Funnyman Jack Black missed out on his big chance to play a superhero some years ago: A plan to put a more comedic spin on the 2011 Green Lantern movie sparked a backlash from comic book fans and the offer eventually fell through.
But the comedic actor has always wanted to wield supernatural powers on screen – and he finally gets his chance in The House With A Clock In Its Walls, a family-friendly fantasy film that casts him as an oddball warlock. (Read our review of the movie here).
The character “was a perfect fit”, says the 49-year-old. “An eccentric, jazz-saxophone-playing warlock? That’s me,” the amiable star of music comedy School Of Rock (2003) says in an interview in Los Angeles recently.
“I’ve always wanted magical powers. And Marvel was not offering me any roles,” he quips. “This was my chance to throw fireballs of my own.”
The film, based on a 1970s children’s novel, is about 10-year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro), an orphaned boy sent to live with his uncle Jonathan (Black). He discovers his uncle is a warlock, their neighbour Florence (Cate Blanchett) is a witch and the creepy old house he now lives in has a very dark past.
For Black, “it was a very easy decision” to do the film, which is helmed by indie horror director Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, 2002).
“My agent called and said, ‘Cate Blanchett, Eli Roth, scary movie.’ And I read the script and instantly said yes because I loved it.”
Black identified with the fact that Lewis does not fit in at his new school.
As a child, the actor himself was a bit of a fish out of water.
“I grew up in Hermosa Beach (in California) and all the kids were surfers and I was not – I was a theatre kid.”
His favourite part of the script is when his character advises Lewis, who wants to become a warlock too, to celebrate what makes him different.
“I tell him the key to being a warlock is the fact that you are the only you in this giant universe. And embracing that individuality, that thing that’s uniquely you, is the key to unlocking the magic within.
“I thought that was a great theme,” says Black, who is married to musician Tanya Haden, 47, and has sons aged 12 and 10.
Getting to act with Blanchett, a respected dramatic actress and double Oscar winner ( The Aviator, 2004; Blue Jasmine, 2013), was a blast, given that their characters often spar and trade insults.
“It’s very much like sibling rivalry, where you like to sling insults at each other, but there’s love underneath.”
It was also the fulfilment of a secret wish to work with the 49-year-old that Black had harboured for years.
The two performers had met years ago at a lavish pre-Oscars film-studio party where guests were invited into a “gifting suite” – a room where they can load up on expensive freebies to take home. When I went to the valet parking, there she was, and she saw me doing the walk of shame with all my free merchandise.
“She teased me and we had a little exchange and I told her she was the greatest actor alive.
“And I had this little inkling in my brain that maybe, someday, we’ll make a movie together. But I didn’t say it (out loud) because that would’ve been absurd,” he says.
For Blanchett, doing a more lighthearted piece than her usual hard-hitting dramas was a welcome respite, he reveals.
“Usually, she delves into deep, heavy territory with her characters. When I saw her on the set, she said, ‘We’re going to have fun, right?’, like it was a new thing for her.
“And once she asked that question, I relaxed because I was, like, ‘Oh, she wants to party and let loose and be an idiot like me.’
“And from then on, we were like two goofballs.” – The Straits Times/Asia News Network
The House With A Clock In Its Walls is now playing at GSC cinemas nationwide.