Jack Black is an American actor, musician, comedian, writer and producer best known for his appearances in such films as High Fidelity, Shallow Hal, The School of Rock and King Kong. Due to his appearances in these films, he has been dubbed a member of the Frat Pack by the media. He has had major TV appearances on Mr. Show with Bob and David and is a member of the rock band Tenacious D, who had their own show on HBO.
Thomas J. Black (nicknamed "Jack" as a child) was born on August 28, 1969 in Hermosa Beach, California, where he was raised. Both his father Thomas Black and his mother Judy Cohen were satellite engineers who had four total children from previous marriages, and although religiously Jewish (his father had converted before marrying Judy), were part of the swinging, free-wheeling lifestyle of 70s Southern California. When Black was very young, his parents joined the nudist free-love cult Family Synergy, where they were encouraged to trade partners. Judy became jealous of Thomas' girlfriend (on whom young Jack also had a crush) and physically abused her, and the two divorced when Jack was ten. Thereafter, Black lived with Judy in nearby Culver City.
At Hebrew school, Black was the class clown. He was interested in acting from an early age. His first screen role was in an Atari commercial when he was thirteen. He would later say his next role—in a commercial for the children's cartoon merchandising Smurfberry Crunch cereal—destroyed the geek-chic kudos he had received for his work in the video game ad. He also developed a drug habit while attending Culver City Middle School and stole money from his mother for cocaine.
Although frequently compared to Robin Williams and Jim Carrey—both of whom were comedians who became actors—Black was an actor who became a comedian. He first attended the public Culver City High School, but he was not interested in academics and was himself worried further exposure to the public school system would exacerbate his drug problem. He therefore soon transferred to the Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences in Santa Monica, where he performed in readings of poetry and writings by Bertolt Brecht. He also underwent therapy to quit the drugs. At Crossroads, he met music student Tanya Haden, who would play a much more significant role in his life decades later.
Aside from acting, by this time, Black was also very interested in music. His fascination with heavy rock began with one of the tenants at his mother's house, a journalist who introduced Black to Fleetwood Mac and Simon & Garfunkel. By age 13, Black moved from Styx and Journey to Ozzy Osbourne, and his musical tastes throughout his teens tended towards heavy metal and hard rock. He wrote his own songs—many of them comic and ribald, a foreshadowing of his work with Tenacious D—and joined a band. However, while playing a high school party, the band noticed not one person was listening to their rendition of Iron Man by Black Sabbath. The humiliation temporarily ended Black's musical career.
After high school, Black studied theater at the University of California Los Angeles, but he was no more interested in academics there than he had been at Culver City High. He began to hang around The Actors' Gang, a theater troupe founded and run by UCLA alumnus Tim Robbins. After less than two years at UCLA, Black dropped out to join The Actors' Gang. The move cost him the financial support he had been receiving from his father. There, he met fellow Gang member Kyle Gass, whom he learned had similar musical and comic tastes. Black's association with the Gang also landed him his first film role in Bob Roberts, Robbins' 1992 directorial debut, as Roger Davis, a crazed fan of the titular ultra-conservative, folk-singing Senate candidate.
For the remainder of the decade, Black made many film appearances ranging from Waterworld to The Cable Guy to Robbins' Oscar-winning film Dead Man Walking, although he often lost roles to Philip Seymour Hoffman. On TV, he made appearances in everything from The X-Files to Touched by an Angel to The Single Guy. He also made several appearances on the HBO sketch comedy series Mr. Show with Bob and David, often rocking out. His most memorable appearance in that series was in the episode 2x03 - "The Biggest Failure in Broadway History". In the sketch "Jeepers Creepers Superstar," a parody of the 1973 hippied-out film adaptation of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, Black plays Jeepers Creepers, an overweight slacker messiah modeled after the role of Jesus in the film. There was a dark side, however, to Black's rising success, as he again turned to drugs.
By 1994, Black and Gass had been writing music together and playing together for five years. Gass had taught Black to play guitar, and their work was becoming more sophisticated. They at last made their foray into the LA comedy scene, where they billed themselves as the band Tenacious D—two overweight, acoustic musicians convinced of their destiny as stadium rock stars. The comic band gained recognition, and as Black began to take more control of his career, he again kicked the drugs and moved out of his mother's house. In 1997, he began a relationship with comedienne and actress Laura Kightlinger which would last eight years. In 1999, HBO gave Tenacious D their own self-titled show, executive produced by Mr. Show co-headliner Bob Odenkirk.
