March 02, 2004 11:41 AM

Given that then-sex object Robert Redford played an inspirational journalist a generation ago in 1976’s “All the President’s Men,” it only makes sense that this generation’s dreamboat, Justin Timberlake, is taking the role of an ink-stained wretch for his upcoming movie debut, “Edison.”

So intent is the Grammy winner on being accurate in his portrayal that last week Timberlake trailed one of the Associated Press’s reporters, Bob Porterfield, to get a first-hand taste of journalism, the news service reports.

“He was interested in learning how you retrieve these public records. Basically, I showed him how you find them, how you request them,” Porterfield told his own employer.

Timberlake’s role is that of a reporter who uncovers an elite team of corrupt police. Veteran actors Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman costar, as does fellow musician LL Cool J. Shooting is expected to start in Canada in the coming weeks.

Of course, anyplace Timberlake goes, he is bound to cause a stir (even if he didn’t rip off Porterfield’s shirt). True to form, the pop star created a commotion at the downtown Los Angeles county courthouse for the 45 minutes he accompanied the real journalist. He then applied to see the legal documents and then pored over them in a public viewing area, says AP.

The two examined an old case filed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Denzel Washington, who sued an electronics firm that allegedly used their likeness in ads without permission.

Porterfield, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who teaches graduate-school journalism, gave Timberlake, 23, an A for his efforts.

“I thought he was sharp,” said Porterfield, justifying Justin’s efforts. “He seemed attentive and interested in learning this stuff. He has a real interest in developing his part. He took quite a few notes.”

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