Clint talks to the “Tenacious D” writer/director
It may seem as if New Line Cinema really lucked out with the cast and crew it assembled for Tenacious D: The Pic of Destiny – the loosely [very] autobiographic tale of how musicians Jack Black and Kyle Gass came to form ‘the D’ – but that wasn’t so much to do with studio pull, as it were the fact that the band has fans near and far.
“Yes, everyone in the film are friends of the D”, says writer/director Liam Lynch, of a cast that includes such big names as Tim Robbins, Colin Hanks, Amy Adams, Ben Stiller and John C.Reilly. “Tim Robbins, for instance, introduced Jack and Kyle to each other in the 90’s – Jack and Kyle were both actors in Tim’s theatre group, The Actors Gang”.
Dave Grohl, who plays ‘The Devil’ in the film, was “a long time friend of Tenacious D. He did the drums on their first album. I had him star as Satan in my music video for Tribute and then of course, he drummed on all the songs for the new album and movie. It only made sense that he would play Satan!”
Lynch says Grohl gives an amazing performance in the movie, and “not only drums but also sings as Satan. It’s awesome. Dave is just a friend of ours so it wasn’t like we had to recruit him or anything. It was just a given that he’d be Satan, we all hang out and we’re friends and we love laughing and jamming together. It’s an excuse to work together.”
Lynch, whose credits include the cult TV puppet comedy series The Sifl & Olly Show, didn’t need to have his arm twisted to direct the movie either. “We had done so many projects together – I directed a series of short films for their live shows, (Butt Baby, JB’s BJ, Rock Star Sperm For Sale), I had written lyrics with them for various projects, I made commercials for their album, wrote and directed their music video for a song called Tribute, went on tour with them and did a documentary called On The Road With Tenacious D – the list goes on, so I’ve always sort-of been their behind-the-scenes guy”.
The filmmaker has been a friend of actor/D-member Jack Black for several years and their work together has extended beyond the band. “Jack and I had also done several things out side of the D – like writing with him, directing his episode of MTV Diary and writing music together that was used in the film School of Rock. I also over saw the creation of a DVD set called The Complete Masterworks. It’s a collection of all their media appearances, including the original HBO episodes. I also edited a live concert film for that DVD which Jack and I even made all the sound effects and menu art for the DVDs at my house. When they came to me and asked me to help them write the movie, directing it was just a given”.
Granted, others before had tried to do a Tenacious D movie and failed, so the pressure was on for Lynch to come up with something that would appeal to the guys. “The D really wanted to make a film and they had tried before to get people to write scripts for them. Nothing ever seemed to work”, says Lynch. “Jack came to me, venting frustration over wanting to do a Tenacious D movie and how high his expectations were for the project – and how nothing was meeting that watermark in his mind. He asked if I’d help him and Kyle form a story and be a catalyst and organizer/writer. We wrote three scripts before finally finding the story of the Pick of Destiny. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun.”
The film tells of the bond between youthful Midwesterner JB (Black) and local slacker KG (Glass) – who would form the rock band Tenacious D. Setting out to become the world’s greatest band is no easy feat, so they set out to steal what could be the answer to their prayers — a magical guitar pick housed in a rock-and-roll museum some 300 miles away.
Test audiences say the film looks as amazing as it plays, and Lynch says that’s to the credit of cinematographer Robert Brinkmann.
“He’s amazing”, he says of the cinematographer, who has worked on such films as The Rules of Attraction and Sugar & Spice. “I have to be the brain of the film but Robert has to be my eyes. I was so impressed with his work and felt he was right guy for the job before even meeting him. When we did finally meet, I knew for sure I had to make this film with him.”
It was what Brinkmann had bough to the music videos of “U2, even U2’s Rattle and Hum [movie], and of course, his great camera work in Cable Guy” that had the filmmaker chomping at the bit to sign him.
“Cable Guy was an important one to me because it was a comedy… but it wasn’t lit like a comedy”, explains Lynch. “Overall, the movie was pretty dark… and I liked that a lot. I felt the D movie needed this same sort of real world lighting and darkness to contrast our fantasy moments in the film. Robert is also a perfectionist and won’t be satisfied until every detail is perfect. I’d love to say I’m a perfectionist, but I’m not. So I could let Robert’s hawk eye catch everything. I’m also colour blind, so I let him do all the colour correction”.
Lynch says what you see on screen, is exactly what you get with Jack Black and Kyle Gass – and that’s part of their appeal.
“They like to push each other’s buttons a lot – so they can be like brothers that pick on each other and are both really competitive – but they also love the hell out of each other.
“Being their friend first, I think it’s easy for me to direct them because I really know them. Also, they aren’t playing some outlandish characters. They are playing themselves. Jack Black’s character in the movie is named Jack Black, you know? I’m not going to tell him to be more like himself. I had to be aware of the big picture, continuity, energy levels… and also give them a chance to feel pleased with their takes. Getting what is on paper and then working past it to see if we can beat it with any improv lines.”
With box-office forecasters predicting a cinematic storm from Pick of Destiny, Lynch’s career is about to skyrocket. He’s already signed on to direct another movie.
“I have a deal with Universal for my next script, which I’ve started writing. I know the story and it’s just a matter of taking a few months to get it all out. I can’t talk about the story but it’s a huge endeavour. I almost cringe that I’m making something that will require so much work. I think it’s something really special and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. So it’s secret, but it’s a grand goal”.
And now that he has got a little more pull, will we finally be able to see that long-awaited Sifl and Olly movie?
“Oh god”, he laughs. “Well, I occasionally do Sifl and Olly on my video podcast show “Lynchland” (www.liamlynch.net), but I did Sifl and Olly for 3 years and, well, that was enough. So, no, Sifl and Olly won’t have their own film.”
And if you’re jealous enough that Lynch gets to jam with Tenacious D on a regular basis – consider this, he’s also worked with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr!
“I lived in Liverpool for 4 years”, he says, “I haven’t seen Paul since I studied with him in Liverpool, but I see Ringo a lot and he’s great. I would study one on one with Paul – just the two of us alone. It was mind-blowing, of course. How can you even explain it? Ringo played drums on my album Fake Songs and we still hang out. He was even on my video podcast show with me!”.
– CLINT MORRIS