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.).