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Celebrity biographies

Jack Black
People have the wrong idea about Jack Black. They see him as a comedian struggling to make it in a serious thespian world, a fledgling Jim Carrey or Robin Williams. But look a little closer. Both Carrey and Williams, like any number of comics-turned-actors, first brought their practised comic personalities to the screen (take The Mask or Good Morning Vietnam) and then attempted to expand into "proper" acting. Or rather they've attempted to DEFLATE into proper acting as they've tried to rid themselves of those huge, hyper-active funny-man personas.

Jack Black, on the other hand, is an actor first and foremost. Though ostensibly he made it in the world of comedy with his semi-parodic heavy metal duo Tenacious D, then carried that character into his first headlining hit, School Of Rock, he actually began as a member of Tim Robbins' Actors' Gang, and served his apprenticeship in myriad cameos. Tenacious D was just a sideline, raised to huge popularity by Black's onscreen success. His character in the band is simply that - another character - just like his bolshy, elitist music shop worker in High Fidelity, his uber-stoner in Orange County and even his metal-obsessed imposter-teacher in School Of Rock. He's funny, that's for sure, but he's never been merely a comedian. And the proof of that lies in the fact that, as he rose towards cinematic success, his main competitor - well, it was hardly a competition as the guy took nearly every part Black desired - was Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Black was born on the 28th of August, 1969, and spent his early life at Hermosa Beach, in Torrance, south-west Los Angeles. His father and mother Judy were both satellite engineers (that is, rocket scientists) and Jack would be their only child together. They did, though, bring other kids to the party, his mum having three from a previous marriage and his dad a further one (he'd have another once he and Judy were divorced). This didn't make it easy for Jack who found himself forever battling for attention against these already cemented loyalties. He was an interloper in his own home. And there were other complications. This being the Seventies in Los Angeles, the parents believed that one should not say No to one's children, making life ever more volatile. Beyond this, there was what Black later described as weird family stuff, not wife-swapping exactly, but swinging. "It was funny", he said "and not funny ha-ha".

Young Jack was always imaginative and keen to entertain, desperately so. At Hebrew school he was the class clown, but for a long time wasn't funny, just a smartarsed annoyance. "I'd just be a total anus", he later admitted. He took to hiding wires in his clothes, then letting them slip out in the hope people would think he was a robot. He competed with a neighbour called Carrie who pretended she had a magic potion to make people taller or shorter. In turn, he claimed to posess a time machine. He was a warlock, he's said, to her witch.

His parents divorced, in an ugly fashion, when he was 10 and he moved with his mother to an 8-bedroom place in Culver City, just north of Torrance and near the famous MGM studios. His mother would rent out rooms, one tenant being a music-loving journalist who got Jack into Fleetwood Mac and Simon & Garfunkel. There'd be other musical influences, too, one being his older brother Howard Siegel, an engineer who'd just worked on Devo's hit album Freedom Of Choice. He'd take little Jack along to see the band play in Santa Monica, an apt choice for a former wannabe robot-boy.

Like many lost boys, Jack would find solace in music, as well as an identity and an escape. He was a troubled student, uninterested in academic studies, and showing enthusiasm only for art and theatre work. Perhaps he liked being someone else, but from the moment, at age 8, that he played the wizard in a summer camp production of The Wizard Of Oz, he muscled his way into every show he could.

Understandably, his first choice of music was heavy rock, its grand sounds and apocalyptic themes making a perfect soundtrack for his pained adolescence. His first bought album would be Styx's The Grand Illusion, Journey would be another favourite. Then, when he was 13 (in a pre-echoing of his High Fidelity character) a record shop assistant suggested that he stop being such a pussy and go for something heavier - Ozzy Osbourne's first solo opus. It was a life-changing moment, sowing seeds that would bear copious fruit some 20 years later. He recorded many songs a capella on a 4-track (many were funny and sexually based, the roots of Tenacious D) and tried joining a band. Sadly, they were so bad that, while playing Black Sabbath's Iron Man during a High School party, they noticed that no one was listening. Not one person. So they petulantly broke some stuff and walked off, the humiliation ending Black's musical career for several years.

