Jack Black is looking to the day he gives up movie-acting, telling HuffPostUK there are fewer and fewer things screen roles he wants to take, and he’s tired of playing the loveable loser.
Jack, whose comedy-chiller ‘Goosebumps’ is currently in UK cinemas having triumphed at the US box office, tells us his career been on a rollercoaster since his breakthrough opposite John Cusack in ‘High Fidelity’, but that could be about to change.
“My career’s taken an arc. It’s coming to a close here,” he tells us in London.
“At the beginning I was so thrilled to have a part, that first big great part in ‘High Fidelity’ opened up the universe to me, and I was getting all these offers, and then I did a few other films and then I did ‘School of Rock’, and that was where all the planets aligned and that was the best possible situation.
“And then you start going ‘Ok, I’ve already done that kind of thing, I’ve done the loveable loser, I’ll do another loveable loser, I’ll do this and that,’ and then you say, ‘I don’t want to do another loveable loser, just because I’m bored of it,’ so then you start narrowing things down and saying no more and more, until I arrive at this place, where I’ve done so many things, it keeps on narrowing the things I want to do that are left.”
He’s right that, for a long while now, Jack Black has been that go-to actor for zany guy with a good heart, playing on his comedic skills but also his palpable sweetness.
“I just try to live it, try to make it feel like it’s true in my bones. Even if it looks like I’m overacting to the moon, I’m just trying to be true to myself and make it real,” he says modestly.
“I like putting on a show, and the comedic comes naturally,” he agrees. “But I don’t go out of my way to ask, ‘What is the joke here?’ I’m not your classic stand-up comedian who’s delivering the punchlines. I’m not a real punchline kind of guy.”
Despite his funny bones, when Jack cites his own screen idols, they are as dramatic as they are humorous.
“I love Daniel Day-Lewis. That last one sealed the deal. He already kind of did it, with ‘There Will Be Blood’, but ‘Lincoln’… done. For me, he moved past the rest then. You sense a powerful intelligence behind his characters, a reverence for the writers. In his eloquence, you can tell there’s a writer in him dying to get out.
“When I was a kid it was all about Gene Wilder and Peter Sellers. And Jack Nicholson. The thing I liked about them was, they all had a crazy streak in them. Unpredictability. That’s what I’m drawn to.”
He’s still thinking about it.
“The thing I like about Nicholson, too, and my favourite actors was… their unusualness, characters, too that don’t really fit into society.”
Jack could be describing Bernie Tiede, the extraordinary real-life character whose portrayal revealed the actor’s greater depth and subtlety in a role it feels he were born to play in 'Bernie' – a camp man so beloved by his Texan neighbours that, when he was tried for the murder of his benefactress Marjorie Nugent, the courtroom had to be moved to another county to find a neutral jury who wouldn’t acquit him straight away.
“I met him in prison and just recently for the first time I met him outside prison,” says Jack fondly of his real-life counterpart.
“He’s living with the director Richard Linklater, which was a condition of his freedom. Richard took full responsibility for him, saying he’s not going to hurt anyone. Yes, he was guilty, but he’s done his time, he’s going to do better for the community outside, he’s a really good guy.”
‘Goosebumps’, meanwhile, gives him the chance to be enigmatic in the human role of reclusive author RL Stine, a horror author whose characters start coming strangely to life. One of these is ‘Slappy’, an evil schoolboy puppet, also voiced by Jack. He gives me a quick rendition of Slappy’s distinctive tones, for which his eyes also go properly round like Slappy’s, something he says he could quite happily do all day.
With all this good stuff going on, is he really prepared to give it all up?
“One movie left, and then it’s goodnight everybody,” he affirms.
Will that be ‘Goosebumps 2’, then? A pause.
“Two more movies, then… probably… goodnight.”
Which, for the sake of all film fans, I’m hoping is simply Jack Black’s best joke yet.
'Goosebumps' is in UK cinemas now. Trailer below: