Jack Black Interview, The Holiday

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

MoviesOnline recently caught up with Jack Black at the Los Angeles Press Day for his new movie, "The Holiday," written and directed by Nancy Meyers. Black plays Miles, a surprisingly cool guy and film composer with an enthusiasm for movies and music. After catching his girlfriend two-timing him, he becomes romantically involved with Iris Simpkins (Kate Winslet) who is renting his friend’s home over the Christmas holidays.

Amanda Woods (Cameron Diaz), the owner of a prospering advertising firm that creates movie trailers, lives in Southern California and wants to get out of town for the holidays. She stumbles across an internet site that specializes in home exchanges and finds a charming cottage in the English countryside that turns out to be the perfect antidote to her troubles.

Simpkins (Winslet), the owner of the cottage, writes the popular wedding column for London's Daily Telegraph. Though Iris and Amanda live 6,000 miles apart, they are in exactly the same place. Just before Christmas, Iris and Amanda decide to take a needed break from the men in their lives (played by Edward Burns and Rufus Sewell) and on impulse, they crisscross continents and move into each other's homes for two weeks.

Iris lands in Los Angeles on a spectacularly clear day warmed by the gusts of the seasonal Santa Ana winds. Not long after she arrives at Amanda's Brentwood home, she is befriended by next door neighbor Arthur (Eli Wallach), a noted screenwriter from Hollywood's Golden Era, and Miles (Black), a film composer who works with Amanda's ex-boyfriend.

In England, where it is anything but balmy, Amanda is just settling into the cozy solitude of the snow-covered Rose Hill Cottage, when Iris' handsome brother Graham (Jude Law) comes knocking at the cottage door. In an unexpected turn of events, both women discover that the best trips are the ones where you leave your baggage behind.

Here’s what the charming Jack Black had to tell us about making "The Holiday," what it was like getting cozy with Kate Winslet, and the joys of being a new father:

Q: How was the show last night?

JB: The show was great – yeah, you’re talking about the Tenacious D concert that we did last night and the night before last at Universal Amphitheater. Great crowds, our show is really big now, like a Broadway show.

Q: What was the crowd like?

JB: The crowd was freakin’ out. We take the audience on a journey. We tell a story. Not since The Wall has there been such a complete concept and production values. We’re thinking that after our tour, we’ll go into a three-year Broadway run.

Q: How did "Saturday Night Live" come up?

JB: "Saturday Night Live" came up – it just seemed natural. We had our album coming out. Okay, we lobbied for it for a while, and then we broke ‘em down, and Lorne Michaels finally submitted.

Q: Were you surprised they came to you for this movie?

JB: I was surprised because I usually don’t get offers for romantic comedies, so that was flattering, and my mom was overjoyed. But Nancy (Meyers) is a fan, and she thought that I had the goods to pull it off. She believed in me, and in my adorableness, and my adorable side that has yet to really [be] excavated.

Q: Were you able to find that side of you?

JB: It was a challenge. I don’t usually show the soft and cuddlies. I think I’m getting a little red right now. Do I look a little red? No? Okay.

Q: Why was your mom overjoyed?

JB: Oh, my mom loves Nancy Meyers, and she always wants me to do something in her neck of the woods. And although she supports me with The D, and the crazy crap I do, it’s not really her cup of tea. Believe it or not, she doesn’t listen to the heavy metal, and she doesn’t… Yeah, she was stoked, and I was stoked to do it, too.

Q: How about Miles’ relationship with music?

JB: Yeah, that was a good thing for me; I could relate to [the fact] that Miles was a film composer. And I just got finished composing my music for my film and my score, so I knew about that world.

Q: Are you a fan of the old time scores?

JB: I do appreciate music from film scores. My taste runs toward… I like the creepy scores, like the music in "Eyes Wide Shut." I always like all the Kubrick scores, but I can appreciate the other scores too.

Q: Would you sing the music out loud?

JB: Always. That’s my bread and butter. I’m a scat artist by nature. I take after Bobby McFerrin in that way. He was my mentor.

Q: How upset were you that you didn’t get to make out with Kate Winslet?

JB: Not bummed. In fact, I was kind of worried they were going to try and sneak one in, just because I’m not one for public displays, and you can’t get more public than in a major motion picture. So I was relieved that ours was the sweet one. The other one was the ‘full tongues a blazing.’

Q: What do you think it’s like to work with you?

JB: What do I think it’s like to work with me? I never think about that. How is that? How am I to work? Let me imagine being someone else working with me. I like to think that I’m easy going and funny, and giving as an actor, off camera giving all the sauce. I think about it a lot -- what’s the best thing I can do to have them be as good as they can be. When I’m off camera, I try and do less acting. I’m there for them, but I try not to really, really nail my acting. I find it distracting when other actors are giving too much off camera. Just stand there and relax your face and I’ll do my time. So I think about stuff like that.

