JACK BLACK--GRADUATE OF
THE SCHOOL OF HARD ROCKS
baaaack! And hes Black. Jack Black, that is. The comic dynamo,
who fizzled after his hilarious turns in "High Fidelity"
and "Jesus Son" in 2000, is back on track and headed
straight to the top with "School of Rock." Newsweeks
David Ansen says "School of Rock made me laugh
harder than any movie Ive seen this year. Jack Black gives
a bravura, all-stops-out, inexhaustibly inventive performance. He,
and the movie, kick ass!" It's virtually impossible to find
a critic who disagrees.
I dont know what Black is like off-screen these days, but
I hope he hasnt calmed down too much since the spring of 2000,
when I did this interview for The New York Daily News. --GUY FLATLEY
a scowling, slouching chub with a rebellious mop of black hair,
scornful eyes, a smart mouth and an itchy temper. But hes
as magnetic as he is maniacal, which is why moviegoers are coming
away from "High Fidelity," Stephen Frears sweet
and salty spin on the Nick Hornby cult novel, eager to know more
about this audacious supporting player who commandeers the screen
as Barry, a super-critical clerk in a barely-surviving Chicago record
store, a slob of a snob given to tyrannizing customers whose musical
tastes dont measure up to his own outrageously arbitrary standards.
His name is Jack Black (at least, thats his stage name; his
real name remains a secret), hes played small parts in the
likes of "Waterworld" and "Cable Guy," and he
does a riotous turn as a disorderly hospital orderly in "Jesus
Son," which will be shown in the New Directors New Films series
at the Museum of Modern Art this Friday and Saturday and will open
theatrically in June. On April 18 and 19, he will be performing
loudlysome might say lewdlyas one half of the bold,
blue Tenacious D band down at the Bowery Ballroom (the bands
other half is Blacks buddy, Kyle Gass).
Critics may be high on Black, but the 30-year-old actor seems modest
and down-to-earth as he talks about growing up in a working-class
Los Angeles neighborhood. "My moms a Jew, and my father
converted to Judaism, but now that theyre divorced, hes
nothing," Black says. "I did the whole Hebrew school thing,
but I kind of resented it. Once I got my bar mitzvah, I completely
he wasnt in Hebrew School, he was in plain old junior high.
"Thats when I did acid for the first time," he recalls.
"I fell in with some rough dudes and did a lot of blow, a lot
of cocaine. Then I got taken out of the public school system and
put into a private school for troubled youths, and after that, I
was fortunate enough to get into a great school in Santa Monica
called Crossroads. That really turned my shit around."
He even put in two years at UCLA, before dropping out to tour with
Tim Robbins and his Actors Gang. "We did a play called
Carnage in Edinburgh, Scotland," he says, "and
then we did it in New York at the Public Theater and got the worst
review in the history of theater from Frank Rich, who had a bone
to pick with Tim Robbins. He was obviously on a weird Hollywood
hatred bandwagon, and his review was an amazing dagger he threw
at Tim. I read it the morning it came out and I just started laughing.
It was so bad that it wasnt even an insult."
Robbins (who found tiny roles for Black in all three of the films
he directed"Bob Roberts," "Dead Man Walking"
and "Cradle Will Rock") plays a selfish manipulator of
women in "High Fidelity," as does leading man John Cusack.
Does Black feel this view of the contemporary American male is accurate?
"Of course," he says, "and women are selfish too.
But this is more about the guys. What I liked about the script was
its fresh take on relationships. It explores some areas heretofore
uncharted in the genre of romantic comedies. Usually, those movies
are soft, sentimental and boring. High Fidelity has
truth and spice."
spice to Blacks off-screen life is Laura Kightlinger, a standup
comic, the author of a collection of stories called "Quick
Shots of False Hope" and a writer for "Will and Grace."
"Weve been together for a long time and we love each
other," he says. "Recently, we bought a house together
in Beachwood Canyon, but we dont see any reason to get married,
to pay for expensive ceremonies and a bunch of people stressing
me out. Were dinksyou know, double-income, no kids.
A powerful Hollywood couple."
One suspects that Black, who admits to reading, meditating and taking
quiet walks, is more staid citizen than party animal. "I enjoy
grass," he says, probably not alluding to his Beachwood Canyon
acreage. "But never pre-show, and not usually with strangers."
Lately, total strangers feel certain they know Black. "Some
actors love being recognized, but I dont like losing my privacy,"
he says with a sigh. "Ill be in a burrito restaurant
and somebody will come over and say, Hey, dude, what movies
are you in? I think, You dont even know. You just
kind of recognize me and now I have to list all my credits for you!
What I really want to do is eat my burrito."