out of my mouth.
Well at least he is a better actor than Jessica…
I bet this is what he says when they are at home, “Babe, I may not be the box office bombshell I set out to be, but at least I am better than you.”
LOL. Not by much! LOL!
Actually, Jessica is the better actor…which is what is sad.
A smack down from Variety has to hurt! I agree he should stick to music, the few films I’ve seen him in, he was terrible. He gave it a shot, it didn’t work.
Agreed, both he and Beyonce need anything stay away from the big screen.
Well the same should be said about putting actors & musicians in the cover of fashion magazines
And Jlo is a little more tolerable on screen than as a singer..well she shouldnt sing at all
He’s not THAT bad.
He is that bad. He was the weakest part in The Social Network and he basically played himself!
True-dat gurl BUT does NO ONE remember his turn in BAD TEACHER?!?! Loved it.
Haha, I loved Bad Teacher too 🙂 But that was all about Cameron Diaz, she made him look good. And I really think he sort of played himself again.
Please he is THAT bad. Awful. I hated Shrek 3 cause of him. And musically I don’t think he’s all thay. Of I had Timberlake producing songs for me I’ll also be a hit maker. Talent vacuum
I’m with you on this he needs to give up acting or his version of acting. Stick to music and let the real actors have the parts. Let’s hope he stops getting offered roles.
I think being in The Social Network and having that film collect a ton of accolades and awards went to his head. Justin assumed the movie revolved around his excellent acting skills, but every other acting endeavor of his has proven otherwise.
He assumes everything revolves him. Remember how he behaved during Cannes Festival?
Anyone who looked at those pictures (from both the photocall and the premiere) would think he was the star of “Inside Llewyn Davis” and that Oscar Isaac had a minor role in it.
Wasn’t there talk about an Oscar for him? Hahaha!
Eve, so embarrassing! And Oscar Isaac seems so decent and low-key, same goes for Carey Mulligan. And what does Justin? Throws himself all over the journalists. What an idiot.
I meant “he assumes everything revolves around him”.
“Wasn’t there talk about an Oscar for him? Hahaha!”
And he totally believed he stood a chance.
He wants leading man roles. It’s all about the money. Acting is extremely lucrative, millions for just a few weeks work. I suppose he might pass in a budget romantic comedy as he wasn’t too bad in the one with Kunis. But any serious roles is just laughable.
“Timberlake (at 32!) is hardly plausible as a brainy Princeton graduate student ”
Uhhh…. So older people don’t go to grad school? What an idiot. I’m starting grad school at 29. So fu, buddy.
Perhaps it is the “brainy” part that Timberlake can’t make plausible.
But you’re right, people can go to grad school at any age!
Maybe his character is supposed to be 22?
His character is supposed to be 26, which is still a stretch, because we’re supposed to believe Justin still looks like he did in 2006.
that should convince all the bad mouthers that Jessica Biel and him make a nice fit!
It is really too bad. I thought he was great as Sean Parker in “The Social Network”
People keep saying this…what am I missing?!?! He was fine in that role, fine, not great. Plus that was hardly a challenging role. If we are going to throw the word “great” around like that it will be meaningless.
I think people are saying that it wasn’t bad. Sure it wasn’t oscar worthy, but not bad enough to get slammed by people…I think it just shows that he CAN act and shouldn’t be told to quit. He just needs some better movies that are up his alley
And yet, he behaved (during awards season) as if he had a chance at being nominated.
Better movies need actual actors. Not this brat insisting on doing something he clearly isn’t capable of.
Sorry, I don’t mean to be a dick (to you), but what he needs is to quit acting altogether (same goes for Madonna).
Sheesh Andrew – you are such a hater! 🙂
I think his problem as an actor is he can’t break his general tendency to play to the camera. He always seems aware that it’s there; he never fully disappears into a character. It’s like you’re watching Justin Timberlake the performer trying to act. He breaks the fourth wall. Frankly, he’s godawful, I have no idea why he keeps getting parts. I’ve been wondering that for years.
Genius! Spot on Tessa!
Thank you for putting into words you’re exactly right. Playing to the camera works on SNL, that’s why he’s good on it. In movies? He’s horridly self-conscious and obvious. It’s uncomfortable to watch.
Agree Tessa and I think he is too self- conscious to let go. Also he has a warped vision of himself wich would make it difficult to play a character that you cannot identify with. I mean he was raised by his mama that He IS SPECIAL so even this Variety article won’t convince him that he sucks.
It was the same with Madonna, always too aware of the camera.
This precisely. Nailed it, Tessa.
Perfect description of why he doesn’t work in films- because he is a great performer (of music) on stage, and I think he is really good on SNL..both of which REQUIRE that you play to the camera. I don’t know if that is something he can learn not to do, but right now he’s pretty painful on screen.
Truly, I don’t care much for his music, but find him hilarious on SNL. Someone said it somewhere- he should just become an SNL cast member.
He’s got this overwhelming stench of douche about him that one just cannot ignore.
And after that homeless person malarkey at his wedding, it confirmed everything I’ve always suspected.
Every time I see him in a movie I think, “there’s Justin timberlake pretending to be someone else.”
