Jack Black reveals some of the challenges of being both lead star and producer of Gulliver's Travels. He also talks about nearly catching hypothermia on the first day of shooting, "discovering" Chris O'Dowd and filming the Orange cinema and TV advert.
You filmed a special Gulliver's Travels commercial for Orange Wednesdays - how was that?
Jack Black: The commercial was good fun. I was doing another movie at the time and I was like [looks angry]: "I don't have time for this damn commercial!" But they said: "No Jack, this is going to be really good, because it'll be like a trailer and a commercial in one!" So, I said: "Alright, it'll help promote the film... So be it! But I better get some free Orange phones from this." And guess what? I've got nothing! Not one! I'm sure you've brought some Orange phones as gifts? But it has helped promote the film and people have told me it's very funny, so I'm stoked about it. Thanks Orange!
So, what appealed to you about updating Jonathan Swift's novel, both as the star of the movie and as one of its producers?
Jack Black: To me, it was an opportunity to update a classic and to just be part of the history of this incredible 300-year-old story that endures. It was a real fun chance to jump on board that adventure.
And how challenging was it to bring Gulliver up to date as a character?
Jack Black: Not challenging at all - it was easy! No, a lot of thought went into it. We worked on it for years... the development of the script and the concept and finding the perfect director and cast members. It was an amazingly fun development process. I actually like producing, it turns out. Maybe I'll be a huge Hollywood producer.
Did it take you by surprise how hard you have to work as a producer as well? Apparently, you made yourself available even on the days you weren't needed?
Jack Black: OK, I was only one of many producers. I can't take full producer credit. But there is a lot to be done. There's a lot of work and thought going into it. But you're right about me being there when I didn't need to be... How did you know about that? Were you there?
Rob [Letterman, the director] said you were great and that he enjoyed "torturing" you as well...
Jack Black: He tortured me! The very first day of the shoot, I remember we shot the storm scene outside... We couldn't do it inside on a warm stage, no! We had to do it outside in 10 degrees, on a freezing cold morning at Pinewood Studios, and they had to pour gallons of water on me in wave form. The water, of course, is freezing cold - they can't heat it. So I nearly died of hypothermia on the very first day of the shoot! It served as a real wake-up call... Oh my God, this is real!
What was it like to re-create the iconic image of Gulliver being tied down by the people of Lilliput on the beach?
Jack Black: Yeah, that was one of the classic days on the set. That's when I knew I was part of a classic.
Your Gulliver, to begin with, is quite a shy, introverted, nervous person who is afraid to get the girl. Is that something you can easily relate to, because you don't seem to have any problems with that kind of thing?
Jack Black: No, I definitely related to it. That was part of how it was tailor-made for me, actually. Even though I seem like a big, bombastic, outgoing dude, when it comes down to it with the ladies, when I was a single, free-wheeling dude, I was always very shy. It was difficult to form sentences with the girl of my dreams.
Did fame make it easier or harder?
Jack Black: Fame? OK, maybe a little bit easier. It's all about finding your voice in whatever your profession is... it helps your confidence. Clarifying your identity helps you just talk to ladies [puts on a voice].
And getting to unleash your inner rock god must have been a fun element of Gulliver?
Jack Black: Indeed [eyes go a little wild]. The rock can never hurt.... [screams out] Aaaaggh haaaaa! See? Who needs talk when you can do that? Hi... how's it going? What's your name? Check it out.... Aaaaggggh haaaaaa! [Gets louder and more high-pitched.] There's no microphone there, so what am I holding in my fist?
How was it to go toe to toe and ad-lib with somebody like Chris O'Dowd?
Jack Black: Chris O'Dowd is the king of ad-libs. Chris O'Dowd, I have no doubt, is going to win an Oscar one of these days. And he will forget to thank me... for discovering him. I know he's already big here with The IT Crowd, but I don't care. I discovered him anyway. Now he's going to be off doing the next Judd Apatow movie. But do you know where Judd got the idea to cast him? This guy [points to himself]. OK? Why am I getting so angry and possessive of Chris O'Dowd? He is his own man and he's brilliant.
Interview: Rob Carnevale