LOS ANGELES — Normally, this is the part of the article that gives a brief explanation of the star you’re reading about, summarizing his career and pop-culture significance. Instead, all you need are two words: Justin Timberlake.
Following years of success in other realms, the superstar is now entering one of the few kingdoms he has left to conquer: cartoons. On the verge of his “Shrek the Third” debut as the would-be King Arthur (see ” ’Shrek The Third’ Details! Nerdy Justin, Killer Princesses, Ogre Babies And More” ), he spoke candidly with MTV about his love of Scooby-Doo, the wedgies he got in school and rumored duets with 50 Cent, Madonna and … Paris Hilton?
MTV: So Justin, tell us about Artie, the possible future king of Far Far Away.
Justin Timberlake: Well, he wears tights and he carries a sword — but not well. He’s sort of a loser, sort of a nerd, and he’s told at the beginning of the film that he is the heir to the throne; he is the boy who would become king. And you get to learn a lot about Artie, and how his parents … left him, so he kind of feels like he doesn’t have what it takes to be a king. He develops a relationship with Shrek, and there you have it.
MTV: When Shrek and the gang find young Artie, even the nerds give him wedgies! Did you ever go through a period like that?
Timberlake: I’ve definitely felt what it feels to get a wedgie before — that’s not ideal. [He grins.] … We’ve all stumbled and fallen, and sometimes things don’t work out how we plan them. [This movie is] really about picking yourself up and trying again.
MTV: How big a deal is it to you to be in a cartoon? Were you the type of kid who’d wake up early on Saturday mornings to watch them?
Timberlake: Oh yeah. I liked cartoons when I was a kid. I used to try to mimic all the voices from cartoons.
MTV: Do you do anybody well?
Timberlake: [He laughs uneasily.] I’m going to get embarrassed now. I can do a Tasmanian Devil. [He makes the sound of the Looney Tunes character.] That’s a pretty good Tasmanian Devil, right?
Timberlake: And then there’s Scooby-Doo. [He makes Scooby noises.] And then there’s Shaggy: [In a spot-on voice,] “Hey Scoob!” And, of course, there’s the Road Runner — “Beep, beep!”
MTV: You’re good! … If you could be the real voice of any classic cartoon character, who would you want to be?
Timberlake: I’m King Arthur, dude. I don’t know how you top that.
MTV: You had a huge premiere in L.A. for “Shrek the Third,” definitely the biggest of your movies so far. What was that like?
Timberlake: It’s cool. It’s all right. But it ain’t like the MTV awards!
MTV: After all the records you’ve sold and the tours and everything, does something like that even impress you anymore?
Timberlake: The thing that impresses me is not the actual premiere, but when you drive around town, there is not a billboard that I’ve seen yet that doesn’t have something about Shrek on it. It’s the subliminal [messages] that DreamWorks puts out in the airwaves.
MTV: The filmmakers said they cast you based on your “Saturday Night Live” hosting gigs. What do you think they saw in those sketches?
Timberlake: Maybe that I was willing to do almost anything? [He laughs.] I don’t know. [DreamWorks Animation SKG CEO] Jeffrey [Katzenberg] pulled me aside one time — I had done a song for him on a different animated film — and he said, “I really like your voice for animation. I saw you on ’SNL,’ I have this character in mind. But I don’t want to tell you anything; I’ll tell you later.” That was it — and then a year later, he was like, “We want you to be in the third installment of “Shrek,” and I was like, “Find something bigger, call me later.” [He grins.] No, I immediately said yes.
MTV: The last movie we saw you in was “Black Snake Moan,” slightly different than this one.
Timberlake: [He laughs.] Yeah, I’d say that’s fair.
MTV: Why’d you want to mix it up? Do one for the kids?
Timberlake: It doesn’t get any better in the animated world than “Shrek.”
MTV: What else is going on for you, music- or movie-wise?
Timberlake: I just flew in from Glasgow. [I’ll be] on tour in Europe and the U.K. … until the end of September, when we come back to America.
MTV: And you’re working with Madonna?
Timberlake: We did work in the studio together, we came up with some really cool stuff. I don’t know what else to tell you except that you’ll hear it soon.
MTV: What’s the name of the song?
Timberlake: I don’t want to tell you that, because she’ll either kill me or she’ll have me kill you. And I think we have enough celebrities going to jail. [He laughs.]
MTV: And on the flipside, you’re also doing something with 50 Cent?
Timberlake: Yes, I did a song with 50 as well, Timbaland and I. We call it “AYO Technology,” and it’s really cool because it’s a bounce record, it’s kind of got the same tempo as “My Love,” so to hear 50 rapping on a track like that is really different for him. I’m a fan, man. I’m just working with people I’m a fan of.
MTV: Did 50 bring out the hardest Justin yet?
Timberlake: We met somewhere in the middle. [He laughs.] It was somewhere like a bulletproof designer necktie.
MTV: There’s also a rumor out there that you’re going to do a duet with Paris Hilton. Is that true?
Timberlake: [Making a face.] I haven’t heard that one.
MTV: Your collaborators are all over the map. Anybody else?
Timberlake: I wrote a song for Rihanna … I just wrote and produced a song for Reba McEntire for her new record.
MTV: So is that, like, country?
Timberlake: It’s not “like country” — it is country. I’m from Tennessee, so I’m making my grandfather very proud by working with someone like Reba McEntire.
MTV: What’s the name of that song?
Timberlake: “The Only Promise That Remains.”
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