By Darlene Donloe
Justin Timberlake ’s career has taken him from being a big star to a little troll.
Here’s what happened. He started off on The All New Mickey Mouse Club and Star Search. He then became a member of the highly successful boy band, NSYNC. He’s now a huge solo artist. He has appeared in several films and makes numerous television appearances, most notably on Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.
All of that progression has led him to his latest role as a troll named Branch in Dreamworks Animation and 20th Century Fox’s new film, Trolls, in theaters nationwide November 4.
Trolls stars Anna Kendrick as Poppy, the optimistic leader of the Trolls. It also features Gwen Stefani, James Corden, Russell Brand, Icona Pop, Ron Funches and Kunal Nayaar. As the story goes, together the Trolls embark on an adventure that takes them far beyond the only world they’ve ever known.
I caught up with Timberlake at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills recently, to talk about how he became a troll.
Q: What are some of the unique challenges of doing some of the songs, which are covers and recreating them?
JT: Well, the, every song is situational, whether it be for comedic purposes or dramatic purposes. Really, you break down each moment and at the end of the day it’s theatrical as well. For instance, there are some great opportunities to right your own source music. The roller skating scene. Writing a song for Ariana Grande. When you’re using a song like, The Song Of Silence as soon as you hear those two opening acoustics it’s so recognizable that all the adults in the room laugh and then when something like True Colors, I can’t imagine actually having to write a song after hearing that in that scene, it works so well.
Q: You can do any project you want. Why did you choose this one?
JT: That’s not true.
Q: Yes, it is.
JT: If that’s not a setup for an obnoxious answer. I’m sure however I try to weasel out of that question I won’t sound pretentious at all. This is like, for me, an embarrassment of riches. Dreamworks, I feel like redefined their own genre of animation. When I was pitched the movie - Anna (Kendricks) was already in the movies, so I thought, ‘I’m in.’ Then they talked to me about doing the music. I’ve always wanted to do music for film. So, I was like, wow, I may as well pick one that has an awesome budget. So, selfishly, I was like, ‘I’ll be happy to.’ Then you find yourself in a room with people asking what do you think. I’m kidding, I’m mostly kidding. It was an embarrassment of riches to have all of these resources at your fingertips. To do it this way. You had the sense the movie was going to be great, based on the pitch they had given me. It was going to have it’s own flair and DNA. I don’t know why you would say no.
Q: Were you all in the same studio or was it individual?
JT: All the voice acting – they gave Anna and I a shot at doing it together, but we talked over each other most of the time. It was totally unusable. It’s terrible. But we did all, funny enough, the cast sings – there are some other little music pieces. What was fun for me was I got to see everybody in 24-72 hours of time.
Q: You star in the movie and you were in charge of the music. Talk about that challenge. It was a big responsibility.
JT: To be honest, I found it to be self-serving. To be honest. I got to see and know a lot of what we were trying to accomplish with the movie. The toughest part for me was some music cues that I was really excited about ended up on the cutting room floor. Trolls 2! (laughter) For me the time you spend on them was singular and separate that the biggest challenge was writing Can’t Stop The Feeling. That was the biggest because they had a specific scene for our highest sort of arc of the animated extravaganza. That was the toughest code to crack at first. The way they did it was they storyboarded it. You can pick your way through it.
Justin Timberlake plays Branch in Trolls
Q: Your song from the film, Can’t Stop The Feeling, came out before the movie.
JT: When they first gave me the pitch for the music. True Colors was already in the movie and Sound of Silence was in the movie. It all looked like an ABBA video. It reminded me of something I may have taken. It reminded me of a certain era. The 70s. The great R&B songs like September. I felt like the whole thing felt 70s to me. For some reason I referenced Saturday Night Fever to the powers that be. We talked about how Staying Alive and that basically the soundtrack came out before the movie and that happened with Grease and Urban Cowboy. I don’t know why I just referenced three John Travolta movies. That probably says a lot about me than anything. When we finished Can’t Stop The Feeling we were like – lets just put it out now and see what happens.
Q: Talk about your writing process. How do you create? Do you have a tape recorder? Do you write things down? Does it differ from when you’re doing your own music?
JT: This is different from any experience I’ve had writing a song. To write specifically within a sort of landscape for a scene and lack of a better term a feeling, it’s situational, but the trick is to write something that could work for the scene. But something that could stand alone on its own and live outside the movie.
Q: I mean do you actually have a tape recorder? Do you write things down?
JT: Oh, you want to know my actual tricks. You got to pay extra for that. I can’t talk about my process because if I do I won’t be able to do it. I actually don’t write anything down in the studio. I believe all of it is melody based. It has to all make sense. I try to write things down in the studio. I found I kept writing the same word 20 times. There are different songs that get written different ways. To be totally honest I couldn't tell you how it all happens. You just start piecing it together. This had its own set of obstacles. I had to sensor myself because it was animation. I don’t usually do that. Just the specificity of what is happening in the scene, I felt I had to have it make sense. I was given a list of criteria which felt like a huge wall that you couldn't get around.
Trolls is in theaters nationwide November 4.
TROLLS Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyjm5VQ11TQ