Also at 13, Jack got his first job. This being Culver City, this wasn't a Saturday shift in Woolworth's but an acting part in an advert for the Activision game Pitfall. But this wasn't a sign that Jack was moving towards a serious and planned career. Instead, as his musical tastes veered towards Bad Brains, Meat Puppets and the West Coast hardcore sound, he became more and more troubled. By 15 he'd got into cocaine and, having stolen money from his mother, was sent to a school for "difficult" teens, sharing a class with 20 students and, for a year and a half, visiting the on-campus therapist. The therapy, he later explained, really helped. So did the doctors who treated him for the gallstone problems that began when he was 16 (in 2003 he would have his gallbladder removed).

It was at the specialist arts and science school he attended afterwards that Jack rediscovered his love of acting, a love that led him on to UCLA where he majored in theatre. Here, as well as the standard theatre studies, he would learn about the activities and achievements of former UCLA students, in particular Tim Robbins. Robbins was famed for starting up his Actors' Gang at the college, then taking it out into the real world. Since graduating in 1981, he'd used his screen earnings to finance the troupe, acting as its artistic director even once he'd hit big in 1988's Bull Durham. Black took to hanging around the Actors' Gang, loving their subversive use of mime, music, masks and placards, and their motto "Dare to be stupid". Thus, though starting as a self-confessed "groupie", he became schooled in the theatre of the absurd, the commedia dell'arte and the discipline involved in an effective anarchic performance. In 1989, after less than two years at UCLA, he left college to join the Actors' Gang in a performance of Robbins' own play Carnage at the Edinburgh Festival. With the Gang he'd explore the out-there works of Ionesco and Brecht and, as they explored all theatrical avenues, would get to sing songs and recite his own poetry. It was a tremendous all-round education.

It was now that Black became acquainted with fellow Gang member Kyle Gass. Gass had been recruited by Robbins while at UCLA and was heavily involved in soundtracking the shows. Black's evident interest in music and his burgeoning abilities made him a rival that Gass viewed with some suspicion. Nevertheless, the two would grow close and discover a shared interest in the comic possibilities of stadium rock.

Jack's connection with the Actors' Gang would give him his screen debut in 1992, in Tim Robbins' first directorial effort, Bob Roberts, based on a character Robbins had invented for a Saturday Night Live sketch back in 1986. Here Robbins would play the titular Roberts, a right-wing folk-singing senatorial candidate in Pennsylvania who uses all manner of filthy tactics to discredit his opponents and fool the electorate. Black would immediately stand out as a crazed fan of Roberts', particularly in a scene at the hospital after Roberts fakes his own shooting. Then Black stands outside the building, staring at his "fallen" hero, unblinking and incredibly creepy.

Aside from beginning what would be a long cinematic relationship with Robbins, Bob Roberts also saw Black credited for the first time alongside Robbins' theatrically like-minded buddy John Cusack. Eight years later, the three would join up again for Black's breakthrough movie, High Fidelity. First though, there was experience to build and Jack went looking everywhere. Over the next four years, he would take what TV work he could find, appearing in The Golden Palace (the follow-up to The Golden Girls), the weepy soap opera Life Goes On, Northern Exposure, Monty (starring Henry Winkler and a pre-Friends David Schwimmer), comedienne Margaret Cho's All-American Girl, Pride And Joy (a mild sit-com featuring John Cusack's cohort Jeremy Piven), The X-Files, Touched By An Angel and David E. Kelley's smalltown soap Picket Fences.

