Before we begin our interview, Jack Black lets it be known he'll be doing it fully reclining on a long stretch of sofa, staring at the ceiling. "This is awkward, but it's the way it has to be," he explains. Black may be a bit exhausted from his work as a fictionalized version of author R.L. Stine in "Goosebumps," an egomaniacal, reclusive author whose devilish creations come to life and run amok on a small Delaware town.
What do you think about the idea of being a recluse? Have you ever been tempted?
I am a bit of a recluse. I can relate to that part of Stein's personality. There's part of that that just comes with the territory. You get in your Hollywood bubble and you try not to leave because you don't want to have selfies and autographs. So yeah, I get it.
But you've never gone full-on Howard Hughes?
No. I don't have those kinds of demons inside of me. At least not yet. Give me time. I'll be bottling my piss in a few decades, I'm sure. If I live that long.
You're working with a lot of monsters who are not actually physically there.
Yeah, lots of special effects monsters and computer-generated animation.
Aside from "King Kong," how much experience had you had with that?
Well, that's all I needed. "King Kong" was the king of all special effects movies. It wasn't just King Kong that I was pretending to see, it was thousands of prehistoric insects and lizards all over the place. You just had to imagine the whole movie. Every shot of "King Kong" had a special effect in it. It was mind-boggling. So this was kind of easy in comparison. I was primed and ready.
There are not as many special effects in this one, is what you're saying.
I mean, there's tons in this movie, too. Those big set pieces are amazingly good, especially when you consider the difference in budget between this and "King Kong," which was probably three times as expensive. Rob Letterman is a wizard. He knows that world so well, and he picked his moments wisely where to spend the money, you know?
You're playing this at a particular level of bigness. How do you decide for each role how big to get?
I don't really think about the size of the dramatic levels. I mean, yeah, there's giant creatures all over the place and the world is fantastical, so you can get away with a little more bombast and high drama in your performance, I suppose, but I was really just thinking about this character who is the genius writer who has these dark secrets and dark demons that he keeps hidden from the world. And for some reason that just said Orson Welles to me. That seemed like the perfect person to model it after, so I watched "Citizen Kane" 30 times and then went to the set.
Did you discover anything about "Citizen Kane" you never noticed before?
That it's a f—ing great movie. That's no newsflash, though. Everybody says it's the best movie ever made. I discovered that Jack White has covered two songs from the movie. I can't remember which songs exactly, but Google "Jack White Citizen Kane" and you'll see.
Orson Welles aside, I did feel a lot of Tenacious D in this performance, that particular bravado and self-regard.
Right! Yes! I didn't think about that, but there was a narcissism there that was consistent with Tenacious D. He's the Kanye West of horror.
Did you have any familiarity with the books going into this?
No, I didn't. I just read the script and flipped over that, and for that reason I don't think there's any need to have read the books to enjoy the movie. Had you read any of the books?
No, I was just a little too old for them.
You could've been in there. It was early '90s that they were published, right?
But I was already into Hunter S. Thompson by then because I was terrible.
"Fear and Loathing," did you read that in your teen years? You were advanced. It suggests you were experimenting with some things at that time, too.
When did you first read Hunter S. Thomspon?
I must have been a teenager, too. I don't remember when I first read "Fear and Loathing," but that was the only one I read.
Between projects like this and more adult fare like "The Brink," what is your process for picking projects these days?
You just follow your nose. You follow the muse, and if there's something that catches your eye and makes you say, "Oh s—, I've got to do this," then you just do it. There's a couple things that I've got in the pipeline that I'd like to do next. I'm going to do another season of "The Brink" first and then I'll probably squeeze in another movie before working on the next Tenacious D release. We'll do some writing at the end of this year and the beginning of next year, but I've got a lot of promotiing to do with "Goosebumps" and "Kung Fu Panda" worldwide, so my plate is kind of full for a time being.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick