8 Milestones in the Evolution of Justin Timberlake

Here's one way to make yourself a screen sensation: star in as many movies in a row as possible! Justin TImberlake is so ubiquitous as a film presence right now that it's bizarre how only a year ago, his casting as Sean Parker in The Social Network felt like a questionable anomaly. Now, there's no denying Timberlake's panache as a romantic lead, comic actor, and serious thespian talent. And to think it all began with Mickey ears and a failed trial with Ed McMahon. Let's reinspect nine moments in the evolution of Justin Timberlake.

1. The All-New Mickey Mouse Club

After a cowboy-hatted JT (then called "Justin Randall") lost as a tyke on Star Search, he quickly rebounded and earned a spot on the Disney Channel's talent factory, The All-New Mickey Mouse Club, a/k/a MMC. Timberlake played a number of comic roles, found a future bandmate in co-star J.C. Chasez, and worked alongside future superstars Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Keri Russell, and future Oscar-nominee Ryan Gosling. The outfits were only slightly less dour than Blue Valentine. "Come on, Randy; what do we have to lose?"

2. Model Behavior

You may think 'N Sync was just another Lou Pearlman confection that tore up the hearts of every preteen girl on Earth, but let me dazzle you with the group's many feats: Their 2000 album No Strings Attached became the fastest-selling debut of all time, bowing at 2.4 million copies in its first week of release; they sang their Academy Award-nominated hit "Music of the Heart" at the ceremony; they performed at the Super Bowl, the Olympics, and a number of times on sullen Carson Daly's not-so-sullen MTV phenomenon Total Request Live. It was during Timberlake's tenure in the group ('95-'02) that he made his true acting debut in the Disney Channel movie Model Behavior. (Skip to 7:01 to see Timberlake in action.)

3. JT goes indie

Listen here, young whippersnappers: Justin Timberlake didn't emerge as a cineplex draw right out of the gate. In fact, he began his silver screen journey with roles in smaller jams like Alpha Dog (which he's very good in!), Black Snake Moan (ditto!), and Southland Tales (not as much!). While it was impossible to tell that Timberlake would move seriously into acting only a couple years later, his self-assurance as an actor was always undeniable. Check out Timberlake in a memorable scene from Southland Tales below.

4. Shrek the Third

As Arthur Pendragon in the massively popular, minorly funny Shrek the Third, Timberlake earned the chance to show off some comic chutzpah while ceding the major goofball antics to Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy. You might even say his character was a send-up of his loverman persona. Hope that also helps you forgive The Love Guru.

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