In just eight months' time, Justin Timberlake's feelings toward former love Britney Spears have gone from hurt to hate. At least that's what Us Weekly alleges in its current cover story, "Britney Vs. Justin: The War Is On."
The article, which surfaced on New York newsstands Wednesday and will be available nationwide Friday, suggests that pop music's hottest couple are feuding like the Hatfields and the McCoys, singling out Timberlake's video for "Cry Me a River" as the latest, and loudest, bomb dropped (click for the entire Us Weekly cover).
The video, which premiered November 25, features 18-year-old model/actress Lauren Hastings playing what could only be construed as a Britney look-alike in a newsboy cap and tinted pink sunglasses, accessories Britney has been known to wear. Timberlake is seen spying on his supposed ex getting into a car with another man, and subsequently plots his revenge. He breaks into her sprawling house and leaves a tape of himself half-heartedly making out with another woman running on her TV.
Although Timberlake has professed that nearly every career choice is his own, he told a "TRL" audience on the day the video premiered that the idea for the "Cry Me a River" clip came from director Francis Lawrence. And while the clip's sentiment that Britney cheated on Justin (with choreographer Wade Robson, Us says, but Robson denies it) might be unmistakable to some fans, the 'NSYNC singer skirted around what everyone wanted to hear by saying, "The video is not about her. The video is about me."
Spears, meanwhile, won't fess up to the connection either. Calling in to "TRL" on Friday, she denied there was even a resemblance between herself and her supposed doppelganger. "The last time I looked in the mirror, I didn't think I really looked like her." When asked what she thought of the clip, Spears would only say, "Boys will be boys."
Despite this, the article quotes a friend of Spears as saying Timberlake employed the tabloid tactic purely for publicity because his album, Justified, wasn't selling as well as expected. (His solo debut has sold more than 1 million copies after five weeks). Another family source said that Britney and her mom, Lynne, are having a good chuckle over the whole thing.
While the Us Weekly article chiefly focuses on the "Cry Me a River" video to support its cover claim, other munitions incidents are cited. In October, Britney was seen in London wearing a T-shirt that read, "Dump Him," which provoked some to insist it was a message to Timberlake's alleged current girlfriend, actress Alyssa Milano, though the popular sloganeering top is readily available at many retail shops. And she was also spotted hanging around Timberlake's supposed rival, Backstreet Boy Nick Carter.
While promoting Justified, Timberlike slyly revealed intimate details concerning the couple's sex life he had to know would get her attention, since she publicly proclaimed her chastity years ago. During a New York radio interview, he admitted to having oral sex with Spears, and during his 20/20 tell-all, he blatantly hinted that the two have had intercourse. In a Details magazine December cover story, Timberlake took shots at Spears' career choices, saying "If she had a clue, she wouldn't have made ['Crossroads']."
Us steals some of its own thunder, however, by including instances that suggest their parting was amicable. The piece notes that Timberlake said he "would never ever do anything to disrespect [Britney] or degrade her," in an interview with Rosie O'Donnell in April, after citing a quote from Spears saying that the pair "still talk all the time," though they consciously avoided each other at the Teen Choice Awards in August. A source from the Timberlake camp told the magazine that Spears invited Justin to her birthday party on December 2 in her childhood home in Kentwood, Louisiana.
Neither Spears nor Timberlake's spokespeople would comment on the article. "We're just going to continue to take the high road," a Spears rep told Us, and neither camp returned MTV News' calls by press time.
In the two and a half years since Us magazine increased its frequency to become Us Weekly, the publication has garnered a reputation for running fantastic headlines without any confirmation from the parties involved. Recent cover stories claimed that Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe were an item, and that Eminem and Kim Mathers were back together. The magazine's source in the Kidman-Crowe piece later admitted he lied about seeing the two involved at a Mexican resort because he was drunk and simply told Us' writer what the reporter wanted to hear. And Eminem's people wouldn't comment on whether the volatile couple have resurrected their romance.