Jack Black: “Deep-Sea Diving in the Gouda” No More
In an ongoing process of facing his fears, actor-comedian-musician Jack Black has conquered the rock and roll stage, the theater, comedic movies, and now, the lead in esteemed filmmaker Richard Linklater’s offbeat 2012 dramedy, Bernie. In the film, Black steps away from the persona of one-half of comedy folk rock duo Tenacious D and portrays the real-life murderer Bernie Tiede. Tiede was (and, in prison, still is) a Texan who so charmed an entire town, many stood up for him when he killed an 81-year-old widow on whose money he’d set his sights.
When asked by Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about the challenge of delivering “dark emotion” for Bernie, he answered, “Everyone’s got the dark emotions inside of them. It’s just a question of ‘are you gonna be able to access it?’ The block is fear. Was I gonna be able to face the fear of opening up and being vulnerable in front of the camera in a way that I hadn’t before? And I felt that I could.”
Apparently so. Roger Ebert called Black’s turn as Tiede, “surely one of the performances of the year… an actor can be a miraculous thing in the right role.”
With victory over fright comes the boldness to also admit to Terry Gross his teenage fascinations with Bobby McFerrin and Billy Joel. Said Black: “I’ve had so many hot, cheesy, corny loves of music in my life. I had a very intense Billy Joel period. So once you’ve really Joeled it up — there’s some good periods of Joel; it’s not all hot cheese. But I can’t judge anyone else for their cheese. I’ve deep-sea dived in the Gouda.”
While he enjoys new thespian cred with Bernie, Black’s unabashed cheese love remains intensely fragrant. Witness the recently-released Tenacious D “comeback album,” Rize of the Fenix. As with the D’s other releases, Black stuns with his stellar pipes, often offering superior versions of the material he and partner Kyle Gass lampoon. In addition to spot-on, hilarious homages to Def Leppard, Black Sabbath and Metallica, Black and Gass serve up synthy 80s-inspired anthem “To Be The Best,” a song, Black says, meant to “inspire you to do push-ups and sit-ups and run around like Rocky.”
While Tenacious D’s videos and comedy songs provide plenty of tuneful laughs, there’s no denying the undercurrent of intensity. And when Black wails about being determined to “be the best!” part of him isn’t kidding. Because, increasingly, he is the best.