Interview Jack Black

The inside story of the “Amazon Chernobyl” case in the rain forest of Ecuador, the largest oil-related environmental lawsuit in the world.

The two pals set out to make their own home made versions of iconic films – from DRIVING MISS DAISY to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, with no money and no expertise. Amazingly – the new versions of the classics become huge hits with the locals.

Written and directed by French filmmaker,  Michel Gondry, (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND), BE KIND REWIND combines great comedy and music with formidable acting and strong characters. It tells the story of an impoverished  yet spirited   community, taking their destiny into their own hands, with energy and imagination. 

Jack Black’s films include SHALLOW HAL, ORANGE COUNTY, HIGH FIEDLITY, SCHOOL OF ROCK, KING KONG, NACHO LIBRE and THE HOLIDAY.  His next film is Ben Stiller’s TROPIC THUNDER and he is currently filming YEAR ONE. He is the lead singer of the rock  band, TENACIOUS D and starred in the 2006 film TENACIOUS D AND THE PICK OF DESTINY.    Black, 38, is married to   musician Tanya Haden. They have a 19 month-old son, Samuel and Haden is expecting their second child later this year.  

Q: What was it about this project that you found so appealing?

A: “I had taken a meeting or two with Michel Gondry before he talked about BE KIND REWIND, because I wanted to tell him how big a fan I was and that I really wanted to work with him on something. Then he called me and said he had an idea for a movie. I went over to his hotel and he had made a homemade comic book with crayon drawings of the characters and the video store and he had written a few lines of dialogue and the basic story. It looked like really good fun. So I did not have a script – I just said yes to his comic book. No one had ever presented a movie to me like that before, it was very original. But he could’ve presented me with a turd on a stick and I would have said ‘let’s make that into a movie’, because I am such an admirer of his work.”

Q: What is Michel Gondry like as a director?

A: “He’s pretty loose. It seemed like some of the time he was the only one who knew what he wanted to do that day, he would come in with new ideas and it was kind of like a playground in a lot of ways, and he was the ringleader. Just in terms of dialogue, he was open to improv, but not in regard to which films we were making, or   the structure of the story or anything like that. Michel would get really passionate and a little hot under the collar if people didn’t understand what he was saying, but his accent is very thick, so sometimes it’s hard to understand what the hell he’s talking about.   ‘You’re ruining my moooveee’ he would say … but it’s hard to take him seriously when he’s screaming at you, because he’s like a little kid.”

Q: Is there a theme to this movie? Is it saying that smaller community movies can often be as entertaining as big-budget films?

A: “For me, this is just a celebration of creativity. If it is saying something about the industry, it’s that anyone can make a movie.    Even though movies seem brilliant often when you watch them, it’s not impossible to make them yourself. You think: ‘it’s too late for me to make movies, or I can’t do that I don’t have the money’. But you can make films for almost no budget, and anyone can do it anywhere in the world. Anyone, anywhere, anytime.”

Q: What was it like working with Mia Farrow?
A: “Well she’s legendary. She told us so many great stories and she was so free talking about her life.   I never felt weird or strange asking questions, because she was happy to talk.  She had great stories about Frank Sinatra and Salvador Dali; what a crazy life she has had.  I kept thinking ‘are you lying? Are you fibbing?’ But I don’t think she was.”

Q: As a kid did you make homemade movies or anything equally crazy and creative?
A: “I never had a video camera growing up, but I made lots of short films.  In my mind I was pretending to be the ‘bionic man’, or various monsters. If there had been a camera rolling I would have made some very funny short films I think. I wasn’t thinking about shots or angles or anything, but my characters were really entertaining – for me at least – entertaining monsters. I sweded THE MILLION DOLLAR MAN endlessly, I was bionic all the time. I put wires up my sleeve and I wanted the wires just to peek out a little bit so that if any kids noticed my wires I would say: ‘it’s nothing, it’s nothing’. They would think I was   bionic, because my logic was that I was trying to hide my bionics from them. All kids love to pretend   to be different characters and recreate scenes from comic books and movies and TV so that’s a natural thing. The only thing was, I didn’t have a camera, so I didn’t videotape myself doing anything.”