“I would argue for a more hardcore embargo though – think of how many times otherwise decent films might be ruined by fifteen minutes of Justin Timberlake.”
He ruins every movie he’s in. “In Time”, for instance, isn’t a bad movie. It does have an interesting plot. But it was painfull to watch Timberlake trying to act. Kuddos to Cillian Murphy for keeping a straight face every time he had to shoot a scene with Timberlake.
And before anyone replies to me to say “But he did a decent job in The Social Network”…NO, he didn’t. He basically “played” himself there. Playing oneself is not acting. Also, those scenes required a lot of editing by David Fincher.
Just now I remembered one particular scene — at a club or something — where he’s supposed to be telling Eisenberg and Garfield’s characters something and Fincher made it with (loud) music, so instead of listening to what he has to say we see him moving his lips while Eisenberg nods (we can only assume what the character is saying). That had to be intentional (by Fincher).
I’m glad somebody is finally calling him out. I could never understand why critics always tiptoed around whenever they had to write about his acting.
Cillian Murphy is the only reason I continued to watch that movie. JT as an actor is gross and so wrong. He’s taking parts from someone who could do a decent job.
yeah, Fincher made JT look decent, and that makes Fincher the man with the skills
Fell the BURN!!!
I don’t think his music is that great either.
He should stay with his music and the occasional SNL skit.
He always acts gay, as in a straight guy hamming it up a bit pretending to be gay. Every single movie.
“He comes across like a lost celebrity hosting “Saturday Night Live” who can’t find the teleprompter.”
I’m glad other people agree he should just give up The acting thing.
I love the last line “Please stop sending him scripts”. It’s like saying, Dear Movie People, Justin won’t stop on his own so please don’t enable him. Love, Everyone.
My roommate liked him in that movie with Mila Kunis.
I don’t think his music is that great either and critics have been agreeing with me lately.
I think he half- a**ed the latest album. He had a contract with some company (Ticketmaster? I can’t remember) that he needed to do another album/tour, so in the little bit of free time between filming those 8 movies he put together a crap album.
I liked his earlier stuff quite a bit.
You’re thinking of LiveNation.
He’s a good supporting actor, and he does comedic roles really well. I don’t understand why he doesn’t seek those roles out more often.
I guess everyone in Hollywood wants to be on top or the star of a film, but some people are better suited for supporting roles because they do not have the appeal/talent/gravitas to be a leading man/woman.
I love Justin and will always be a huge fan of his… but he needs to stick to what he does best – the occasional SNL and Jimmy Fallon appearance, making music, and playing second fiddle to actors with more talent.
Black Snake Moan comes to mind.
I was just scrolling down to add my two cents about Black Snake Moan. That was one terrible movie.
Cher is the surprise. She really had some great roles and delivered.
Agree – little offensive to lump her in with Madonna. She turned out to have chops.
OUCH to his HUGE ego!! It’s gotta hurt knowing everyone in Hollywood reads Variety LOL!!!
In Facebook movie, he was essentially playing himself.a smarmy, cocky dude. so not big stretch. so people should stop with the “He was so good in FB”!!.
Well, guess he he can queue in line with his wifey Jessica B. another unemployabl, horrible actor.
I agree with all of this article’s conclusions, but some of the “see also” examples are bogus. Biggest quibble: apparent JLo amnesia. JLo was an actor first (OK technically a Fly Girl first, but not a singer). She was a very well known film star before she released her first album, and at the time many actors were dropping horrendous albums (coughlindseycough) just because they could. She’s an actor turned musician (loosely defined) not the other way around.
And just for good measure, in no way has Madonna ever had anything resembling a “viable” performance in anything.
I love Madonna’s performances in Desperately Seeking Susan, Bloodhounds of Broadway, Dick Tracy, Dangerous Game and Evita. She has a resume of better and more interesting performances than many whom are called actresses. Sandra Bullock included, a generic corporate stepford if ever there was one. To each his own.
Helloooooo- A League of Their Own?!?! Also Rosie O’Donnell’s only tolerable performance as well.
Yeah, that one too. In some scenes in Body of Evidence Madonna looks directly into the camera and gives nothing. Wooden, like Justin. Yet I still find the film and her performance throughout mesmerizing. Justin is not mesmerizing.
Have to disagree@ Madonna. Evita is a great film, IMO. Her performance in that film was the best of her career, but she was surrounded by a great cast, in a musical, so it played to her strengths. Also, bonus for her, the vocal training she received to portray Eva changed her voice forever, providing her range and power she lacked before…it is evident on Ray of Light, her studio album after Evita. She campaigned hard for that role; she trained hard, too, and it shows, She is better in ensembles, ie: A League of Their Own, Dick Tracy, Desperately Seeking Susan. I agree about J. Lo, she was dancer, actor, then a “singer”. I heard she was inspired to become a “singer” while filming the concert footage for the Selena bio-pic. I guess she loved the direct adoration from the audience. Out of Sight was a great film, but everything (film/music) since has been kinda mediocre, IMO.
I loved Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan as well. And JLo is not an actress. She got lucky with Out of Sight and apparently was decent in Selena. Garbage since. Anaconda anyone?
