Feature by: Jack Foley
ITS just turned 3pm within the luxurious confines of The
Dorchester Hotel, in London, and a room full of journalists are
still contemplating the arrival of the man they have come to see.
Jack Black was supposed to have turned up at 2pm, but, over an
hour later, he has still not shown. Usually, the assembled media
would be moaning and groaning about being made to wait (20 minutes
is the standard delay), but today there appears to be an air of
calm, almost in anticipation of the comic genius they are about
School of Rock, the film Black is over to promote, marks a return
to the sort of blistering form that first thrust the star into
the limelight, following his scene-stealing support in High Fidelity.
It is generally considered to be one of the funniest, most genuinely
feel-good films in years.
Black stars as a down and out rock musician, who poses as a substitute
teacher at an uptight private school, in order to pay the rent,
only to discover the band he has long been looking for, in the
unlikely form of his pupils.
It is the film which finally provides a pitch-perfect showcase
for his undoubted talents, merging his love of film, with his
passion for rock (he is also the frontman and co-founder of glam-rockers,
And when he finally arrives, strolling into the press conference
with some of the children he appears with on-screen, there is
a noticeable buzz about the place.
Black gets things rolling, early on, with an impromptu rendition
of The Darkness track, Get Your Hands Off My Woman,
which he describes as a free concerto, for you, the press,
before getting on with the serious business of answering
Yet despite looking a little tired, and almost fed up, at times,
he possesses that uncanny ability to suddenly burst into life,
holding the room mesmerised with a series of thoughtful, funny
and well-mannered replies, which seldom fail to raise a smile,
at the very least.
When asked whether having a film built around him, for the first
time, had led to a feeling of greater responsibility, he replied,
candidly, that it had not, adding that it makes it easier
if there's a really good writer who knows you well, and writes
it in your voice.
"It's like a good piece of writing protects you from being
bad," he continued. "I like to say that he [Mike White]
is like a tailor who tailored me a suit of heavy metal armour,
so I could go into battle, and conquer, and slay the giant wilderbeast!"
Not that this prevented Black from tossing in a couple
of little flavour nuggets of his own, as he loves to get
in there and collaborate, as well.
The star then went on to dismiss any suggestions that he had
sold out, by appearing in such mainstream fare.
"Have I sold out?" he asked, in return, almost in bewilderment.
"I don't know, the definition of sold out, I would question
that. The real question is, have you lost your talent; are you
no longer, you know, relevant?
"I just stop liking people when they don't entertain me
anymore. If they're doing something for a larger audience, that
doesn't bother me. And what are the compromises of doing this
"I don't know, I didn't use the F-word, or anything, so
I guess you could say that's a compromise, not using bad language,
but who cares? That was a challenge. I didn't show butt crack,
like I did in High Fidelity, so I guess you could say hes
sold out, cos he's not showing his arse crack! So much for
the real JB. It's still me, though, in fact this is more me than
any of my movies, really."
The character of Dewey Finn is someone Black readily describes
as me, five years ago, basically, before I had a career,
when I was a little more desperate and frustrated, although
whereas his Tenacious D persona allows him to make fun of rock
for a living, Dewey would never make fun of it; as he takes
it very seriously and loves it too much.
Black is certainly riding high at the moment, having won widespread
acclaim for his performance in The School of Rock on both sides
of the Atlantic, as well as securing a Golden Globe nomination
for best actor in a musical or comedy (although he lost out to
Bill Murray (Lost in Translation). Tenacious D also continue to
be tremendously popular.
But he laughs off suggestions that he has become a sex symbol
as a result, while sounding tremendously humbled by comparisons
to comedy legends, such as Jim Carrey and John Belushi.
"I'm always flattered when people compare me to John Belushi,"
he responded. "He was definitely an influence. As for the
comparisons, I guess, aside from the fact that we're both chubby
and have powerful eyebrow technique, we also have a similarly
"But I think the thing that was great about Belushi was
just that you loved him. I remember I wasn't even thinking about
how great a performer he was, but rather, how I'd really like
to hang out with that guy; he had a great high hangability
quotient. And if I had that, it'd be great.
"As for the sex symbol aspect, is that true? Is that real,"
he laughs. "Cos, you know, I'm well over 13 stone. In fact,
truth be told, at the moment I'm pushing 15 stone; so if a man,
at just over 5ft 6ins, and 15 stone, can be attractive to the
opposite sex, then I guess I'm a hero!"
Heroic status aside, Black turns his attentions to music, fielding
questions about current trends such as Pop Idol, and whether he
perceives it as a career boost to anyone who appears on it.
"That's like a Lottery, you know, I think it's a way to
be famous, but its just basically a karaoke contest, as
none of those people are writing songs, so I don't care about
any of that," he replied. "I'm not going to buy any
of their records.
"I'll buy the records of the people of the songs that they're
singing; the people who wrote those songs, but I don't think that's
a good thing. I don't think it's helping to further music."
Its a point well made, and one which any true fan of music
will be hard-pushed to disagree with, particularly as Black is
such a great advertisement for making it on your own, and realising
your own talent.
So does he have any advice for anyone thinking of following the
"If you want to do stuff in the arts, and if you want to
make a living from it, I think it's important to do all of the
arts, or as many of them as you can - the painting, the drawing,
the acting, the directing, the editing, the filming, the music-playing,"
"You've got to cast a wide net, I think, because I don't
think it's good to put all your eggs in one basket. Other arts
feed each other, so it's good to do everything."
And with that in mind, Black went on his merry way, pausing to
take a few more questions from journalists, and signing autographs
for anyone who could get close enough. One lucky reporter was
even fortunate enough to get a signed drawing of the Tenacious
D logo he had been sketching throughout the conference.
He may have been an hour late, but the wait was most certainly
worth it, and journalists retired from The Dorchester in suitably
happy spirits, safe in the knowledge that, just as it states on
The School of Rock poster, Jack Black rocks!