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Much like “Stop Making Sense” captured Talking Heads in what would eventually be their last major concerts, “Justin Timberlake the Tennessee Kids” is suffused with the go-for-broke energy of a grand finale, serving as both a spectacle and a time-capsule glimpse of the peak of Timberlake’s pop star ubiquity and ability.“I have accepted the fact I may not be physically able to do that again,” Timberlake says, not entirely joking, of watching his own dancing in the film.3 hit, “Cry Me a River,” the former boy-band star and the hip-hop-bred producer have since become one of the most forward-thinking star-producer duos in pop music.Their work on Timberlake’s second solo album not only brought the star into his own, it also helped recalibrate the sonic frequency of several years’ worth of pop-radio trends.
It took him years of work to develop a reputation as more than a moonlighter, an image that finally began to dissipate with his supporting roles as Sean Parker in Fincher’s “The Social Network,” and as a guileless folk singer in the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Yet, strangely, while those roles served notice to most people that Timberlake had genuine promise as an actor, it was through admiring his film work that Jonathan Demme became acquainted with Timberlake as a musician. And I just felt this extraordinary potential as an actor from him. I’m stuck decades back, really, when it comes to pop music.And you get to a point where you’re like, ‘It’s not about “being a man” — it’s about fulfillment.’ Which is a totally different thing.” Timberlake apologizes for “sounding like I’m reading from the New Age Entertainer Manuscript,” but this level of easy-going maturity suits him.For someone who won his first Emmy for co-writing “Dick in a Box,” his humor is now largely of the dad-joke variety. I’ve realized that I don’t really know anything, and when you realize that, you realize a lot.” He adds, “I think you always have to be able to be malleable. “All day I’m thinking about what Woody was going to say to me on set, like, ‘Man, he’s gonna annihilate me.’ I think we all have a level of anxiety. I’ve had panic attacks.” Timberlake, 35, is hardly a stranger to working with storied auteurs, among them David Fincher, the Coen brothers, and Jonathan Demme, and yet for the rest of the evening he’ll joke about Allen potentially firing him from the production. “Literally, it’s embarrassing,” he says of being cold-called by Allen and offered a part. But if film stardom remains a hole in his résumé, Timberlake is making up for it by expanding his reach into unexplored creative corners. It’s leading me to drinking.” His fears are surprising, since Timberlake, over the last two decades, has amassed a remarkable career as a pop star, songwriter, and actor. Full-scale leading-man movie stardom, after all, is perhaps the one brass ring that has eluded him.