Justin Timberlake just can't help but drop famous names

Justin Timberlake's been surrounded by famous names ever since he was a pre-teen, performing on "Star Search" and "The Mickey Mouse Club." He's starred in "The Social Network" with Jesse Eisenberg, been "Punk'd" by Ashton Kutcher, and dated Britney Spears. So how can he possibly talk about his life without mentioning more than the usual share of A-list stars?

But that didn't stop Matt Lauer from teasing the actor and singer about the sheer number of famous names that popped up when Timberlake appeared on TODAY on Tuesday.

"Yeah, I'm just tryin' to make myself sound important," Timberlake joked during an interview where the names of Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Stevie Wonder, Clint Eastwood, and Joel and Ethan Coen all came up.

Timberlake was already famous when "The Social Network" hit movie screens in 2010. But it was that role, as Napster co-founder Sean Parker, that set him up on a whole new path, one where he's taken seriously as an actor.

"I'll tell you what sort of changed things for me was literally when (director) David Fincher hired me," Timberlake told Lauer. "It did open up a huge door for me. And the opportunities started to — started to happen."

Previously on TODAY: Timberlake defends 'smart,' 'talented' Miley Cyrus

Timberlake now has two movies coming out — crime thriller "Runner Runner" and "Inside Llewyn Davis," a music-filled offering from the quirky Coen Brothers.

In "Runner Runner," which opens Oct. 4, Timberlake stars as a college student who takes on an online gambling tycoon played by none other than Ben Affleck, who has praised Timberlake's acting in the film. "I feel really lucky to work with (Affleck) at this point in his career," Timberlake told Lauer.

But it's "Inside Llewyn Davis," scheduled for a Dec. 6 national release, where Timberlake can combine both his singing, songwriting and acting abilities, as he plays a folksinger. Working with brothers Joel and Ethan Coen was itself an honor, he said.

"(Before being cast) if I would've got a call from Joel and Ethan Coen (saying) 'Hey, we'd like you to write music and work on some music in our film," I would've peed in my pants,'" Timberlake said with a laugh.

Justin Timberlake

'Inside Llewyn Davis' Photocall - The 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival
Andreas Rentz

From N'Sync to wardrobe malfunctions, acting to singing, Justin Timberlake is used to the spotlight.

No less than Matt Damon had advised Timberlake not to pass up such an opportunity, leading Timberlake to laugh with Lauer about how many famous names he was dropping during their chat. "By the way, I'm gonna pick up all these names after I've (dropped them)," the actor joked.

Earlier this year, Timberlake released "The 20/20 Experience," his first new album in nearly seven years. The follow-up album, "The 20/20 Experience Part Two," arrives next week.

"I don't wanna make music that I've made before," Timberlake said. " I wanna make something that sounds new and fresh to me."

With all the recent positive press for Timberlake, Lauer wanted to know what could go wrong.

"Gimme the reason we're all gonna hate you in 10 years," the anchor asked. "Why would — what would ever happen that would make us hate you?"

"Well, you — I mean, you know, Ben (Affleck) already hates me," Timberlake said.

"Maybe it's name dropping," said Lauer with a laugh.

"That's what it is," Timberlake confirmed. "It's the name dropping. 'Justin, if he wasn't such a schmuck and didn't name-drop all the time.' That's what it is."


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