At the same time, membership of the Actors' Gang making him part of LA's artistic underground, he fell in with the denizens of the city's healthy comedy circuit. Eventually, he and his buddy Kyle Gass plucked up the courage to join in. Since 1989 they'd jammed together, making up the same kind of songs as Black had on his 4-track all those years before. Now though, in their loving parody of heavy rock, and with Gass leading Black to newfound technical excellence, the songs were reaching a far higher level of sophistication. The pair also worked on building characters for themselves, characters unshakeable in their belief that their love of rock would raise them into music's pantheon, despite the fact that, being chubby and only playing acoustic instruments, they surely lacked many of the attributes that usually lead to rock success. Their new act, taking the name Tenacious D from basketball announcer Marv Albert's description of a tight defence, would debut at Al's Bar in downtown LA in 1994. Black's dual career was now rolling. He was far happier, too. The exuberance and risk of his early years in acting had led him back to drugs. With Tenacious D he found himself at last following the advice of his 9th Grade drama Teacher Debbie Devine who'd told him to not just act but write, direct and produce if possible. Now he was doing so his confidence grew exponentially. He cleaned up and even moved out of his mum's house.

On the Silver Screen he spent most of the Nineties taking small roles to boost his confidence and experience. As said, from the mid-Nineties onwards many of the higher profile parts he went for were nabbed by Philip Seymour Hoffman - understandable as Hoffman was perhaps the greatest discovery of the decade. Black followed Bob Roberts by popping up as a car thief in Mimi Leder's TV movie Marked For Murder where Powers Boothe played a con being rehabilitated by working with the police. Next should have come Tony Scott's True Romance where he filmed a part as a cinema attendant, but unhappily he hit the cutting-room floor. He would have to wait several years for a chance to be credited alongside the likes of Scott, Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken.

After this disappointment came Airborne where a Californian skater-kid relocates to Cincinnati and, after enduring some torrid bullying, wins everyone over with a triumph in the big rollerblade race against a rival school gang. Jack would play one of his initially sneering classmates, cruelly dubbing the new boy "Fruity Two-shoes" and "boy Maharishi", but was mis-cast. He was funny, but evidently too old for the role. Next up was a tiny part in Sylvester Stallone's Demolition Man, where loose cannon cop Stallone and crazed crim Wesley Snipes caused chaos in a utopian future-world, Black showing up as a prime example of shady street-trash. Then he'd return to Mimi Leder for The Innocent where Kelsey Grammer, in a not-so-canny sideways step from Frasier, played a detective trying to draw a murderer's identity from an autistic kid witness.

The third installment of The NeverEnding Story would now see Jack leading The Nasties, a crew of school bullies who purloin a magic book and start turning Fantasia into a place of nightmares. Then came Blind Justice, an oddity where Armando Assante played a near-sighted gunslinger, trying to locate a baby's mother, who helps beleaguered soldiers protect a silver shipment from bandidos, Jack appearing briefly as one of the soldiers. Bye Bye Love would see him as a party DJ as Matthew Modine, Randy Quaid and Paul Reiser attempted to cope with life as divorced fathers. And then came a tiny role in a major blow-out when he showed up as a pilot in Kevin Costner's notoriously plagued Waterworld.

So far, so humdrum. It would take Black's friends to pull him towards the big leagues, and this process began when Tim Robbins cast him in his 1995 Oscar-winning hit Dead Man Walking. Here Susan Sarandon played nun Helen Prejean who befriends Sean Penn's convicted killer and must balance her sympathies for him and his victim's family while leading him to some form of personal redemption. Jack would be cast as Penn's brother and would appear in one of the movie's most moving scenes where the condemned Penn meets his family and they can only express their tortured emotions through TV cliches and low-culture banalities.

This saw Black delivering drama at its highest level. The same year would see him score points when producing something very different. With Tenacious D, Black has been causing a stir on the comedy circuit and the show had been seen by David Cross and Bob Odenkirk, who'd written for the ill-fated Ben Stiller Show then taken to performing live as a duo. Now they were putting together a perverse, surreal and often controversial TV sketch show along the lines of Monty Python and Kids In The Hall, to be called Mr Show. Jack and Kyle would join for the first season, playing as Tenacious D and various other characters. Their cult was growing.

