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Gulliver's Travels - Jack Black interview

Jack Black in Gulliver's Travels

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JACK Black talks about some of the challenges of making Gulliver’s Travels as both its lead star and one of its producers.

He also talks about nearly catching hypothermia on the first day of shooting, ad-libbing with [and discovering] Chris O’Dowd and overcoming shyness by finding his profession.

Q. So, what was the appeal of updating Jonathan Swift’s novel to you, as both the star of the movie and one of its producers?
Jack Black: To me, it was an opportunity to update a classic and to just be part of the history of this incredible 300-year old story that endures. It was a real fun chance to jump on board that adventure.

Q. And how challenging was it to bring Gulliver up-to-date as a character?
Jack Black: Not challenging at all… it was easy! No, a lot of thought went into it. We worked on it for years… the development of the script and the concept and finding the perfect director and cast members. It was an amazingly fun development process. I actually like producing it turns out. It turns out that maybe I’ll be a huge Hollywood producer.

Q. Did it take you by surprise how hard you have to work as a producer as well? Apparently, you were all over the place [not literally] in that you made yourself available even on the days you weren’t needed?
Jack Black: OK, I was only one of many producers. I can’t take full producer credit. But there is a lot to be done. There’s a lot of work and thought going into it. But precisely, what you say about being there when I didn’t need to be… how did you know about that? Were you there?

Q. Rob [Letterman, the director] said you were great and that he enjoyed ‘torturing’ you as well…
Jack Black: He tortured me! The very first day of the shoot I remember we shot the storm scene and we shot that outside… couldn’t do it inside on a warm stage, no! We had to do it outside in 10 degrees, on a freezing cold morning at Pinewood Studios and they had to pour tonnes of gallons of water on me in wave form. The water, of course, is freezing cold, they can’t heat that water, and I nearly died of hypothermia on the very first day of the shoot! So, it served as a real wake-up call… oh my God, this is real!

Q. How was it recreating such an iconic image as being tied down by the people of Lilliput on the beach?
Jack Black: That was one of the classic days, yeah, on the set. That’s when I knew I was part of a classic.

Q. Your Gulliver, to begin with, is quite a shy, introverted, nervous person who is afraid to get the girl. Is that something you can relate to, because you don’t seem to have any problems with that kind of thing?
Jack Black: No, I definitely related to it and that was part of how it was tailor-made for me, actually, because even though I seem like a big bombastic outgoing dude, when it comes down to it with the ladies, when I was a single, free-wheeling dude, I was always very shy. It was difficult to form sentences with the girl of my dreams.

Q. Did fame make it easier or harder?
Jack Black: Fame? OK, maybe a little bit easier. It’s all about finding your voice in whatever your profession… it helps your confidence. Clarifying your identity helps you just talk to ladies [puts on a voice].

Q. And getting to unleash the inner rock God in you must have been a fun element of Gulliver?
Jack Black: Indeed [eyes go a little wild]. The rock can never hurt…. [screams out] aaaaggh haaaaa. See! Who needs talk when you can do that? Hi… how’s it going? What’s your name? Check it out…. aaaaggggh haaaaaa! [Gets louder and more high pitched with note]. There’s no microphone there, so what am I holding in my fist?

Q. How was going toe to toe with somebody like Chris O’Dowd and ad-libbing?
Jack Black: Chris O’Dowd is the king of ad-libs. Chris O’Dowd, I have no doubt, is going to win an Oscar one of these days. And he will forget to thank me… for discovering him. I know he’s already big here with The IT Crowd but I don’t care. I discovered him anyway. Now he’s going to be off doing the next Judd Apatow movie. But do you know where Judd got the idea to cast him? This guy [points to himself]. OK? Why am I getting so angry and possessive of Chris O’Dowd? He is his own man and he’s brilliant.

Read our review of Gulliver’s Travels

Read our interview with Emily Blunt