Justin Timberlake gets lost in translation

23/09/2013 | Hayley

Grammy Award-winner Justin Timberlake discovered what it’s like to get lost in translation during a recent interview for Brazilian TV. The singer and actor was left looking amused, bemused and a little terrified following his interview with TV host and comedienne Sabrina Sato.

Timberlake was on her show to promote his new movie Runner, Runner, in which he stars alongside Ben Affleck. However, the interview soon took a few more bizarre turns than the star would typically expect on a press tour.

Off to a rocky start

The interview kicks off as Sabrina waits nervously outside to be called in to interview her idol. She seems particularly excited about the surprise gift she has brought along for him. It is obvious Sabrina is nervous, but she starts off speaking English to the star – later admitting that she learnt the language especially for the interview.

Sabrina begins by asking fairly straightforward questions about what Timberlake liked most about his character in Runner, Runner. It is apparent her pronunciation is causing him to struggle to understand what she is saying. However, he valiantly disguises this difficulty, answering a question on what his faults are by joking that he is hard of hearing.

Lost in translation

Next, Sabrina asks Timberlake whether he considers himself the next Michael Jackson, to which he answers that no one will ever replace the late King of Pop. At this point, the TV presenter seems to abandon her previous line of questioning and instead focuses on the fact that she thinks he’s “hot”. To emphasise this, she says he sings and dances “like a black American”. A visibly startled Timberlake is then asked by the enthusiastic presenter if he would like to learn to dance like a “black Brazilian”. Clearly, this snippet of the conversation is an example of the presenter’s words getting lost in translation.

Although Timberlake says he would like to learn to samba when Sabrina jumps up to teach him his publicist declines the offer on the singer’s behalf. Following this knock-back, the host takes her charm offensive to the next level by finally presenting Timberlake with the much-hyped surprise gift she has got him. Timberlake nervously unwraps the box and looks aghast at what is inside, as the camera freezes on his reaction.

Inside the box, it is revealed, sits a mould of Sabrina’s bottom. The presenter had even gone so far as to sign the unusual sculpture “with love”. The surprise gift is the perfect end to an interview that Timberlake is certain to remember over all the others he participates in on this press tour.

Not the first time

Promoting a movie or album around the world means getting lost in translation is not a rare occurrence for the most famous stars. Having to rely on an interpreter, often in a crowded room where numerous reporters are all shouting questions over the top of each other, means things can get misheard and so the reply does not match up.

However, while getting lost in translation is hardly surprising for the majority of celebrities, finding out many of our most famous faces are bilingual is more unexpected. While Timberlake clearly struggled being interviewed in Portuguese, he was also left behind on the Russian leg of the press tour for the 2011 movie Friends With Benefits. His co-star Mila Kunis, however, was able to keep up. It transpires she is fluent in Russian, having lived in Ukraine until the age of seven.

Meanwhile, Kunis’ Black Swan co-star Natalie Portman is also something of a linguist. The Oscar-winner speaks fluent Hebrew, having been born in Jerusalem, and she has also studied and speaks French, German, Japanese and Arabic. Another actor to speak multiple languages is Lord Of The Rings star Viggo Mortensen, who is fluent in Danish and Spanish and also speaks French and Italian. In 2012, he starred in the Spanish-language movie Everybody Has A Plan.

Mortensen has dual American-Danish citizenship, and other celebrities to speak a second language after learning it from their parents include Leonardo DiCaprio. His mother is German and the actor is able to participate in interviews in Germany in the native language. Similarly, X Men: First Class star Michael Fassbender learnt German from a parent, in this case, his father, while Oscar-winner Sandra Bullock is also fluent in German – her mother was a German opera singer. Other stars to have linguistic abilities include Bradley Cooper, Jonny Depp and Jodie Foster, who all speak French, Ben Affleck, Will Smith and Gwyneth Paltrow, who speak Spanish, and Colin Firth, who speaks Italian.

Of course, there are also numerous stars who speak English fluently as a second language, including Charlize Theron, whose mother tongue is Afrikaans. Husband and wife Academy Award winners Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem are both Spanish and have appeared in both English and Spanish movies, while their fellow Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard is French but has starred in Hollywood blockbusters Inception and The Dark Knight Rises.

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