Q: What was it like recreating those legendary films that you ‘swede’ in the movie?
A: “It was really good fun recreating them because Michel asked us not to re-watch any of the old films. I had not seen some of them at all. I said ‘I have to watch DRIVING MISS DAISY once so I can recreate it.’ He said ‘no (French accent) no you have seen zee commercials, you know basically what eet eez)’. That is not a very good imitation of him. But he was right, I kinda knew that Jessica Tandy   was a grumpy bitch and that Morgan Freeman was teaching her some lessons somehow, so we just winged it and he (Michel) liked that, because then your foggy memories of the film you are repeating make something ‘now’ something fresh  – which is a lot more interesting than recreating a movie, shot for shot. The characters didn’t have time to go back and research so why would we? That was also the logic. It was scripted, but we didn’t get the dialogue from the movie, Michel himself kept it loose, and we were free to improvise from his foggy recollections.
It was a lot of activity just because we were working on a tighter schedule than on most movies, we did it in eight or nine weeks at the most, and usually it takes three or four months to make a movie. It wasn’t hard in that Michel  is so creative with all his shots so we weren’t doing the traditional ‘over the shoulder, over the other guy’s shoulder, close up, master’. He would get some cool shots and then   we were done and we would go on to the next one, so we didn’t have the tediousness or boredom factor. It was exciting moving on to another film.”

Q: What was your favourite sweded film?
A: “I loved doing ROBOCOP. That was a dream come true for me; I love that genre, sci fi/ action, that’s what I loved as a kid. I loved TERMINATOR…… the naked Schwarzenegger standing up slowly. ”

Q: Did you think about ‘sweding’ your own movies?
A: “We did do a version of the old KING KONG, but that doesn’t really count. No, that would have been strange to do my movies. It would have been a joke within a joke. It would have taken people out of the movie and been distracting. That’s why we didn’t do LETHAL WEAPON (Danny Glover’s movie).”

Q: Who was your inspiration as an actor?
A: “I loved Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, my favourite movie as a kid was SILVER STREAK and I really liked Peter Sellers. I loved MURDER BY DEATH.” 

Q: Are you a VHS  or a DVD man?

A: ” I like DVD because I like  to skip around, I like to skip to my favourite scenes, and unlike vinyl records which look cool, I  don’t think VHS tapes look better than DVDs. Also  I am a real snob I will only watch hi-definition.”

Q: Are you planning more albums and tours with your band, Tenacious D?
A: “We’re going to do more, we have been trying to write, but the songs are so stupid. We’re not ready; we need a couple more years I think. I’m thinking that 2012 will be the year when we release of our next album. We’ve got one good song, that’s it   …. and I’m not gonna tell you what it’s about – because I’m afraid someone’s gonna steal it.”  

Q: Have your movie choices and roles changed since becoming a parent?
A: “I was gonna make ‘Babykiller 5000’, it’s a futuristic robot holocaust film!  No, seriously, nothing has changed.  Not at all. If I were a tough action dude like Steven Seagal, then it would be a dilemma, if I was working on a movie where I had to break someone’s arm  …… backwards. If that’s what I did for a living then maybe I would have to rethink my career. But luckily I don’t.”

Q: Do you watch a lot of movies?
A: “I don’t rent them because I never return them and end up owing lots of  money,  so if I want something I just buy it and I do buy a lot, I like movies. I love 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY – that is one of the greatest.” 

Q: Do you think of yourself as a character actor or as a lead actor?
A: “I’ve been getting mostly lead offers recently, but I feel like a character actor. I just finished a military film with Ben Stiller where I am a character in an ensemble cast, it was fun to go back to that.”

Q: How much work and perseverance did it take to get to where you are now – with great roles in interesting films, was it a struggle?  
A: “I’ve worked in film since 1991.  I did BOB ROBERTS with Tim Robbins; I had a lot of small parts that tided me over until the year 2000 when I did HIGH FIDELITY. Before that, there were 9 years when I was just treading water, and going back and living at my mom’s house rather than getting a real job. Just hoping, waiting, trying. But once I got HI FIDELITY things were pretty good.  I don’t live at my mom’s anymore. I’m sure she appreciates that. She still keeps my room ready, just in case! So if BE KIND REWIND is a total flop, I can go back to her house.”

‘Be Kind Rewind’ is playing in Irish cinemas nationwide from Thursday Feb 20th