Black and Gass would also play as Tenacious D in Jack's next screen outing, the much-maligned Pauly Shore gonzo-comedy Bio-Dome. Even more maligned would be his next effort, Ben Stiller's The Cable Guy. Here Matthew Broderick splits with his girlfriend and movies into a bachelor pad where he's exposed to a hilariously then dangerously needy Jim Carrey. Jack would play Broderick's best buddy, trying to help him settle in to his new life, but no one's performances were judged fairly here. Critics would not take to Carrey's darker side and were instead obsessed by his $20 million paycheck. Jack, though, would later say he learned an important lesson on the set. In one basketball scene, as a post-slam dunk Carrey lay on the court, Stiller called Action, Carrey let out an enormous fart and carried on as if nothing had happened. Everyone cracked up except Carrey and Black. This was the way to be, thought Black, this guy does not give a shit what you think - that's why he's so funny.

No worries. Black was still limited to walk-on parts, but now he was walking onto far more prestigious movies. Next came a reunion of sorts with Tony Scott and Wesley Snipes with The Fan, where uber-supporter Robert De Niro became frighteningly obsessed with superstar hitter Snipes. Jack would play a broadcast techie working with radio sports presenter Ellen Barkin. Then came an inspired bit of casting when Jack and Joe Don Baker formed part of sensitive Lucas Haas's repulsive redneck family as he tried to save his hospital-bound granny from the alien slaughter in Tim Burton's brilliant Mars Attacks!

Jack's final movie appearance of 1996 was in Crossworlds, an inventive sci-fi piece where an LA college kid, aided by Rutger Hauer's space-agent, becomes involved in a transdimensional war. Black would here go over-the-top for the first time, playing the kid's drunken, bellowing buddy and being described as a "frat house crushed under one sweatshirt".

Now came another telling role in a big production, this time The Jackal, where Bruce Willis played the titular hit-man hired by the Russian mafia to nail the head of the FBI. Jack would stand out as an engineer Willis pays to build a remote-controlled revolving mount for his enormous rifle. In the film's most horrifying moment, when Jack becomes too nosy and too greedy, Willis bullies him into acting as a target, shoots his fingers off then blows the rest of him away.

A busy 1998 began with a prime cameo in the unfortunately titled Johnny Skidmarks, where crime scene photographer Peter Gallagher moonlights in the blackmail business. In a black comedic role, Jack played his brother-in-law, the zealous proprietor of Burger Clown, a crusading restaurant selling "happy food for happy people". He'd follow this with another messianic part, in the indie stoner-flick Bongwater. Here mumbling dope dealer Luke Wilson falls for wired and flighty art-chick Alicia Witt, their jealousy-riddled relationship being seen in episodic flashback. Jack would up the ante as a charismatic, wild-eyed and constantly singing pot-farmer who holds druggy tent revivals in south Oregon for fans of marijuana and LSD. The film could have used a lot more of him.

Having been so comprehensively whacked by Bruce Willis, Jack now got his once more in the inaccurately titled I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (it should have been The Summer Before Last). This time Jennifer Love Hewitt was being menaced by the murderous Fisherman down in the Bahamas, Jack playing dreadlocked loser Titus Telesco. He was merely one of many to die, but he did have the satisfaction of an excellent check-out line: "No seriously, don't do that". He then ended the year back with Tony Scott, this time in Enemy Of The State, where he played a laid-back computer geek helping evil Jon Voight track lawyer Will Smith and gradually pull his life apart.

Just as his screen career was hitting new cameo heights, so Tenacious D's star was rising. The duo, with Black on vocals and rhythm guitar and Gass on lead guitar and backing vocals, now scored a run on HBO, recording three short 2-part specials, exceutively produced by Bob Odenkirk. These would start with the D performing to next-to-no one in a dodgy club, then moving backstage and on to some absurd adventure, one involving them stalking a fan. A major cult hit, the series would take the band to an unexpected new level. They'd sign to Epic and in 2001 release an album boosted by guest appearances from members of Redd Kross and Phish, as well as Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl. There'd be a video directed by Spike Jonze and the Extended Midget tour with Weezer and Jimmy Eat World. There'd be sell-out gigs at London's Brixton Academy, a Number One chart placing in Australia and, amazingly, a gold disc in the States. As an added bonus, Black would get to appear in videos by Foo Fighters, Beck and Jack's old hero Ronnie James Dio. Perhaps more importantly, the HBO show impressed Black's Bob Roberts co-star John Cusack - big plans were now set in motion.