Q: What was it like when Shelley Berman and Bill Macy were on set for the Chanukah scene?

JB: Yeah, it was pretty wild. There’s a lot of history there, a lot of Hollywood history. Shelley Berman, I didn’t really know about his huge fame – I guess he had the telephone. I guess he had a telephone improvisational bit on TV a lot back in the day, and it was cool to hear about stories from that time. And it was also funny that all these old guys from Hollywood royalty were kind of competing in improv during the takes. It was funny to see the fireworks between them – who’s going to get the biggest laugh at the table in the scene.

Q: Is there an expectation for you to do comedy?

JB: Yeah, there’s a pressure put on me as a funny guy that you have to be constantly funny, and you can easily get sucked into the Robin Williams mania of ‘be funny all the time.’ So I try and take that pressure off myself in a situation like this one where I can relax and try some different stuff.

Q: How much did you bring to the Miles character?

JB: It was written very specifically, and Nancy had a very clear picture in her mind of what she wanted the characters to look and sound like down to the ‘find the tail.’ But she was open to some little accidents and a little improv that would happen along the way – ‘boob graze’ that’s mine.

Q: Have you ever gotten drunk on Manishewitz?

JB: Yeah, tastes good, tastes just like port. Aren’t they the same family? Yeah, I think I snuck a sip when I was tiny.

Q: Has the boob graze ever worked in real life?

JB: Boob graze is a technique of copping a feel. No, that was strictly accidental. No Schwarzenegger strategies on my part.

Q: Were there any titles in the video store that you knew about that might be on the DVD?

JB: Oh, maybe. There may have been other tapes that I picked up and may have sang about, but we’ll see. What’s crazy is that Dustin Hoffman kind of just wandered in. He wasn’t invited. He was just walking around Brentwood, where I guess he lives, saw a movie set, and thought, ‘I wonder what’s going on?’ and walked in there, and he knew Nancy, and all of a sudden, he was in the movie. It was kind of great.

Q: Who would you call the Entertainer of the Year for 2006?

JB: Entertainer of the Year? I don’t know how you can’t give it to "Borat." Sacha Cohen dominated the comedy scene and I can’t think of anyone in the drama or action or horror world that has made an impact. It’s a slam dunk.

Q: Have you seen "Borat"?

JB: I have not seen "Borat," shamefully, but I haven’t seen a movie since my baby was born five months ago, so I get a pass. But I am friends with Sacha, and I love his work. They’re keeping a real lock down on that DVD. Usually I can pull a Hollywood string, and a secret DVD screener would be sent to me, but that is not so with "Borat."

Q: Do you ever talk about the work with Sacha?

JB: I’ve never really grilled him on his secret techniques. I don’t really know what his secret herbs and spices are and his recipe for brilliance. He’s just very thoughtful and smart. I think he approaches it like a scientist, a chemist. He has a great mind for it, and he went in… Someone told me he went in and gave notes on Team America: World Police, that Trey and Matt from South Park sought his advice. And if they’re asking for his advice, then you know he’s got the goods, cause those guys are brilliant, and they consider him their peer.

Q: How has fatherhood been going for you?

JB: Fatherhood has been amazing. It’s really good. He’s such a cutie pie, lots of snuggles. I found the best holds. I have a new hold called ‘The congrejo submission’ where I put his chest – his butt on my chest, facing outward, and hold him like this, and he feels like a king on his throne.

Q: How easy or hard is it to make him laugh?

JB: He’s very smiley, very laughy. It’s not been hard. He is now sleeping through the night which is great.

Q: It must have been scary for you to wake up and not hear anything?

JB: No, it was a gradual process that he started to sleep longer and longer through the night, so I didn’t really. It wasn’t just one night.

Q: How is it working with Michel Gondry?

JB: Well, Michel Gondry, I just did a movie with him, "Be Kind Rewind." He is a very spontaneous director and super creative on every level. He designed and made these home-made props and costumes himself that were unbelievable. And I guess a lot of the time, it felt like no one knew what was going on except for him, and by design I think he likes to create a bit of chaos on the set, and then at the last minute focus it and yell out loud to people, ‘You do this…rah, rah, rah.’ And then there’s a crazy activity, and everyone’s running around, and it creates a really amazing energy. It was really fun.

Q: What did Kate tell you about working with him?

JB: Yeah, she told me before I started working on that, while we were doing "The Holiday," that I was going to have a blast. She loved every minute of it.

Q: What were your impressions of remaking other movies, like "Back to the Future"?