As the 1990s drew to a close, Black was a "that guy" and cult hit comedian/rock star on the verge of becoming a major success, but his "big break" eluded him. Director Ben Stiller had cast him as a lead in a pilot for FOX, Heat Vision and Jack, about an astronaut (Black) who gains super-powers and fights crime with the help of his best friend (played by Owen Wilson), whose spirit has been put into a super-motorcycle. However, FOX sat on the series and refused to run it or even screen the pilot. It seemed as though Black's career had been dealt another setback, but the first few months of the new millennium would see his rise to become one of the highest-paid and most sought-after actors in Hollywood.
As soon as it became clear Heat Vision and Jack was a no-go, Black's Bob Roberts co-star, fellow Actor's Gang hanger-on and Tenacious D fan John Cusack recommended him for a role in the film High Fidelity. Black played Barry, an employee at Cusack's Rob Gordon's record store. It was one of the most daring breakout roles in the history of Hollywood cinema. Loutish, snide, a hopeless music nerd convinced his own band is destined for greatness, Barry has the lion's share of the most quoted lines in the film. However, in the climax, with his soulful rendition of Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On, Barry reveals a sensitive side shocking for a character so much in the "wisecracking sidekick" mold of romantic comedy characters. The role almost seemed tailor-made for Black, who thoroughly inhabited the character. The film's director Stephen Frears would later say of Black and his career up to High Fidelity, "People say, 'Oh you discovered him,' but you haven't, it's just that you're present when they decide to let rip. If I'm being honest, I think he kept his head down and then for some reason decided to lift it." His work in High Fidelity garnered Black American Comedy and Chicago Film Critics Association Award nominations, and he won the Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Supporting Actor - Comedy/Romance.
His next film, 2001's Saving Silverman was also his first million-dollar payday, but although a cult hit, it received little critical attention. He also starred in Shallow Hal later that year, yet another disappointing follow-up to the Farrelly Brothers' 1998 smash sleeper hit There's Something About Mary. However, Black would find greater critical success in 2002 with his role as Lance Brumder in the indie cult hit Orange County. In 2003, he solidified his position as a comic leading man in The School of Rock, a lightweight but wildly successful comedy about a burn-out in a lousy rock band who becomes a substitute teacher at a private school and transforms the awkward, shy kids' lives by introducing them to 60s, 70s and 80s classic rock and heavy metal—Dead Poets Society meets Pink Floyd, but with a happy ending. In June 2004, when USA Today coined the term "Frat Pack" to refer to the clique of highly-paid, successful Hollywood stars who defined hipness for the 2000s, Black's name (along with Stiller and Wilson) was included on the list. In 2005, he received rave reviews for his performance in the complex, layered role of Carl Denham in director Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong. Although Black's name was circulated as an Academy Award nominee frontrunner, the film's disappointing box office led to it being snubbed at the awards in all but a handful of technical categories. Later, Black also admitted to having once again used drugs (in this case, ecstasy) on the set of the film.
Shortly before King Kong was released, Black split from his longtime girlfriend Kightlinger. Months later, in early 2006, he married his high school classmate Tanya Haden, whom he had met again in 2005 at a friend's birthday party. She gave birth to his first son, Samuel Jason, on June 10, 2006. That summer also saw the release of Black's highest grossing film which he headlined to date, the critically panned Nacho Libre. That autumn, he released the first Tenacious D movie, Tenacious D in "The Pick of Destiny".
Black continues to work in film and television, and he is still active as a member of Tenacious D. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son.
