shadows features Feels Like the First Time
Rich Cline chats with rockin’ comic actor Jack Black • page 1 of 2
B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
school of rock you've been warned! Jack Black rarely seems to turn off the manic charm that has made him a star. Constantly arching his eyebrows and sending out crazed facial expressions, he always seems to be switched on, ready to burst into another song. Outspoken and refreshingly opinionated, he’s a natural comedian who clearly finds it difficult to notch it down a bit. And to the School of Rock costars who accompanied him on this tour--Maryam Hassan (vocals), Kevin Clark (drums), Caitlin Hale (guitar) and Joey Gaydos Jr (guitar)--he’s obviously just one of the kids. Although he’s also the class clown who steals all the attention.

Writer-costar Mike White wrote the character of Dewey in The School of Rock specifically for Black. “It makes it easier if there’s a really good writer who knows you well and writes it in your voice,” he says. “It’s like, a good piece of writing protects you from being bad! I’d like to say that he’s a tailor who tailored me a suit of heavy metal armour, so I could go into battle and conquer and slay the giant wildebeest!”

And the character evolved during the production. “Yeah, he kept on writing while we were filming, working closely with Linklater,” he says. “Richard had certain things he wanted that he didn’t think were there. I think with the good movies, the director’s always going to do a little writing, the writer’s going to do a little directing, and the actor’s just going to do what he’s told! No. I like to get in there and collaborate too, I like to throw in a couple of little flavour nuggets of my own and yeah, everyone should collaborate a little bit.”

MORE FAMILY FRIENDLY. Some people have accused Black of selling out, since School of Rock is such a family friendly comedy. “I question that,” he says. “I think the real question is, ‘Have you lost your talent, are you no longer relevant?’ I just stop liking people when they don’t entertain me anymore. If they’re doing something for a larger audience, that doesn’t bother me. What are the compromises doing this movie, as opposed to what, High Fidelity? I don’t know, I didn’t use the F word or anything. I guess you could say that’s a compromise, not using bad language. But who cares — that was a challenge! I didn’t show butt-crack like I did in High Fidelity, so I guess you could say I sold out! ‘He’s not showing his ass-crack, so much for the real J.B.!’ [evil laugh] It’s still me, this is more me than any of my movies really.”

Basically, Black thinks Dewey is him five years ago, before he made it in the movies. “I was a little more desperate and frustrated. And the difference is: I make fun of rock for a living and Dewey would never make fun of rock. He takes it very seriously, loves it too much.”

So does that mean Black’s another actor who’s really a frustrated rocker? “That is not the case,” he says quickly. “I couldn’t have done either of them I don’t think if I didn’t have the other one. I didn’t really have an acting career before Tenacious D, and the thing about Tenacious D that people like is the theatricality, the acting that we in there. So it’s always been a combination for me.”

MAKING FUN OF ROCK. Tenacious D is one of the pioneer camp rock bands, predating groups like The Darkness. “Oh, I really like Darkness,” he adds. “And no, I don’t think we influenced them. I think we have some similarities in that we both make fun of rock while loving it intensely. They’re great though. I really love that song that I can’t sing it here now.” Then he goes on to sing a bit of it anyway. “That was a freebie, a little private concerto for you, the press.”

And he loves talking about other British bands he’s encountered. “Oasis are great. We loved them when we saw them in Vegas, except they didn’t play Wonderwall. And yeah, that bugs me when the band doesn’t play the hit, when they say, ‘No, that’s what they want us to play! We’re going to do this other thing to show them that we’re not just the—’ Oh, just play what we came and paid you to play! And Radiohead — you know I worship Tom Yorke. I saw him, one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. We were on the bill of a Neil Young benefit concert in San Francisco, the Bridge School Benefit, and Tom Yorke was doing a solo performance, playing Radiohead songs on his acoustic guitar and on Neil Young’s piano — yeah that was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. So good. But then he was really mean to me afterwards, understandably! I was kind of a psycho-fan approaching him saying, ‘Tom, I just want to say, that was really moving,’ and ‘Thank you thank you,’ and he just walked away. But then I heard later that he’s famously cold, and it wasn’t just me that he despises, but the whole world.”   more...

the cast

hassam, hale and black

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© 2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall