Argue all you want, but the case can be made that next to, say, George Clooney (and, okay, Keith Richards), Justin Timberlake is the coolest dude on the planet. The handprints on his bedroom wall alone could seal the deal; he has opened his man cave to Britney Spears, Fergie, Alyssa Milano, Cameron Diaz, Jessica Biel and, if the rumor mill serves, Scarlett Johansson and Olivia Wilde.
Timberlake does okay in other departments, too. As a singer, he has earned six Grammy Awards and sold more than 17 million albums as a solo artist and more than 60 million worldwide from his days with ’N Sync. He is a popular guest host on Saturday Night Live (his “Dick in a Box” video with SNL’s Andy Samberg landed an Emmy and more than 100 million views online) and a favorite on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Timberlake is a tequila drinker and weed enthusiast and has a six handicap in golf. He drives fast cars, runs a successful clothing company and, frankly, looks better than you probably ever will. He can dance, too.
Then there’s the exploding movie career. In last year’s The Social Network Timberlake embodies the jittery distractedness of Facebook nation as Napster co-creator Sean Parker. He has two big film comedies this summer—Bad Teacher, opposite Diaz, which opened in June, and the sex romp Friends With Benefits, opposite Mila Kunis, a few weeks later. This fall he’ll appear in the sci-fi thriller Now, a movie about switching off the aging gene.
Not that Timberlake himself could have packed much more into his 30 years. Growing up in suburban Millington, Tennessee, just outside Memphis, he sang in the Baptist church where his father, Randall, was choir director. His parents divorced when he was three, but his mom, Lynn Harless, helped choreograph a career that took Timberlake from Star Search to The Mickey Mouse Club to the boy band ’N Sync (Harless named the band using the last letter of each band member’s first name). Later Timberlake reinvented himself as a grown-up solo artist with such soulful pop albums as Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds.
Contributing Editor David Hochman sat down with Timberlake at the Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood and saw him again backstage at a TV talk show. “What’s cool about Justin is he’s famous just for being Justin Timberlake,” says Hochman, who recently interviewed Helen Thomas for Playboy. “He does many, many things and does them all well. When you meet him, you know how it must have felt to meet the young Elvis or Sinatra.”