t‘s not easy. keeping up with which Jack Black is
talking to rrre. We‘re sitting in the swish surroundings
of a swanky London hotel and Black‘s drawing a corrrparisorr between singing on stage with Neil Diamond in the lilm Saving Si/vcrman and rocking out with a bunch of kids in his latest. School (if/lock.
‘When I do that little bit in Saving Si/r‘crman with Neil Diarrrondf Black says. in a voice that’s as monotone as the narration in the education films I used to snooze through in school science classes. ‘that-didn’t—feel-like-rrruch-at- all. He was doing all the heavy lifting and we were just window dressing. But with these guys. we were really a band.‘ Here. Black raises his eyebrows to forrrr a diabolical arch. fixes rrre with a penetrating. psychotic stare and changes his voice to proclaim in a maniacal tone: ‘AND WE SHARED THE LOAD. AND THE TERROR AND THE GLORY WERE OL'RS!‘ Then the eyebrows slump. the eyes dim and the other Black is talking to me again.
It‘s unnerving talking to Jack Black. Answering questions. he switches constantly between his straight man monotone and the maniac voice. often mid-sentence. Sometimes he‘s talking TO rrre. at other times the other Black‘s talking AT rrre. Keeping up with him is like listening to someone speaking in tongues. I'm reminded of a line in the third Iivorcist film. where the Devil tells a priest: ‘We are legion.‘ That‘s Jack Black — a man possessed.
And it‘s the power of rock. not Christ. that compels him. That‘s rrrade abundantly clear in School of Rock. There‘s no doubt that‘s why screenwriter (and old neighbour) Mike White wrote the lead role ~ a wannabe rock star named Dewey liinn who moonlights as a supply teacher in a posh private school and teaches his class what it means to be in a rock band — specifically for Black. ‘Dewey is rrre live years ago.. Black says. ‘before I had a career. when l was a little more desperate and frustrated.’
Dewey I’inn is Black‘s first leading role. With it this 34-year-old from llermosa Beach. California. with a modest selection of titles on his lilmography. proves Ire has the star power to carry a film. Black's previous film. the liarrelly brothers‘ ‘fat people are funny comedy" Shallow [la]. in which Ire co-starred with Gwyneth I’altrow. might have been. as Black has wished. ‘fucking funnier“. but it nevertheless proved he was already a good way up the Hollywood career ladder. I‘r‘om lla/ you only have to rewind through a harrdftrl of supporting and cameo roles before you corrre to the film that brought Black to the cinema-going public‘s attention. lligh I’iilc/ity. Playing the positively demonic sales assistant in John (‘usack’s record store. Black stole every scene.
That's a pretty steep career arc: from bit part player to leading man in just three short years. But then. that's only one half of Blacks artistic career. His rrrock rock band. 'I'enacious I) — formed with actor Kyle Gass who Black rrret when he joined Tim Robbins‘ Los Angeles—based theatre group the Acting Gang ~ may not engender the farrre and fortune lilm roles do. but it‘s elevated him to hallowed cult status. The band‘s self—titled debut album. on which the I‘oo Iiighters‘ frontman Dave Grohl played drurrrs. sold enough copies to be certified gold. 'I‘enacious I) (for Defence) used to perforrrr sell-out shows in rock clubs in LA: nowadays they regularly draw sizeable audiences on European tours. When Black and Gass brought their brand of rrrock rock to Scotland last year
‘AND WE SHARED THE LOAD. AND THE TERROR AND THE GLORY WERE 0URS!’
their arrival was eagerly anticipated. and the response to their gig at Edinburgh‘s Com Exchange was rapturous.
Tenacious D blurs the line between parody and sincerity in a similar. though more subtle. manner than other mock rockers such as Spinal Tap and the Darkness. ‘I really like the Darkness.’ says Black. ‘but I don’t think we influence them. We have some similarities in that we both make fun of rock. WHILE LOVING IT. [the other Black. bad Black is back] INTENSEL !’
Black eases his eyebrows back into place and lowers his deafening vocal register. Despite his comic screen persona and rock god play-acting. Black takes his work pretty seriously. ‘If you want to make a living in the arts. it‘s important to do as many of the arts as you can — acting. directing. editing. filming. the gig-playing. I don’t think it‘s good to put all your eggs in one basket. Also.‘ he says. breaking his record for maintaining serious lack during our conversation. ‘other arts feed each other. I didn‘t really have an acting career before Tenacious D. and the thing about Tenacious I) that people like is the theatricality. the acting that we do in there. So. I couldn’t have done either of them if I didn‘t have the other one.’
Black was born to act. ‘I was very young when I discovered acting and the attention it garnered.‘ he says. ‘BECAUSE THERE’S A BLACK HOLE IN MY HEART THAT NEEDS TO BE FILLED! I DIDN’T GET Er ’OUGH LOVE! My parents.‘ he says. shifting back to serious mode to talk about the two cornrrrunication satellite engineers. ‘were loving. but it wasn’t enough for sorrre reason.‘ Then. Black becomes positively operatic with: ‘THERE’S A GENE IN MY DNA THAT SAYS I NEED MORE ATTENTION AND LOVE THAN MOST! SO. IT’S THE INSECURITY THAT DRIVES ME!‘
Soliloquy over. I ask Black how he feels about his new-found farrre. Does Ire realise that he is considered something of a sex symbol? ‘Is that true? Is that real? Well. I‘m well over 13 stone. Truth be told at the moment I‘m pushing IS stone. If a man at just over 5‘6" weighing 15 stone can be attractive to the opposite sex. I guess I’m a hero.‘
Ah. huh. Were you. I ask. aware of extra responsibility. having graduated to leading man with School of Rock? And how about working from a script written with you in mind‘.’ ‘No.’ Ire says categorically. ‘ltjust makes it easier if there‘s a really good writer who knows you well and writes it in your voice. A good piece of writing protects you from being bad. He’s like a tailor who put me in a suit of heavy metal armour. SO I CAN GO INTO BATTLE AND SLAY TIIE GIANT WILDEBEEST!‘
Right. Veering away from rock dinosaur talk. I swiftly change the subject. coming in below the belt with a cheap shot. ‘llave I sold out‘." Black repeats. looking a bit miffed. No. The deﬁnition of sold out. I question that. I stop liking people when they don‘t entertain me anymore. If they‘re doing something for a larger audience. that doesn‘t bother me. Still. I didn‘t show butt crack in School of Rock. like I did in High Fidelity} Then. fixing that maniac stare on rrre: ‘So. I guess YOU could say I’ve sold out. IIE‘S NOT SHOWING HIS ASS CRACK! SO MII(‘II I‘OR THE REAL JB!‘
And then Black adds. quietly: ‘It‘s still me; School of Rock is rrrore me than any of my movies.‘
School of Rock is on general release from 6 Feb.
Demon eyes: Jack Black dominates School of Rock with his irresistible portrayal of a Led Zep evangelist
5—19 Feb 2004 THE LIST 13