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When a singing, dancing R&B superstar tries his hand at acting, the world watches — and usually expects little. But with his upcoming turn as a twitchy gangsta wannabe in the inspired-by-true-life crime flick "Alpha Dog," Justin Timberlake might just prove the exception to the rule. (Early buzz on his performance as Frankie, a tattooed nutcase with delusions of criminal grandeur, has been strong.) MTV News' SuChin Pak caught up with Timberlake and his "Alpha" co-stars — Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster and Anton Yelchin — at the Sundance Film Festival and talked with all four about aggression, the art of acting and what's in their onscreen futures.

Wanna Rock Your Movie

SuChin Pak happily grills Justin and the "Alpha Dog Crew" on JT's transition from R&B superstar to skeevy gangsta wannabe — watch the interview, and clips, only on Overdrive.


MTV: Justin, these other three guys are all extremely talented young actors, working with Nick Cassavetes, an extremely talented director. They've had success in big-budget and indie films. When you came on the set, were people like, "Justin Timberlake ...?"

Justin Timberlake: From day one, when we showed up, I think we all understood that we were there to work. It's easy to sort of say, "Oh, look at the musician slash rock star, he's gonna be a prima donna." But you know, it would have been easy for me to say, "Look at these affected actors." I think we all came in for the same reasons. To do the work. And other than that, I got drunk every night on set.

Ben Foster: He threw tantrums.

Timberlake: Streaked.

Foster: In all honesty, there was some apprehension. We know Justin Timberlake as a huge pop star. And that certainly raised some eyebrows, just as a crew of young actors who have been doing this because they love to act. We love working. It's not about being something else. But when Justin came in, he laid it down. He doesn't roll with a posse.

Timberlake: Twelve, 13 people at the most.

Foster: Yeah, but minimal jewelry. He comes in and he's him. Take it or leave it. He's a team player. He came in, worked harder than everybody. He didn't need to but he did because that's how he operates.

Timberlake: Interestingly enough, Nick [Cassavetes] called me and wanted to meet before starting a movie that he did called "The Notebook." We sat down and talked for two and a half, three hours. And at the end of the conversation, I said, "Look, in all honesty, I'm working on a solo record right now. And I don't think you want me in this type of project, and I don't know if I want to be involved with this type of project, but I have the utmost respect for you and if something comes around where you really feel like I could really get my hands dirty ... I just want you to know that I come in with no attitude and I'd love to work with you." And that was that.

So he called me for "Alpha Dog." We talked. I met Emile. I met everybody, and decided I definitely wanted to be a part of it.

MTV: This is an aggressive, violent movie, without even having to be physically violent. Just the presentation of how these characters interact ...

Timberlake: In a sense, it's fun and games. It's how kids are to other kids. When you're young and you're figuring out who you are in the world, you're very insecure. I remember that one day I had when I was a young teenager, and I was like, "Oh, wait, I'm not gonna live forever?" And you watch these young people throughout this movie and the thought never crosses their minds until they're in [a really bad situation].

MTV: Now the story also has a theme that's used in literature and films throughout history, which is the pack of young guys get together, just at that point where they're leaving childhood and going into adulthood. And there's always that one alpha male, right? The one that everybody looks to — and that's your character, Emile. You have to be charismatic, but there is a weakness to him.

Emile Hirsch: I feel like every guy who acts super tough is always hiding something. If you're really tough, a lot of times you don't even show it. And my particular character, due to his father, he's got the money, he's got the power, but he might not necessarily be the toughest guy. He gets in the position with the money and stuff where he can manipulate people. He has the tough talk, and he's a little bit crazy, but he's also spineless. And when it comes down to it, he'll make the wrong decisions because he only cares about himself.

MTV: The film hinges on you guys, obviously — the relationship you have and the chemistry. That can't be pre-planned.

Hirsch: Nick Casavetes had his brother, Frankie, trained us for 12 weeks in advance. We worked out for, like, five hours a day. We would do weights all day in his house in the Valley. And we would do cardio, then we would do swimming, and we would have all our meals prepared for us, super healthy meals designed to get us ripped. It was crazy.

Timberlake: The characters, the adaptation of these characters, the guys that they were based upon in real life, were athletes. They played baseball together. A couple of them played football together. They were athletes. So I think he wanted us to not look as scrawny as we've become again. It also developed a camaraderie ...

Foster: A rapport. We were working out in the valley, outside, in August. So we got the heat, and we're lifting heavy things. For hours and hours. These guys, these characters, have known each other since they were small — they were all on Little League teams together.

Hirsch: And it was all about the work. I mean, we'd be lifting weights and we'd be like, "Hey, Ben, how much are you getting paid on this movie? Really? Me too!"

Anton Yelchin: I came to the [script reading], and everybody knew each other. They were friends, and I was like, "Oh, this is great. This is gonna suck." And at the same time, I wanted to be friends with all these guys. I didn't have the same amount of time [as they had to get to know each other], but it worked out perfectly.

MTV: So, what else is coming up?

Foster: I needed a big vacation after "Alpha Dog."

MTV: So you strapped on some wings.

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Foster: Yeah, I'm doing "X-Men 3." I'm playing Angel. You know, instead of considering hate, murder, I get to consider flying. [Everybody laughs.]

MTV: There's clips of you with those huge wings. It looks amazing. So is the film all done and over with?

Foster: The bulk of "X-Men 3" has been shot. We're gonna be going back to do some re-shoots pretty soon, but the scenes that we've seen look spectacular.

Timberlake: ["X-3" director Ben] Ratner makes big movies, man. Ratner makes big movies. He knows he does, too. He's watching right now, going, "Yeah, I make big movies."

BF: My favorite action scene playing Angel was my first flying scene. The cool thing about this particular "X-Men" movie is that we're doing our own stunts. No joke. Hugh Jackman, if you see him moving entirely too fast? It's him. That's us doing it. We're in some of the most cutting-edge wire work available, so I'm doing 80-foot drops head first attached to basically just a jock strap and a metal wire.

Timberlake: Who would not want to be in "X-Men"?

MTV: Justin, you seem like you really want to get in on this X-Men thing.

Timberlake: I'm good. [Shakes his head and everybody laughs.] I'm good. I've worn wires in my shows, baby. I'm good.

Don't miss a moment, a story, a photo or a premiere from Park City. Click right here to check out all of our Sundance coverage over the whole wild week.


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