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Justin Timberlake: ‘I’ve never played a character quite like this’

A screenshot of Anthony Mackie (left) and Justin Timberlake during a Google Hangout interview with college media about new movie ‘Runner Runner,’ which is set to hit theaters nationwide Oct. 4.

A screenshot of Anthony Mackie (left) and Justin Timberlake during a Google Hangout interview with college media about new movie ‘Runner Runner,’ which is set to hit theaters nationwide Oct. 4.

Justin Timberlake said in preparation for his most recent movie role, he researched gaming and online poker, but that wasn’t the only way the 32-year-old adapted to play his college-aged character.

“I just drank a lot of beer, that’s all you really do in college, right? You just drink a lot of beer and run around, flipping around — flipping the bird,” Timberlake said in a Google Hangout interview with The Lantern and other college media. Co-star Anthony Mackie (“The Hurt Locker,” “Million Dollar Baby”) also sat in on the interview.

Timberlake plays Princeton University graduate student Richie Furst in his latest film, “Runner Runner,” which is set to open in theaters nationwide Friday. “Runner Runner” follows Furst as he gambles through online poker to pay his tuition. After losing all his money, Furst travels to Costa Rica to confront online gambling tycoon Ivan Block, played by Ben Affleck.

The role of Furst is unlike any Timberlake has played before, he said.

“I’ve never played a character quite like this, so it was a lot of fun for me to be the guy who’s in the eye of the storm that everything is kind of happening to versus the instigator,” he said. “The character I play in ‘The Social Network’ is probably closer to Ben (Affleck’s) character in this movie. So it was kind of nice to be on the other side.”

Although the actor and singer/songwriter said he enjoyed playing this role, he initially showed interest in playing Affleck’s character as the gambling kingpin.

“When I first read the script, I did make a joke to the writers — ‘Can we just cast Richie really, really, young and can I play Ivan Block?’” Timberlake said. “(Villains) are fun characters. Playing the antagonist is a lot of fun.”

Mackie, who plays antagonist character Agent Shavers in the film, agreed, mentioning the role is also one that differs from his past characters.

“I wanted to do the movie because it’s different than everything I’ve done before,” he said. “I’ve never really been able to be (the) off-the-handle, crazy, cop guy.”

But the details of his character weren’t the only aspect drawing him to be apart of the film.

“And it was in Puerto Rico, and I love rum. So I was like, I can shoot a movie in Puerto Rico, and drink rum — so why wouldn’t I do that?” Mackie said.

However, it wasn’t all fun and games on the set, at least for Timberlake, who said he had to take a beating for his role.

“You know what’s funny? Those scenes in the movie when you’re reading the script, it just says ‘they chase Richie,’ ‘they catch Richie’ — that’s all it says,” he said. “And then you start throwing that scene into the mix and everybody wants it to be as real as possible, and then you literally get the s— beat out of you for a week straight. So, I obviously was not prepared for that.”

That action aspect of “Runner Runner” is drawing some students to want to see the film.

“It looks really action-packed and I love action movies,” said Danielle Barnes, a third-year in biology. “And so far, I’ve yet to see a Justin Timberlake movie I don’t like.”

“Runner Runner” is centered around the idea of the American Dream and how technology has changed this fundamental cultural value, but Timberlake said that is the only way it’s changed.

“The American Dream, in my opinion, has always kind of been the same,” he said. “I think if you told someone they could get rich slow or you could get rich quick, they would probably take the second option. I think what’s changed is technology.”

These changes were another reason Timberlake was compelled to be involved with the film.

“That’s why this movie felt like something interesting to be a part of, because technology has changed so much. Before, it was a movie like ‘Wall Street’ that was about the stock market, you know, there’s been ideas around real estate that could get people rich quick. I think the only thing that’s new about the American Dream is the access we have through the technology to do things faster than we ever have.

“People strike oil, and they get rich instantly and obviously there have been movies about that as well. But yeah, I think technology is what’s changed. That’s what was so fun about this movie — was making a movie about something that’s happening right now.”

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