Jack Black Gets in Touch with His Inner Child in "School of Rock"

WRITTEN BY
John Sellers

SPIN: Do you ever miss the old Tenacious D days, when people didn't know who you were?

JACK BLACK: There were some good times, but no, things are good.

Why don't you miss them?

I don't miss the fear of "Am I gonna move back in with my mom?" There's just a lot of stress with the chosen career when you're starting out. Because the success ratio is so grim, and everybody wants to be an actor or a writer. So once you get a little piece of that pie, it's a huge relief. Sometimes I think about the good old days when we'd do shows for free, just for the joy. And I miss my privacy. Besides that, it's all good.

So no more living with mom?

No. No more of that. Unless someone robs three different banks.

Do you think that made you less cool?

Sure. Yeah. It's the same way with anything. Like with any band that you like before they're big. It's cool to like a band nobody knows about. Same thing with actors. Among the small cult following of hipsters, I'm not cool at all anymore. That's gone. It really didn't start getting fucked up until that thing with Gwyneth Paltrow. The Shallow Hal. Because it didn't matter if you saw the movie or not. You couldn't escape my big, fucking grill on every fucking bus stop and billboard and commercial. They just pushed it so hard that yeah, people were recognizing me that hadn't even seen me do anything. It didn't matter. Those indie creds have been cashed in. But in exchange, everybody else at least knows who I am. So that's the trade-off.

Do you think you've lost your original audience, or you've just alienated them?

I don't think I've lost them, but they're ashamed to say they like me. It's all about perception. What you say you like reflects on you. So you want to say you like things that are obscure and cool and not part of the common herd. It's a real elitist kind of thing. But as long as they like me in secret, then I'm still partying.

Right. It's not so cool when your mom also likes My Bloody Valentine.

Ha-hah. That's a weird example. Your mom likes My Bloody Valentine?

It is a weird example! No, she doesn't! Okay, how about switching that to Nirvana?

Exactly. I still like Nirvana after they became huge, but they didn't need me as a fan. That's the thing.

But you still need your fans, right?

That's....true.

How did writer Mike White pitch "School of Rock" to you?

He told me he wanted to write a movie for me, like a musical, kinda like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He told me some other specifics, you know. A guy who's teaching kids and I saw this "Behind the Music" and I thought that might be good inspiration, that it would be great to do something like that if I was [Styx singer] Dennis De Young. I was especially obsessed with the part where they did that Mr. Roboto tour, so high-concept. The other band members went along with it, though, but you saw that they really regretted it.

And now you are sharing a Tribeca loft with Mike. Is this how you are repaying him? Are you sleep in the same bed?

Uh-huh. We spoon. He tells me it's all going to be good. I say I'm not sure I'm doing well. We're roommates in the movie, too. It's kinda Method.

What songs did you write for the film?

I wrote "'Til the End of Time," which some say is the best song in the film. Okay, I say it. And George says it only when I'm in the room with him. I tried to write another song for the finale, and it was rejected. First I played it for my agent, who said "Ewww. That's not good." And I almost fired her, and then I didn't because I realized she was just being honest. So I gave up on that. We're lucky cause we got some good bands. Mooney Suzuki wrote the finale song. And Warren Fitzgerald who plays guitar on our album wrote the opening song. And it's great.

So [Tenacious D guitarist] Kyle Gass didn't help out on this one?

Kyle? No, not on this one. Much to his chagrin. Apparently I'm in deep shit with him. 'Cause I said, "Look, dude, I'm doing a rock and roll movie and it may destroy the D." And he said, "Look, no problem, as long as you get me a juicy role." And there is no role. He's not playing a role, and he's not doing any of the writing in any of the songs. But you know? We've got the D movie coming up next, and he'll have plenty of things to do in that one.

What's up with the Tenacious D movie?

I think it's going to be the definitive rock-comedy movie. Non-rockumentary, of course. Obviously no one will ever touch Spinal Tap for that. But ours is gonna be the fucking Holy Grail of rock comedy movies, in narrative style.

Will there be a lot of dramatic scenes?

Of course. It's going to be way overdramatic.

Can you tell me anything specific about the movie?

I can tell you that it's going to be called Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny. And I can tell you that it's the ultimate rock and roll quest. But that's really all I want to say. Along the lines of Lord of the Rings, but set in today's times. I'll tell you this: It starts before there was a D, and you get to see the creation of the D, and then our first quest.

That's good. Because that would lead to a sequel.

Exactly.

That's when you get the sequel money.

Precisely. But we're not doing it for a lot of money. This is a labor of love. This is the one where I think, I just want to make sure I get this one done before I die, because this is gonna be my thing.

I think your original audience really is looking forward to the D movie. That could be what brings them back.

Yeah, well, that's my big redemption song or something. But I'll never please all those fucking people.

Who are you looking to cast?

We really want Rob Zombie for one role. I should really stop talking.

Okay, back to School of Rock. Have you ever worn a costume like this before?

[Pointing to shorts] Like this? No.

What do you think of it?

I mean, my legs are muscular. I think it's gonna sell some tickets. I've been told that the tie is kick-ass. It's a little ill-fitting. I would never wear this out of choice. It's uncomfortable.

Have you had fun working with the kids?

I have. I like the kids. I've learned from them.

What have you learned?

I haven't learned anything. I was just saying that. I thought it sounded good. But I do like 'em. Actually I did learn how to play the game Sticks.

So in relation to all the rock movies of the past, where does this fall?

I never think of the rock movies, I always think of the children's movies. I think this falls somewhere between Willy Wonka and Bad News Bears. So you gotta call it Bad News Chocolate Factory. Or Willy Wonka Bears. Or just School of Rock. I hope this movie isn't like Kindergarten Cop. That bums me out, just the idea of it.

How different was it working with kids than other things you've done?

The kids, they've got an innocence and a magic?. What was that thing Michael Jackson said? [In Jacko voice]If you told me that all the children in the world had died, I would jump out of the balcony. That would be it for me. The funny thing about that is, who cares about you? If all the kids in the world died, no one is gonna wanna know: what did Michael Jackson do?

What do you think people will say when this comes out?

They're gonna say. "Oh my god. You gotta check out Jack Black's legs. They're so muscle-y. He's like Conan from the waist down."

Conan O'Brien?

[Laughs] I hope they're gonna say it's funny. I hope all the jokes get through.

Do you think they're going to market you as the new Emilio Estevez, from The Mighty Ducks?

Shitballs, I hope not.

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