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Jack Black Slept Here

He eats pizza for breakfast, stays up all night, and likes to hang out in his underwear. Meet Hollywood's new leading man.

He's said in the past that he cares less about being a movie star than being a rock star, calling the latter career path ''the one that I secretly love more.'' But Jack Black doesn't think that way now.

''I'd like to fix that quote,'' he says, his stocky frame tucked into a front booth at John's Pizzeria in Greenwich Village, where he's savoring a midday breakfast of half a plain pie. And correct himself he does, with an explosion of energy that amps up his normal, stoner-groggy demeanor into a sort of body-language DefCon 1. He jerks his head like a demented bird eyeing a worm and unleashes a tirade. ''I'm an ENTER-TAIN-er, okay?'' he booms, his voice crackling with faux indignity. ''Music and ack-ting are merely weapons in my arsenal. I've got...the music pistol!'' He whips out his right index finger. ''I've got...the acting bazooka!'' The left arm pantomimes a lock-and-load. ''You don't know what I'm gonna do. And a lot of times, I'm gonna use 'em both at the same time, full guns a-blazin'!''

Black is certainly spewing ammo in this month of ''Rocktober,'' to use the 34-year-old's mock-hipster terminology. ''There's no escaping me,'' he grins, proud to unleash a double dose of rock & roll spirit on the populace. But will both blasts be equally powerful, as Black hopes?

Fire one is definitely a direct hit: School of Rock, a formulaic, high-concept studio comedy that Black, along with screenwriter Mike White (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl) and director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Waking Life), has given a deliciously unformulaic spin. The bull's-eye is both financial -- a $20 million No. 1 opening -- and critical, with praise nearly unanimous for Black's performance as a plugged-in Peter Pan. He plays Dewey Finn, a wannabe lead guitarist and singer who gets kicked out of his own band, then scams his way into a substitute-teaching job to pay the bills. He thereupon transforms a class of prep-school fifth graders into a rocking ensemble and leads them to a hardcore Battle of the Bands competition against grown-up contenders.

A few weeks from now, Black launches fire two: a DVD collection of parodistic folk-metal modestly titled Tenacious D The Complete Masterworks Volume One. It's a cultish, pea-shooter kind of thing, but Black wants to make it more than an inside joke for other comics and smart twentysomethings -- even though parents who've just discovered Black via the family-friendly School of Rock will likely freak out at its rawness. ''The D,'' as those in the know call it -- a name taken from sportscaster Marv Albert's shorthand for tenacious defense -- is the musical duo Black formed with actor Kyle Gass more than a decade ago, after the pair met in Tim Robbins' L.A.-based fringe-theater troupe, the Actors' Gang. What's their most popular tune? Probably ''F -- - Her Gently,'' a good-natured paean to the glories of taking it easy when satisfying ''the ladies.''

Not much radio airplay with a title like that. HBO, the home of unbleeped language, signed up Black and Gass to make a series of short Tenacious D sketches that first aired in 1999. Now Black hopes the DVD, which rounds up three mini-episodes with concert footage, will build an appetite for the movie he wants to make next: Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny. ''We're full-bore,'' says Black. ''We're in the final stages of negotiating with New Line. We've been f -- -ing working on a deal with them for like a year.'' While casting is only in the conjecture stage, Black wants Meat Loaf to play the father of his fictional troubadour, Jables (extrapolated from the initials J.B.).

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