JB: We did not do "Back to the Future." We did not get permission.

Q: What did you get permission for?

JB: We did a lot of movies. We did "When We Were Kings," the documentary about Mohammad Ali – I play Mohammad Ali, strangely. We did "Superman." Actually I shouldn’t say that. We had to change the name to something else. "Incredible Flying Man" I think we changed it to. We did "Ghostbusters." That was a masterpiece. We did "Robocop," we did "Driving Miss Daisy" just to name a few. There were tons of movies that we did. We have to replace the entire library in a video store because I accidentally erased a whole section of videos.

Q: Do you try and do them straight?

JB: We were under strict orders not to watch any of the movies again, not to re-watch anything again, and if we hadn’t seen it, don’t see it. Just do what you think it is based on the commercials you had seen of the movie because he wanted it to look that way because there isn’t any time in the movie for us to do any research, so he wanted to keep that consistent as actors not to research any of the movies we were remaking. So, that worked well for me in terms of having more free time with the baby.

Q: Which of the movies was the most fun to re-do?

JB: "Ghostbusters" was pretty fun. That one we really went into. We did a little "King Kong," too. It was cool. And it was pretty low-budget, the movie, but he makes up for it with incredible tricks and stuff, and depth perception, and camera tricks. Like, let’s say I’m King Kong, and that over there is Roz, but you’re the camera, and if I do that (holds out hand as if he’s grabbing her neck), and hold her like that, it looks like I’m a giant. It’s hard to explain – in the mind of Michel Gondry it makes sense (delivered with a heavy French accent).

Q: What was it like to work with Kate Winslet. She said you were perfect and hard working?

JB: Am I humble and hard working and sensitive? I like to think so.

Q: I like the sensitive part.

JB: Oh yes, I’m very sensitive; Kate was incredible to work with, as I had anticipated. It was a huge reason why I wanted to do the movie. I’m such a fan of hers, and I just love her work and her acting. It was interesting to find out she came from a family full of actors and she grew up in that theater world, and it makes sense because she’s so damn good. It’s like she’s from that world. And whenever we were doing a scene, I would get lost watching her because you kind of go into a little trance because she’s so real. She’s really so believable and beautiful that you go, ‘Snap out of it, get back in this thing.’

Q: Have you ever met someone like Maggie?

JB: Yeah, sure.

Q: Have you ever dated one?

JB: Have I ever dated a Maggie? I guess my wife has some Maggie characteristics – sweet and real, good people.

Q: This holiday, what gift are you hoping to get?

JB: What am I hoping to get? See, that’s the problem with being an international movie star of great renown is I have everything. As soon as it pops in my head, I have to go straight to Amazon and ‘one click’ it. That’s the problem is figuring out what I would want if I knew about it. It’s impossible to shop for me. I like things that are made now. My wife gave me a great present. She made me an animated flip book. She’s a great artist and it was a cool cartoon she made for me. That’s what it comes to now.

Q: Are you going away during the holidays?

JB: Going on a Tenacious D tour, and we have a new big bus, a family bus, and then Kyle, the other guy in Tenacious D, is in the party bus, and we travel in the caravan and a lot of pot smoke is coming out of his windows.

Q: Just his windows?

JB: Not our windows, we’ve got baby bus.

Q: Could you go on the party bus?

JB: Oh, I’m sure I would be welcomed, but I don’t think so. I got more than enough entertainment with my bubbala.

Q: Is it going to one present or eight presents?

JB: Oh, what do you mean? Chanukah? My family has never done the whole nine yards with eight presents -- maybe one time when I was five years old, foggy memories. We have four families because my mom and her mom celebrate Chanukah with their new husbands, and my dad and her dad celebrate Christmas with their new wives, so we’ve got four families we’ve got to hit. So I figure that’s four days of Chanuchrismaskah.

Q: Chrismakwanza?

JB: Yeah, Chrismakwanza.

Q: Will The D be back in town in LA?

JB: Well, yeah, it’s our home town so I’m sure we’ll be doing a benefit soon.

Q: Will we see "Nacho Libre 2"?

JB: Oh, part 2? I sure hope so. I love working with Jared. I think there’s a good bet we’ll collaborate on something again.

Q: Are you signed on for anything?

JB: Mike had an idea that it would [be] ‘Nacho goes to Japan,’ but we’ll see about that.

Q: Are you signed on for something else?

JB: I’m loosely signed on to something, verbally. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say if it’s just verbally. There was talk of a possible Robert Altman thing, big cast, and semi-improvisational.

"The Holiday" opens in theaters on Friday, December 8th. Jack Black will be seen next in "Be Kind Rewind" and will provide the voice of Po the Panda in the upcoming animated feature "Kung Fu Panda."


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