1999 proved to be another productive year. On top of the Tenacious D shows, Jack was called up once more by Tim Robbins to appear in his Cradle Will Rock, a 1930s tale of Orson Welles and John Houseman battling with the Federal Theatre organisation and the Actors Equity union. Along with Kyle Gass, he played a bumbling wannabe performer who shares a stage with cynical ventriloquist Bill Murray. Naturally, working with Murray was a real thrill for Black. As a big fan of Saturday Night Live, he'd often been compared to John Belushi, but would claim that a far greater influence was Chris Farley.

Following Cradle Will Rock came a very brief spot as a fisherman in The Love Letter, an earnest, European-style movie about the chaos wrought by an unsigned love note in a small New England seaside town. Then would come another of those show-stealing cameos in Jesus' Son. Connecting several of Denis Johnson's short stories, this saw Billy Crudup as a Seventies waster who refuses to take control of his life. Along his drug-riddled way he encounters all manner of mavericks, including Samantha Morton, Dennis Hopper, Holly Hunter and Jack's Demolition Man cohort Denis Leary. Jack would leap off the screen as a pill-popping hospital orderly, the kind of charming nut-job you'd really want to hang out with.

He might have made it right now, might have become a huge TV star. Everyone had high hopes for Heat Vision And Jack, a series to be directed by Ben Stiller and starring Jack as an ex-astronaut who, due to a space-accident, is blessed with super-intelligence while the sun is shining. At his side, as he's pursued by a ruthless NASA, is his best friend and room-mate, Owen Wilson, who's somehow inhabiting the body of a super-cool motorbike. Drawing on Knight Rider, The Fugitive and The Six Million Dollar Man, it was played dead straight and was all set for major success. Unfortunately, Fox bottled it, refused to screen the pilot and canned the series.

It could have been a terrible set-back. But now John Cusack stepped forward and had Jack cast in Stephen Frears' adaptation of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity. Here Cusack would play an indie record store owner looking back over his past failed relationships. And the cleverly cast Black would play one of his shop assistants, a guy so obsessed with music he works unpaid and talks customers out of buying uncool tunes. He's an elitist, a monologuist and, as it turns out when he bursts into Marvin Gaye's Get It On, a very good singer. It was a great part for Black, and it also saw him helping Cusack pound a fantastically supercilious Tim Robbins. Cusack's sister, and fellow Robbins' acolyte Joan Cusack would also appear.

The success of High Fidelity brought more roles. First came Saving Silverman where Jack, Jason Biggs and Steve Zahn play three 20-something buddies who like to fool about and jam on Neil Diamond covers. When Biggs falls for Amanda Peet, Jack and Zahn decide to save their buddy from marital entrapment, kidnap Peet and convince Biggs she's dead. With inevitable consequences. It wasn't good, but it did see Neil Diamond's first screen appearance since 1980's The Jazz Singer, and Jack garnered his first million dollar paycheck.

After a cameo as a performance art hipster in the John C Reilly short Frank's Book, Black moved on to another comedy, the Farrelly brothers' Shallow Hal. Here he's told by his dying father to only ever date beautiful girls and thus cannot find true love till he's hypnotised by a self-help guru into seeing the beauty within. Thus he falls for a 300-pounder who, to him, looks like Gwyneth Paltrow. They have a beautiful romance, and a fairly hilarious one for those who can see the truth, but soon Jack must face the weighty facts of the matter. After High Fidelity, it was Black's second hit in consecutive years, it was also the most-watched pay-per-view movie of 2002 - he was well on his way.