Seems the music is not enough for him. Rich musician is bored and plays in movies. He´s an entertainer, but has no idea of portraying other characters. Why doesn´t he take acting classes? Maybe this would help someway.
And I think that Justin should listen to Variety.
Poor guy can’t act. Plus he has a terrible speaking voice. I always cringe when I hear him trying to act, and feel embarrassed for him.
Citing lines even with emotion or inflacyion is still not acting. He is always only himself. He is not able to become a character. His speaking voice is high and nasal. He is homely.plus we all know he is a douchebag. I love his music but that’s it.
He is homely. How come the ladies still scream for him??? It is bizarre.
JT is never, in any way, shape, or form, “badass.”
F****** please. LOL
But watching him pretend to be is oh so fun. Hahahahahaha.
Question: “Why does he insist on forcing his “acting career” on us when he’s capable of so much musically?”
Answer: Because he’s a raging narcissist who believes he can (and will) do any and everything in the arts, and is entitled to everyone’s adoration of it.
Trust and believe, he’ll read this Variety piece and will be convinced that the writer just doesn’t “get it”. Someone else wrote it PERFECTLY (I’m paraphrasing): Justin’s ego-mania is the result of growing up being told by his mother that he’s special and perfect. Same with Justin Bieber. Same with Miley Cyrus. See the pattern?
This exactly. And being famous at a young age.
Did anyone remember at last year’s SAG’s when Justin came to present an award, and Daniel Day Lewis (oh one of my forever dongs with Liam Neeson) gave a “wtf is he doing here?” look to the camera, while Justin was dancing to the music?
That’s how I feel about his acting (and singing).
I thought he was crap in the Social Network. Everyone in that film was stellar and he came off like a rank amateur amongst them. He is not a natural, he has no charisma on screen and these are essential qualities in any screen actor. OMG I just realised it’s like he’s a porn actor trying to transition to legit film.
To answer your final question: Because we have created and lent to a generation of egos who aren’t told ‘no’, and all want to be the triple threats of the golden age even if they don’t have the good to back it up. They don’t NEED a 2nd career, but they want one. They want more than one, probably. And they want to be the biggest and best, and no one tells them that they aren’t. No one tells them that they could be more infamous and leave a legacy by being 100% GREAT at one thing as opposed to tainting their career and image by being mediocre at 100 things (and in the process, confusing their brand/fans).
Yes. Isn’t it the American Way that everyone is entitled to have it all if they just follow their dreams, believe in themselves, never take no for an answer and never give up and that they’ll be a Star and they’re awesome and don’t let anyone tell them they’re not and anyone who disagrees is a hater?
The bit about actually having talent kind of gets missed.
Watching him trying to deliver a line is painful. Get the hook already.
I think that is great advice! Hope he takes it.
See, I don’t actually think he’s that bad, or at least not any worse than the Channing Tatums of the world. He just needs to stop trying to be a ‘serious actor’ and an action star. He’s not a great actor, never will be, but he’s well suited to things like Friends With Benefits and Bad Teacher. He has good comedic timing, if he stuck to supporting roles/cameo’s in comedies and the odd lead role in a rom-com, he’d have a respectable career.
Channing Tatum can deliver a line without sounding like he’s reading it directly off the script.
“So, at the end of the day, the very least Justin could do for all of us is stop trying to make the leading man thing happen forever.” Amen!
Wait wait….when did taylor swift get a part in the giver?!
The problem is JT is not used to playing second fiddle to anyone. Everyone knows that Nsync was little more than JT and his glorifed backup singers. And then he officially segues into a solo career. He’s so damn accustomed to heing the center of attention. He would never be satisfied as a supporting principal.
I’m just glad the press are finally jumping off his dick. Took them long enough. He can’t act for shit and lately his music isn’t all that great either.
Keep it up critics, keep it up.
He has not got enough big screen sex appeal to be a leading man
Or acting skills for supporting.
Clearly, the author of this Variety piece has never seen Alpha Dog or Black Snake Moan. I challenge you to watch either of these films and walk away with the same opinion. Justin is very consistent as an actor. I have seen terrible performances, brilliant ones, and mediocre ones. What he needs is the right scripts and characters. He is entitled to a flop. Most artists have them. This doesn’t spell doomsday for their careers or invalidate their other great work, including SNL. If there’s one thing that’s true about Justin, he continues to surpass people’s expectations of him and their predictions, and I am sure he will continue to do so.
He was laughable in Alpha Dog. He did okay with the crying scene, but everything else? His voice and line delivery was cringe-worthy. He can’t even ask a question convincingly.
Why does that last picture of Ben and Justin bring up the phrase “spit roast” to mind…
Wooden, no charisma? That’s being kind, he’s simply dreadful as an actor. His acting in Social Network was awful as well but the talent of the other actors propped him up making him look at least average, for a high school play.
I’m so glad people are realizing how terrible an actor he is and maybe when producers get sick of losing money they will stop foisting him on a public that sees he has zero talent on camera.
His wife isn’t talented either but then their lives in public are the best acting either of them are capable of.
I just can’t forgive him for his homeless wedding fiasco. I just can’t.