For “Saturday Night Live” fans, Justin Timberlake’s finest comedic moments may have come in that Emmy-winning video in which he bears a very, um, special gift tied with a bow (“Dick in a Box”). But for those who are more interested in seeing his subtle side, “Trouble with the Curve” features Timberlake as Johnny “The Flame” Flanagan, a former big league pitcher who fantasizes about becoming a sports announcer. He’s also paired up with two major league talents — three-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams as buttoned-up lawyer Mickey, and Clint Eastwood’s aging, cranky baseball scout Gus. Still, despite Timberlake’s credentials, the job didn’t come easy — and even once he got it, it almost gave him pneumonia.
“I actually auditioned for this movie,” Timberlake says. “And I was happy to do it. It’s funny, because I was happy to audition for this movie because I had a slightly different take on the character than what was on the page. Just injecting a little more humor into the guy.”
Timberlake had to find his sense of humor to do one of the pivotal roles in the film, in which he and Adams strip down to their skivvies to take a late night swim. While it reads as romantic on screen, in reality it was far from it. “We had to do a pick-up shoot of the close-ups of that, because we shot it in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I almost got hypothermia… It’s one of the few times I’ve ever been working where I couldn’t process a thought. The water was so cold… I think it was 50 degrees or below, and when you jump in it and dive in for one take, you’re like, oh, that wasn’t so bad. But then you’re sort of there and you’re trying to say your lines and your teeth are chattering. All I remember is Amy looking at me and saying, you’re blue. You’re turning blue. And it was actually, it was her who said we need to cut. It was this weird thing that happened. My brain shut down for a second.”
For Timberlake, braving the cold was no big deal given the payoff was working with Eastwood. “He’s hilarious. He’s very charming. It makes for a great working environment… he likes to work fast, which is great because you come in with this extra kind of nervousness that makes you prepare harder.”
While no one will mistake this earnest but gentle film for an “SNL” sketch, for Timberlake the difference between the two boils down to one simple thing — character development. “‘SNL’ is the highest elevation of comedy you can do… You’re putting an appendage somewhere it doesn’t belong or I’m dressed up like an omelette. With movies, you just want your characters to be real at the end of the day. Unless it’s a movie ‘Bad Teacher,’ where obviously there’s some surrealism to that kind of character.”
“Trouble with the Curve” opens nationwide on Friday.