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December 2005
King Kong: An Interview with Jack Black

King Kong: An Interview with Jack Black

By Wilson Morales

After always being known for being the funny man and scene stealer in most of his recent films, Jack Black is coming onto his own as a lead actor. His School of Rock performance basically put him on another map and the map keeps growing with better roles. Hitting a snag with Ben Stiller in Envy, Black quickly bounced back with Shark Tale as he provided the voice of Lenny in the animated film. In what appears to be his biggest film to date, Peter Jackson has chosen Black to play the part of Carl Denham the filmmaker in the latest remake of "King Kong". In speaking with blackfilm.com, among other journalists, Black talks about taking on this role and how his career is changing in Hollywood.

This is your most uncharacteristic performance. How challenging was it to shake your mannerisms?

Jack Black: You know, every movie presents its challenges. This one was tricky because it was set in 1930's, it's not easy to improvise, you know, in a1930's style of talking. And so I stuck totally to the script, and I really had to trust totally in Peter [Jackson] and in Fran [Walsh] and Philippa [Boyens] with their vision, and I would do it and say so, yeah, how was that? And they would lead me towards the perfect take. It was a different experience in that, in that it was a lot more about trusting than about like me taking over and just forcing Jack in to the role. Trying to become this other guy.

Would you have done this, had any other director approached you? Were you attracted to it because it was so different?

Black: Well yeah, it was a cool role, regardless of who was directing it, it was really a great written script. But I didn't read the script when I accepted the role, I did it because I wanted to work with Peter.

Did you accept it because it was different than the norm, you would be going beyond people's expectations?

Black: No, I just wanted to party with Peter Jackson, honestly that was like a kind of a secret goal of mine. And it was unbelievable, I didn't think I'd be able to. I talked to my agent like a few months beforehand, was like God I want to be in a Peter Jackson movie, can't you make it happen, you're a power agent! And she was like "Dude, everybody wants to be in a Peter Jackson movie." And I was like "You're right. So let's just forget it." And then he calls, weirdly, and asked me to come and interview for 'King Kong.' And yeah, I would've come and interviewed for Turds on Ice if he was directing it. Luckily it was one of the most amazing parts, and incredible scripts I've ever read, so.

You are the crazy out of control director; did you base it on anyone?

Black: Well, you know, they had told me that they were looking for kind of a young Orson Welles type of filmmaker, who you know, is real cocky, filled with sort of a youthful exuberance and a little bit of hubris, little bit of - and I was like yeah, so I can be like a genius? And they were like, yeah, he's a genius, but he's more of a frustrated genius, he's like the unsuccessful version of Orson Welles, so he's got this chip on his shoulder, but also this hunger to be hailed as a genius.

Did you see a DVD release for 'Heat Vision and Jack?'

Black: [laughs] No. I wish. I wanted that, that was a TV pilot I did a long time ago, it didn't get picked up, what a shame. Might make a movie of it someday. Yeah, my friends are writing it. There's a little scoop for ya.

If you could be any other part, who would it be and why?

Black: You mean on the ship of the movie making 'King Kong?' Oh wait a second, now I see what you mean, I got confused because of the movie within the movie thing. If I could be anyone on the ship besides Carl Denham, who would I have been? Well I guess I'd go - I wouldn't want to go the romantic lead, because I'd be really embarrassed in that. The whole time I'd be going, why didn't they hire Adrien Brody? [laughs] But yeah, I'd have liked to have been King Kong. Let's face it, that's what everyone's going to see, everyone wants to see that big ass gorilla kicking ass all over the jungle and New York, that's what I want to see.

Has this changed people's perception of you in Hollywood?

Black: No. You know, this is the biggest budget movie that I've ever been on, but it's still the same job. You want to work with cool people with great minds and creativity, and Peter Jackson was just, you know, an artist that I wanted to hang out with. You want to spend time with people that you really respect, you know. It's not just making the movie, but like you're spending like a year of your life with that person, you want it to be someone that you enjoy their company.

But you're playing someone much more subtle, so is that perception different? Will people view you differently?

Black: Oh. I don't know. If - we'll see. But I can't imagine - it's not like I was frustrated, god why don't people take me seriously? I want a better career, where people will see me as 'Kramer vs. Kramer' type material. I can make them cry and get awards! I've had so much fun in the last five years, it's been such a great run. I can't imagine like what - I just hope I get to be in another Peter Jackson movie. That would be, you know - or - but it doesn't really matter, drama, action, comedy, as long as there's, you know, someone exciting to work with, that's all that I care about.

I saw a short you made called 'Computer Man'.

