TODAY   |  September 24, 2013

Justin Timberlake: Working with Coen bros a ‘bucket list’

Justin Timberlake talks exclusively to TODAY’s Matt Lauer about his new focus on acting, and playing a folk singer in the Coen brothers’ next film “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> and have more of our interview with a man that doesn't seem to be slowing down. justin timberlake has been called this generations master of cerimonies. recently i sat down with him in las vegas for a candid conversation about the secret of his success so far.

>> you have to do things that scare you.

>> it's a business philosophy that served justin timberlake well.

>> this is fantastic.

>> for more than two decades he never shied away from taking risks. he's a child actor who beat the odds, growing up to become a global pop star collecting 6 grammys along the way. but these days it's timberlake 's acting career that's taking center stage .

>> what do you think?

>> you walk into a room now, justin , you walk on to a movie set and you're not the musician doing acting, you're the guy -- anybody else on the set says this guy has chops. he has proven himself. that has to give you confidence.

>> what changed things for me is when david fincher hired me.

>> david fincher cast justin timberlake in the highly acclaimed film the social network . he played the role of sean parker .

>> it opened up a huge door for me and opportunities started to happen.

>> and now, justin timberlake is starring in a hot new crime thriller, runner, runner.

>> are you all right? you seem a little worked up.

>> yeah, i'm good.

>> he plays a college student that takes on an online gambling tycoon played by ben afleck .

>> ben was asked about working with you on this and he said working with justin -- he said working with justin made me feel inadequate or insecure.

>> i find that hard to believe.

>> all right. how did he make you feel?

>> i felt lucky to work with him at this time in his career. as a true film maker he really sees the movie from all angles.

>> no, no, you just do it into the --

>> but it's in timberlake 's other upcoming film that he combines his rare talents. he plays a folk singer .

>> i'm happy for the gig but who wrote this?

>> i did.

>> so the door is open now and when you get to work with the cohen brothers --

>> the other two smartest people i've ever met.

>> is that a bucket list for an actor.

>> yeah, i ran into matt damon and he said something that stuck with me. he said the cohen brothers that's a call that any actor, doesn't matter what age, you just hope that one day you might get a shot at that.

>> and then you got the call.

>> i was kind of blown away at that. well, i would have -- if i would have gotten a call that said we'd like you to write some music in our film i would have paid in my pants. and literally would have peeed in my pants.

>> you just hired me. i'm going to go look for movie roles for you. what am i looking for?

>> i think, you know, itself got to have meat on the bone. one time i was stalking with stevie wonder -- i'm going to pick up all of these games.

>> yeah, i was just trying to make myself sound important. i asked him about music and then he said, you know, listen, at the end of the day , there's good music and bad music and i just try to stay away from the latter.

>> earlier this year timberlake released the 20/20 experience, his first new album. the follow up album arrives next week.

>> i don't want to make music i've made before. i want something that's new and fresh to me. all i can tell you is i woke up one morning. i had just finished a movie with clint eastwood , another name that i'll pick up.

>> we should put a little number up on the screen. i think we'll do that.

>> how many names i've dropped. just pick those up and put them back in my pocket. i had just finished a movie and i woke up and it was like make music.

>> so you got the 20/20 experience two of two and i love what you said about it.

>> did i drop a name?

>> yes, yes you do.

>> we'll add this to the tally. if you could imagine she's everything you thought she's marilyn monroe .

>> i did say that.

>> and then you meet her hotter older evil twin sister. everything dark and wrong with her at that age is what you become infacuated with that.

>> ava gardener. for me what i enjoy is collaboration. it's the most inspired i ever felt, for sure.

>> it seems as a look back here i've done nothing but praise on you. let's end on negativity.

>> i can't wait.

>> give me the reason we'll hate you in ten years? what would ever happen that would make us hate you?

>> oh, god, well, i mean, you know, ben already hates me.

>> maybe it's name dropping .

>> it's the name dropping . if you didn't name drop all the time. that's what it is.

>> nice guy . very talented. nine names in one short interview.

>> but he knows a lot of people.

>> justin 's movie "runner runner" opens october 4th .