As he sits unperturbed – gazing towards the sun that shines through the window – in a suite at one of Melbourne’s hotels, Jack Black looks more than the part of a dishevelled rock star. From the five o’clock shadow to the threadbare growth and even his weary body language, it’s not hard to imagine the musician come actor strumming it on stage with electric guitar in one hand and first of vehemence in the other
But the lead singer of acclaimed rock band ‘Tenacious D’ and the star of the new comedy “School of Rock”, in which he – funnily enough – plays a rocker, indicates that he’s determined to do away with the rock image – despite the image.
“I’ve got to do the Tenacious D movie and then I’d like to not do any rock movies”, says Black, in the country to promote his role in the hit Richard Linklater film. “Maybe just one more rock movie and then that’s it”.
One gets the succinct feeling that as much as he tries to close that statement with a gag; he’s gravely serious – he wants out now, while he still can. “After the Tenacious D Movie, it will be scorched earth. No one will even be able to think about Rock for a century”, he laughs.
Black, whose been playing in the aforesaid band, about as long as he has been acting, says it’s hard combining his love of acting with a rock and roll career. “It’s hard when you rock and act at the same time. It’s not easy…for me. It’s like a juggling act or something. There are too many things to concentrate on. Let’s face it I wouldn’t be anywhere without them together, I needed them both, but [puts on fake snooty accent] Now that I’m a big star… no, I dunno”, he laughs. “No, if I could just do something non rock”.
Black says it’s not so much a fear of typecasting that has him wanting to leave the rock roles behind for a while. “It makes it hard because there’s two jobs. When you combine them it becomes entertainment squared. Very stressful for me personally. There’s no time to relax”.
Black started his film career with bits parts in movies like “I Still know what you Did Last Summer”, “Mars Attacks” and “The Jackal”, and those his screen time in many of those early roles was probably only a few minutes – he was memorable. “That’s by design”, says Black. “I was always bulging my eyes out, squeezing as hard as I can, and breathing for attention. It’s not like natural charisma there, there’s a little sweating and bleeding for attention”.
He met his band partner, Kyle Gass, on the actor’s circuit. “I met him at a theatre company called The Actors Gang in Los Angeles in 1990. We were enemies at first, we were rivals. We were like the musical dudes in the theatre company. But after a couple of years we joined forces and became best friends and thus the D was born”.
“School of Rock” was the brainchild of writer Mike White, Black’s long time friend and neighbour. They collaborated previously on the film “Orange County”. “He was able to get my sense of humour and I was already a big of his writing and his acting – Chuck and Buck – and we were friends before that, and neighbours. He called and said he had an idea for a movie where I would play a frustrated musician. A failed rocker who gets a job as a substitute teacher and I thought it was a great idea”.
So who’s more like the real Jack Black, the guy on stage, or the guy in this latest movie? “Tenacious D is me but a little bit dumber, Dewey Finn is me but a little more desperate. But they’re both very much me. It’s me five years ago.” Of the kids in the film, he says he was most like the class clown. “I was the clown. I wanted to be laughed out and I wasn’t very funny. It took a lot of years of wanting to be funny before anything funny happened. Based on my need. The Class clown is always secretly the saddest of all”.
Black says another element that appealed to him about “School of Rock” was that Director Richard Linklater was helming it. “I’m a huge fan of Slacker and Dazed and Confused, and I think all of his films have great integrity and a sense of reality and he’s a very subtle filmmaker. We had a good time. Not a lot of direction in the actual rehearsing time, mainly in the rehearsal. Which was extensive. Six weeks of rehearsal. Which you never get on a film, in otherworlds, he was a huge pain in the ass”, he laughs. “Nah. It worked. It was a good technique. When you start filming you’re like a well oiled machine.”
Black’s equally animated about his next movie, “Tenacious D “. “We’ve finished writing it and now it’s just a matter of getting the greenlight from the studio and shooting it”. What of the rumour that he’s chasing veteran rocker Meatloaf to play his Dad? “That’d be nice. He might turn it down though, because it’s not a very Meatloafy role. He’d be playing against character. I just thought it would be cool. I just thought it would be a good nugget to have. I mean, I think we look alike”.
Black, who says his favourite musical groups range from Abba to Bobby McFerrin and Black Sabbath, immediately rules out a “School of Rock 2”, saying although it’s been successful, “there hasn’t been any talk”. But there’s still plenty of opportunities ahead to catch him on the big screen with roles forthcoming in “Envy” with Ben Stiller”, “Anchorman” with Will Ferrell and the animated flick “Shark Tale”. And having said the rock roles are behind him, he is quick to get on the record what’s actually going on with him and the Ozzy Osbourne biopic he reportedly wanted to star in. “That’s true, I would want to. But I’m not pursuing it. It was just something I said on her [Sharon Osbourne’s] talk show and I know they’re going in a different direction and that’s fine. Good luck to them, I hope it comes out good. It’s a good story”. Black’s also been rumoured to be up for a role in the upcoming “A-Team” movie. “A-Team? That’s the first I’ve heard of it. Is that an offer? I pass”. Black does have a big project in the works though, he’s just not saying what. “It’s something else, I can’t say, it’s just too early…it would be a jinxer”. Might it be possibly reprising his role as head thug [from “Never Ending Story III”] in part 4? “I guarantee you it’s not that”, he leers. “Unless Martin Scorsese’s on the project. Have you heard anything about that?”
And it has to be asked: Did he try coaxing any of the kids in “School of Rock” into becoming rockers? “I tried to get Robert Tsai, the keyboard player, the kid who played Lawrence into Radiohead, but he wouldn’t have any of it. It was too late. He was too far gone, it was lost. He was in a wilderness of classical music.”
There will be more Mr Black, fret not. Your mission on Earth is not complete yet.
SCHOOL OF ROCK Commences November 20 Across Australia
– CLINT MORRIS