Next came another fine performance, this time in Orange County. For several years writer Mike White had been Jack's neighbour in the Hollywood Hills. He'd come over to bum cigarettes off Jack's girlfriend and talk about his acting classes and his plans to star in his own movie. Not to be taken seriously, really. Then, suddenly, he'd written and starred in the dark comedy Chuck And Buck, penned the Jennifer Aniston vehicle The Good Girl and written a major part in Orange County specifically with Black in mind. Well, it would have been rude to turn it down. So Jack impressed once again as a substance-abusing couch potato loser who turns into a ball of clumsy energy when he decides to help his younger brother, Colin Hanks, gain the place at Stanford he's mistakenly been denied. Of course, he causes total chaos.

Now he was big, but still took time to pop up in Run Ronnie Run!, written by his Mr Show buddies Cross and Odenkirk. Sadly the movie was first shelved then painfully re-edited by New Line with everyone left disappointed. Jack moved on to the animated Ice Age, lending his voice to Zeke, an evil sabre-tooth tiger plotting to ambush some misfit animals attempting to lead a huiman child to safety. He'd then make two comic shorts for the MTV Movie Awards, both co-starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. And then he'd help out Odenkirk again by appearing in a comic flashback in Melvin Goes To Dinner.

Meanwhile, the Jack Black bulldozer kept on rolling, and now he headlined in The School Of Rock, again penned for him by Mike White. Directed by indie great Richard Linklater, who happily kept Jack from the edge of excess, this saw him as a failed rocker who, in need of cash, impersonates his room-mate and takes a job as relief teacher in a posh private school. Believing utterly that rock and roll will save your life, he proceeds to preach the power of metal and turns his young charges into a crack outfit. It's a acceptable substitute for academic and classical work, he reasons, as rock "will test your head and your mind and your brain, too". Eventually, even principal Joan Cusack is impressed.

The movie was a big hit, taking four times its budget at the box-office, and its success led both to a Golden Globe nomination for Jack and a proper release for his next picture, Envy, which had been scheduled to go straight to video, despite the fact that it starred Ben Stiller. Here Black was on top form again as a doofus who invents Vapoorize, a spray that eradicates dog muck. He offers a 50% share in his venture to friend and neighbour Stiller then, having been turned down, proceeds to make billions. Stiller's rampaging jealousy is not curbed when the intensely likeable but incredibly tasteless Black generously buys him a fountain far too big for his yard.

Next came another fine performance, this time in Orange County. For several years writer Mike White had been Jack's neighbour in the Hollywood Hills. He'd come over to bum cigarettes off Jack's girlfriend and talk about his acting classes and his plans to star in his own movie. Not to be taken seriously, really. Then, suddenly, he'd written and starred in the dark comedy Chuck And Buck, penned the Jennifer Aniston vehicle The Good Girl and written a major part in Orange County specifically with Black in mind. Well, it would have been rude to turn it down. So Jack impressed once again as a substance-abusing couch potato loser who turns into a ball of clumsy energy when he decides to help his younger brother, Colin Hanks, gain the place at Stanford he's mistakenly been denied. Of course, he causes total chaos.

Now he was big, but still took time to pop up in Run Ronnie Run!, written by his Mr Show buddies Cross and Odenkirk. Sadly the movie was first shelved then painfully re-edited by New Line with everyone left disappointed. Jack moved on to the animated Ice Age, lending his voice to Zeke, an evil sabre-tooth tiger plotting to ambush some misfit animals attempting to lead a huiman child to safety. He'd then make two comic shorts for the MTV Movie Awards, both co-starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. And then he'd help out Odenkirk again by appearing in a comic flashback in Melvin Goes To Dinner.

Meanwhile, the Jack Black bulldozer kept on rolling, and now he headlined in The School Of Rock, again penned for him by Mike White. Directed by indie great Richard Linklater, who happily kept Jack from the edge of excess, this saw him as a failed rocker who, in need of cash, impersonates his room-mate and takes a job as relief teacher in a posh private school. Believing utterly that rock and roll will save your life, he proceeds to preach the power of metal and turns his young charges into a crack outfit. It's a acceptable substitute for academic and classical work, he reasons, as rock "will test your head and your mind and your brain, too". Eventually, even principal Joan Cusack is impressed.

