Justin Timberlake needed some help preparing for his starring role in the forthcoming Facebook movie The Social Network. But when the young singer approached Facebook co-founder Sean Parker in a nightclub, seeking acting help, he got shot down.
"He said he wanted to get to know me," Parker says in a new Vanity Fair profile, "but I said, ‘That isn't going to help you play the part [Aaron] Sorkin has written. That character really isn't me.' "
Parker apparently believes he's not as calculating or vindictive as portrayed in the movie.
Yet the Napster co-founder somehow decided to let writer David Kirkpatrick catalog his actual flaws in VF:
- "Partying... very, very late, talking intensely... recreational indulgence. His is the life of programmer-as-rock-star.... with the lifestyle that that implies" (dangerous phrasing in an article that also mentions Parker's cocaine arrest);
- an obsession with his image (he tells friends what to tell Kirkpatrick about "his wilder behavior");
- and a hefty dose of ego ("I've helped change the world, at least three times").
Parker must have anticipated his strengths would also come through in the magazine piece: Intelligence ("brilliant," two different Silicon Valley investors tell the magazine), kindness ("when his friends fund-raise for charity, several told me, Parker is often the one who contributes the most") and savvy. Then there's this, from Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO and a frequent recipient of Parker's guidance: "Few people are as smart as he is."
For Parker, an internet pioneer who has wanted for nothing so much as loyal business partners, that sort of respect from his co-founder is more valuable than an association with Timberlake's mega-celebrity. That he preferred one to the other is also a tidy illustration of how tightly people cling to their own conception of themselves, even as online social networks spread and other media for image-twisting celebrification become ubiquitous.