Black: Yeah.

How does it feel to be on a blockbuster scale now? You've come quite a ways.

Black: Well not really, you know, I did 'Computer Man' right before I did 'King Kong,' that wasn't like way in my past. No. You know how I - yeah, Rob Schrab and Dan Harmon. You'll hear about a lot of actors, who they'll be out making huge movies, but then they'll go back to their roots, in the theatre, to rediscover why they do it for free, the love and the passion, that's why - I don't go to Broadway, I just go and do some like underpants videos for the internet, that's my roots!

Is it refreshing to do that?

Black: Yeah! It reminds you of why you do it. Because in the beginning, as much as it is now, I had just as much fun before I was getting cast in anything, because I was doing it for free, for fun, to get the attention [laughs], just the juice you get a buzz off of performing in front of people, so it's good to remind yourself.

Will we ever see you collaborate with those guys on something big?

Black: Yeah, we're always working on stuff and talking about stuff. They're writing a draft of an animation feature that I'm working on for Katzenberg, the Kung Fu Panda. And they're writing a draft of 'Heat Vision and Jack' screenplay, which is based on the failed pilot, but we still think it could be a good movie. Basically six million dollar man type of story. Where I - when the sun hits me, oh forget it. When the sun - I'm an astronaut, who got too close to the sun, I come back to earth, and something's wrong with me, but whenever the sun hits me I become the smartest man in the world. Hilarious. [laughs]

Are they doing the whole origin story again?

Black: You know, I don't even know where they're starting from, to tell you the truth. I've been so swamped with my other stuff. I know it'll be good, because those guys are -

Did Colin Hanks get cast after you? You guys had a previous relationship.

Black: I'm not sure, I did not have a hand, I didn't say look if you want me, you've got to cast Colin [Hanks], we're a team. But I do love Colin, I was really stoked when they cast him. But I was not gonna make that the make or break.

Did that make it easier on you?

Black: Yeah, well you know, I was checking out the interesting pairings, because me and Colin had worked together and had a great time on 'Orange County,' and Thomas Kretschmann and Adrien Brody worked so great together in 'The Pianist,' and I was like what's going on here? They're bringing in the pairings. And it was good, because a lot of us had a good working rapport from previous stuff. But Naomi [Watts] didn't have anybody, though, that she had worked with. Except for Lobo Chan, who had a very small role, they worked on something, I don't know what it was, I can't remember.

What else are you working on?

Black: Well, I did a film that I wrote, called 'Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny.'

Is that coming in October?

Black: I don't know what the release date is right now. We are going in to do a re-shoot of the finale. I thought the finale was kick ass, it was basically just sort of small scale, it's us in a club playing a song, the end. But then we watched it, and we were like, the movie is so exciting and ridiculous up to that point, the world has to explode or something has to happen, you know. It was my first time writing and producing, so, it was a learning curve. And I've also learned, there's no shame in going back and re-shooting. A lot of times the best stuff happens, so we're gonna go and explode the world, for the end of the movie. Oh yeah, and I also just finished playing a Mexican wrestler, in Mexico. That's the mustache, I haven't had time to shave it.

What can you say about 'Nacho Libre?'?

Black: 'Nacho Libre.' With Jared Hess from 'Napoleon Dynamite.'

What projects do you have with your company?

Black: Well this is our flagship production, 'King Kong' it's our first - no, just kidding. No, 'Nacho Libre,' that Mike White wrote and I'm starring in, and Jared Hess is directing. And we got a few other ones that we're developing, one with Edgar Wright, who directed one of my favorite movies ever, did you see his little zombie picture? Now I can't even remember the name. Oh yeah, there it is, 'Shaun of the Dead.' So f-ing hilarious. We're working on, there's a book called 'Them.' About all the extremists of the world, of all shapes and sizes, from different cultures, and what they all have in common, a lot of them believe that the whole world is controlled by small group of billionaires called the Billderberg Group. And they control all the wars and it's basically a big conspiracy theory, but when you look at the people who have these theories, there's a lot of humor, but there's also like this little scary thing, like wait a second, maybe it's true! Maybe there's these rich scary a-holes who are controlling everything [laughs], and having dinner parties and doing blow.

So what are you in production for?

Black: A little romantic comedy. Called 'Holiday,' with Kate Winslet and Nancy Meyers.

Is it a remake? Of the Cary Grant movie?

Black: Oh no, no.

Are you one of the two couples?

Black: Yeah. Well, we're not a couple at the beginning, we just sort of - something happens. The other one is - I'll tell you on the next one.

KING KONG opens on December 14th, 2005


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