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Time of his life

Hollywood is one fickle mistress. Despite the fact that Justin Timberlake has delivered four significant movies in the past year -- The Social Network, Bad Teacher, Friends With Benefits and this week's sci-fi thriller In Time -- the poor guy is being written off as a leading man. According to the Los Angeles Times, Justin Timberlake should cry himself a river.

Maybe that's why Timberlake isn't smiling when I enter his Savoy Hotel room in London on Monday. Then again, Justin Chase Timberlake has a reputation for not smiling when it comes to interviews. Personally, I think it's all down to nerves. Like Kevin Kline's Otto in A Fish Called Wanda.

Timberlake always seems overly keen not to come across as stupid. Which is stupid. He has got six Grammys, four Emmys, two multi-multi-platinum solo albums, and his old band, 'N Sync, sold more than 50 million albums worldwide, making them the third-best selling boy band of all time.

Timberlake is also a shrewd businessman, writing jingles for major corporations (such as McDonald's I'm Lovin' It) when he's not busy resurrecting MySpace. And he has got a sense of humour, as his Saturday Night Live mock-pop sensation Dick In A Box will testify.


I decide to try and cheer Timberlake up with my old interview ice-breaker: "We'll mix it up, talk about drugs, homosexual experiences, if you've ever killed anyone."

Timberlake looks a little surprised. Which is normal. So did Robert De Niro when I said it to him. And Meryl Streep (although she did say she was finally ready for that homosexual experience).

"Sure," he says, actually cracking a smile. "I'm up for those kinds of questions. It'll be good to mix it up a little . . ."

Writer/director Andrew Niccol's sequel-of-sorts to 1997's Gattaca, In Time has mankind once again in a dystopian near-future. Our body clocks now stop at 25 years old, after which you have to buy your time. Timberlake plays Will Salas, who, after being given a century of credit by a suicidal playboy, heads into the rich zone to live the life of someone with all the time in the world. He meets rich girl Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried), and the duo turn into Bonnie & Clyde as they rob her daddy's banks, with Cillian Murphy's dogged timekeeper cop on their trail.

So, what grabbed Timberlake about In Time? And did this brave new world -- filled with a thousand time puns, such as "It'll take years off you" -- all add up for him?

"When I read the script, it made me ask a lot of questions," answers the 30-year old actor, "but, when speaking with Andrew, he was very specific about reasons, about things being the way that they were. And what I do love about Andrew is that he doesn't treat his audience, you know, like they're dumb. He kind of lets them put their own pieces together.

"But, he said something to me when we first met. He said, if we were able to actually invent the fountain of youth it would be the death of all other inventions. I don't know, it just seemed brilliant to me. If we were able to live forever, we would stop productivity as people. Possibly. And that was really where the film came from for him."

If there is a fountain of youth to be found today, it is, of course, Hollywood. The capital, reckons Niccol, "of living forever". As Irene Cara so passionately informed us, fame is the key to never truly dying, and it's certainly worked for the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe. And it'll no doubt work for Snooki too.

Is that part of the kick for Timberlake?


"No, I don't know, I think, creativity lives in a place that feels like a moment. Some of it lasts longer than others, but, I don't know, if I started to think too much about something like that, it probably . . . I enjoy being spontaneous and creative, and I don't want to touch that."

There aren't many Grammy-winning, multi-platinum-selling singers out of Memphis who can really act, so, does Timberlake feel that he still has to prove himself?

"I don't know," he answers, pensively. "You can't worry about stuff like that. If you're inspired, and it feels authentic to you, I don't see any reason to not do it. But I think that's because I come from a generation that feels like we can do a lot."

In Time is in cinemas now