The movie was a big hit, taking four times its budget at the box-office, and its success led both to a Golden Globe nomination for Jack and a proper release for his next picture, Envy, which had been scheduled to go straight to video, despite the fact that it starred Ben Stiller. Here Black was on top form again as a doofus who invents Vapoorize, a spray that eradicates dog muck. He offers a 50% share in his venture to friend and neighbour Stiller then, having been turned down, proceeds to make billions. Stiller's rampaging jealousy is not curbed when the intensely likeable but incredibly tasteless Black generously buys him a fountain far too big for his yard.

While School Of Rock was dominating the box-office, Jack also made an assault on the DVD charts with Tenacious D: The Complete Masterworks, which would include the HBO series, several short (and quite revolting) films, live footage, Spike Jones' video for Wonderboy and Gabe Swarr's for the faux-sensitive F*** Her Gently. Black was clearly still taking the D seriously and, in the style of his mentor Tim Robbins, planned to use his newfound Hollywood clout and money to make a feature film following their rise to stardom. Meat Loaf, he hoped, would play his character's father. And so it was to be when in 2006 Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny was released, the movie following the duo through their formation and their efforts to steal the magical pick of the title from a rock and roll museum.

Following Envy, he joined Stiller and Robbins in taking a cameo in the big Will Ferrell comedy hit Anchorman, Jack playing a biker miffed when Ferrell lobs a burrito at him. Next he'd reunite with Will Smith and Robert De Niro, providing the voice of a vegetarian shark in the animated Shark Tale. And then would come the big one, perhaps the biggest of them all - Peter Jackson's King Kong. Here Jack would play Carl Denham, the madly ambitious film-maker and entrepreneur who seeks a myth in the South Seas and then brings it back to an awe-struck then terrified New York. He certainly had the energy and charisma to carry it off.

2006 would be a big year for Black. Having made a brief cameo in Danny Roane: First Time Director - written and directed by Ben Stiller's close colleague Andy Dick - he'd appear on a couple of wrestling shows to promote his latest cinematic vehicle. This would be Nacho Libre, where he's play a Mexican monk who secretly enters the world of wrestling to win fame, love and money enough to feed the poor orphans in his care. Despite being written by Mike White and directed by Jared "Napoleon Dynamite" Hess, the movie would receive lukewarm reviews. Nevertheless, Black's pulling power was now unarguable as the film took double its $25 million budget within two weeks.

Following the finally released Pick Of Destiny would come The Holiday, putting Jack in stellar company as Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet, both unlucky in love, swap homes and countries in their search for decent blokes, hooking up with Jude Law and Black respectively. Black himself would find true love for real that same year. Since 1997 he'd been seeing Laura Kightlinger, a stand-up comic who wrote for Saturday Night Live and Will and Grace, and appeared as Backstage Betty in the Tenacious D series (she also directed a documentary on comedian-activist Randy Credico, which Black produced). Come 2005 the pair had split and that April, when Tenacious D played a friend's birthday party, Black met cellist Tanya Haden, one of jazz great Charlie Haden's triplet daughters. In fact, he'd first met Haden back at his specialist high school, but the pair had never dated. Now, after just months together, they'd elope, getting married in March, 2006, with Haden bearing him his first child, son Samuel, that June. The birth would make no difference to Black's filmic rise, as he'd immediately move on to film a new comedy with Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

As it stands, Jack Black has it all. His hobby, Tenacious D, sees him pack houses across the world, allows him to perform for charity, and gives him a political voice, as he showed when playing a benefit for Democrat candidate John Kerry in 2004 (he also joined Michael Moore and Michael Stipe on TV to criticize George Bush). Onscreen he's working alongside the biggest names and in the biggest productions. He's even happy at home.

One thing he doesn't have is a cut from the profits of Jack Black grooming products - the company took the name before his rise to fame. The again, he does have, in the fine words of critic Roger Ebert, "the least reassuring grin since Jack Nicholson". Will they ever, one wonders, grin together onscreen? The Two Jacks, anyone


 

 

 

 

 

 


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