Multiple Grammy Award-winner Justin Timberlake dons hockey gear to play goalie in the comedy movie The Love Guru starring Mike Myers as a guru and Jessica Alba as the owner of a hockey team. Music, acting, and now hockey - multi-talented Timberlake was up to the challenge of learning to play the sport because he’s, in his words, an athlete at heart.
“I got a crash course for two weeks before I left for Toronto and had someone work very closely with me extensively on how to play goalie. I had skated a little bit before and I had played roller hockey, but it ain't the same thing,” said Timberlake at the film’s Los Angeles press junket. “I don't know if you guys ever tried to play hockey, it's up there as one of the hardest sports I've ever tried to play. And playing goalie, those guys are such unbelievable skaters. To be able to change direction, all of them, the way they do. They're sort of all from Canada too, and born with skates on their feet so they have a slight advantage.”
“It's the most, definitely the most physically demanding but it's the most requiring of coordination. To be able to skate on ice and have hand/eye like that. I mean, it's one thing to stand in the dirt and hit 90 mile per hour fastball. It's another thing to skate on ice and try to catch a 150 mile per hour puck - with your vision blocked. There are so many elements of it, with somebody ramming up into you. It's a crazy game.”
In addition to learning how to act like a goalie, the Memphis, Tennessee-born Timberlake had to master a French Canadian accent. “You know what I did? I'm glad I kind of did it this way - it kind of goes to show that the process shouldn't change, they should still take so much of it seriously, even though you can kind of get away with anything in a Mike Myers comedy. But I really worked on getting the accent right,” said Timberlake of his process of getting into character. “And then when we got to set, that's when I started to play with it and play with the rhythm of it so that it actually did sound even more comedic.”
“I think other than Mike, I'm sort of the only other over-the-top, really the guy in a monkey suit,” joked Timberlake. “So when I got there and saw the wig and the moustache and the Member's Only jacket, even in the goalie outfit you still look funny. So you want to stretch, you want the audio to complement the visual. So I started stretching it as far as I could to make it funny.”
Timberlake’s been a steady presence at the top of the record charts for years, but he’s also taken time away from singing in order to act on occasion (his film credits include Southland Tales and Alpha Dog). Asked just how important an acting career is, Timberlake admitted it’s extremely important. “It's a huge passion of mine. It's funny, I was having a conversation with my stepdad the other day and he said to me, because my stepdad's never been to a premiere - he's going to come to the premiere on Wednesday - he said, ‘You know, it's so funny that you eventually got into film.’ And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘Well, just acting.’ He reminded me and I totally forgot about this, but I got a phone call when I was 14 saying there was somebody down in Orlando and there's a record company and BMG in Europe that will sign this and I went. But two weeks before that, the plan was for me to, we were going to drive to LA for pilot season. So I guess everything leads out the way it's supposed to.”
Timberlake continued, “That sounds so cliché, but I guess that it does. My dad reminded me of that, but it's always been something I've been very serious about. I just think that the opportunities are starting to come in the right way. I think I've wanted to do it for a while, but you get sent the worst scripts immediately based on the fact that you're popular with a certain demographic. That was when I was a teenager. I just constantly passed up on those just because I didn't like the material.”
It was the chance to work with Mike Myers that made Timberlake sign on to The Love Guru. “My experience with this film was Mike called me and said, ‘I want you to play the villain in this movie I'm working on, this character I have been workshopping. It's called The Love Guru and hockey's the backdrop and I don't want to explain anymore. Just read the script.’ So I read the script and called him back and we talked about the character. I mean, it was too funny to pass up and it's Mike. If you're going to do a comedy, do it with the best. But other than that, I mean, it's really about the material and who's going to be telling the story, who's directing it. Because there's good material that becomes misinterpreted sometimes and I think I've been a product of that. The first film I ever did was a product of that, so you learn your lesson from that. But it's not based on what people are going to perceive it as because that'll drive you insane,” said Timberlake.
Myers is a fan of Timberlake’s work and the feeling’s definitely mutual. “Mike called me and said, ‘I think you're really funny. You understand comedy and I can't really see anybody else playing this role and pulling it off like you'll pull it off.’ And it was funny. He said, ‘I think of three other people that I could cast, but they just won't do it the way you would do it.’ That meant a lot to me for somebody that I grew up watching Mike on SNL. Linda Richman and Sprockets and Simon, I grew up watching, laughing at Mike. Wayne's World, for my generation, it's a cultural, you bring it up and people my age just know what it is. So to get to work with him and for him to say that, yeah. You kind of walk in saying, ‘Okay, don't let Mike down.’”