After star turns in a string of movies including The Social Network, Inside Llewyn Davis, Friends With Benefits, and Runner Runner, Justin Timberlake basically abandoned Hollywood and went back to his day job: international pop superstar. Releasing back-to-back studio albums in 2013, he set out on the 134-date “20/20 Experience World Tour” that saw Mr. SexyBack touch down at arenas across North America, Europe and Australia/New Zealand over a span of nearly 14 months.
Now, fittingly enough, that musical career reprise may end up heralding Timberlake’s multiplex return. He enlisted director Jonathan Demme — the Oscar-winning eminence responsible for The Silence of the Lambs and 1984’s Talking Heads rockumentary Stop Making Sense, as well as this August’s Meryl Streep-starring rock ‘n roll dramedy Ricki and the Flash — to film the final date on the “20/20” tour at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena.
And this fall, Demme plans to edit the footage into an independently financed, as-yet untitled feature. “It’s very emotional, very exciting,” says Demme with barely contained enthusiasm. “It’s a space age music film!”
The filmmaker knows of what he speaks. After all, Demme is uniquely acquainted with the demands of capturing live performance, having produced and directed a trilogy of concert documentaries for Neil Young — Neil Young: Heart of Gold, Neil Young Journeys and Neil Young Trunk Show — a concert doc for Kenny Chesney and a music video for Bruce Springsteeen (not to mention helping transform Streep into a credible bar band singer-guitarist for Ricki). Demme credits Timberlake’s old school showmanship — his current predilection for slicked back hair and tailored tuxedos, silken footwork and big band swing — with the overall sweep of the film, which has yet to ink a distribution deal.
“There’s tremendous dancing in this piece,” says Demme. “He’s got an extraordinary band called the Tennessee Kids. Huge horn section, two lead guitars, two drummers, eight dancers, four exquisite background singers. And we caught them on their last performance.”
Of Timberlake, the filmmaker adds: “He’s a funky Fred Astaire!”