|Tenacious D (1999)||Jack Black||1997–2000||1|
|The Brink||Alex Robbins||2015||1|
Guest Starring Roles
Specials and Made-for-TV Movies
Talk, News and Game Show Appearances
Notable Film Roles
- Bob Roberts (1992): Roger Davis
- The NeverEnding Story III (1994): Slip, Leader of the Nasties
- Waterworld (1995): Pilot
- Dead Man Walking (1995): Craig Poncelet
- Bio-Dome (1996): Tenacious D member
- The Cable Guy (1996): Rick
- Bongwater (1997): Devlin
- The Jackal (1997): Ian Lamont
- Enemy of the State (1998): Fiedler
- High Fidelity (2000): Barry
- Saving Silverman (2001): J.D. McNugent
- Shallow Hal (2001): Hal Larson
- Run Ronnie Run (2002): Lead Chimney Sweep
- Orange County (2002): Lance Brumder
- Ice Age (2002): Zeke
- Melvin Goes to Dinner (2003): Mental Patient
- The School of Rock (2003): Dewey Finn
- Envy (2004): Nick Vanderpark
- Shark Tale (2004): Lenny
- King Kong (2005): Carl Denham
- Nacho Libre (2006): Nacho
- Tenacious D in "The Pick of Destiny" (2006): Tenacious D member
- The Holiday (2006): Miles
- Kung Fu Panda (2008): Po (voice)
|Tenacious D (1999)||1997 –2000||Executive Producer||1|
|Series||Premiere Date||Creation Credit|
|Tenacious D (1999)||November 28, 1997||Co-Creator|
Awards and Accolades
- Golden Globes, Motion Picture
- Nominated: Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy - The School of Rock
- American Comedy Awards, USA
- Nominated: Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture (2000) - High Fidelity
- Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, USA
- Won: Favorite Supporting Actor - Comedy/Romance (2000) - High Fidelity
- Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, USA
- Nominated: Best Supporting Actor (2000) - High Fidelity
- DVD Exclusive Awards, USA
- Nominated: Best Supporting Actor in a DVD Premiere Movie (2003) - Melvin Goes to Dinner
- Won: Best Original Song in a DVD Premiere Movie (2003) - "The Golden Rule Song," Run Ronnie Run
- MTV Movie Awards, USA
- Nominated: Best Music Moment (2000) - "Let's Get It On," High Fidelity
- Nominated: Breakthrough Male Performance (2000) - High Fidelity
- Won: Best Comedic Performance (2003) - The School of Rock
- Nominated: Best On-Screen Team (2003) - The School of Rock - with Aleisha Allen, Rebecca Brown, Kevin Alexander Clark, Miranda Cosgrove, Joey Gaydos Jr., Caitlin Hale, Maryam Hassan & Robert Tsai
- Online Film Critics Society Awards, USA
- Nominated: Best Supporting Actor (2000) - High Fidelity
- Satellite Awards, USA
- Nominated: Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical (2003) - The School of Rock
- ShoWest Convention Special Awards, USA
- Won: Comedy Star of the Year (2004)
- Teen Choice Awards, USA
- Nominated: Film - Choice Actor, Comedy (2001-02) - Shallow Hal
- Nominated: Choice Comedian (2003-04)
- Nominated: Choice Movie Actor - Comedy (2003-04) - The School of Rock
- Nominated: Choice Movie Liar (2003-04) - The School of Rock
- Nominated: Movie - Choice Rumble (2005-06) - Nacho Libre - with Cesar Gonzalez
- Nominated: Movies - Choice Actor: Comedy (2005-06) - Nacho Libre
- Nominated: Movies - Choice Chemistry (2005-06) - Nacho Libre - with Héctor Jiménez
- Nominated: Movies - Choice Sleazebag (2005-06) - King Kong
- As a child, hid loose wires in his shirt sleeves and let them fall out to pretend he was a robot.
- First acting role was as the Wizard in a production of "The Wizard of Oz" for his summer camp when he was eight.
- Former Actors' Gang cohort and roommate Ned Bellamy claims Black's public persona is deliberately styled after the Artful Dodger, the puckish young pickpocket from Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist who becomes the leader of a gang of child criminals.
- Took the name "Tenacious D" from a description of a basketball player's defense by sportscaster Marv Albert.
- Had a small role in the film True Romance but was left on the cutting room floor.
- One of his most memorable scenes in High Fidelity, the film which made him a star, involves Black and John Cusack beating the crap out of Black's former mentor, Tim Robbins.
- First met Mike White, the screenwriter of Orange County, The School of Rock and Nacho Libre, when the two were neighbors in the Hollywood Hills.
- Film critic Roger Ebert has called him the man with "the least reassuring grin since Jack Nicholson."
- Had his gall bladder removed in 2003 to stop gallstone problems he's had since he was 16 years old.
- Is an avid video gamer, to the extent that Kyle Gass calls it his job.
- Is a devoted advocate of the Democratic Party, and has campaigned for Democratic candidates.