The next time Jack Black is on your movie screen, he'll be heard -- and not seen -- as a cowardly shark who can't bear to eat his fellow sea creatures in the animated comedy Shark Tale (opening Oct. 1). But online fanboys are already going ape for another of Black's upcoming critter flicks: Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson's much-buzzed-about remake of King Kong, which stomps into cineplexes until Dec. 14, 2005. EW.com talked to Black, 35, about working with his big hairy costar, the famous line you may or may not hear in the film, and what he's hoping will be his screenwriting debut.
NO MONKEYING AROUND While Jackson is updating the 1933 classic's creaky special effects, Black says the movie will otherwise be retro to the core. ''It's based on the first movie,'' he explains. ''Jackson's kind of pretending like the second one [the critically panned 1976 film starring Jessica Lange] never happened. And it's set in the same time period that the first movie came out, 1932, 33.'' Word has it that Jackson's remake -- like the original film -- will take place mostly on Skull Island, where filmmaker Carl Denham (Black) travels to investigate the legend of a giant ape. Denham brings the ape back to civilization with the help of Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), on whom the massive simian has a bit of a crush.
SERIOUS BLACK While the original Denham [as played by Robert Armstrong] was a ruthless but controlled presence, Black intends to bring some of his characteristic wackiness to the role. ''I liked the performance by the original guy, but I'm not that guy at all,'' he says. ''I'm thinking my character's more of a P.T. Barnum type, trying to find the sensational niche to carve out for his career. I feel like they cast me in this because I could bring the passion for this character, like he's almost insane with enthusiasm for this quest.''
WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY? In the original, Denham had the last word, muttering, ''Oh no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.'' Though Jackson wanted to keep that line in his version, he didn't want Black to say it. ''You know, I don't even know if I should say this,'' Black said. ''Someone else was going to say the line, but she just passed away. So I don't know who's saying it, if anyone's going to say it.'' And who was that mysterious woman? Ask Black. ''I can't believe I told you that thing about f---ing Fay Wray,'' he groans. [Wray, the actress forever identified as King Kong's main squeeze, died Aug. 8 at age 96.]
PLAN D After Kong, Black hopes to make Tenacious D, a movie based on his 1999 HBO TV series about a fictional rock duo. ''It's a challenge to get it made, because it's an R-rated comedy, and it's hard to get money for those for obvious reasons,'' he says. ''I don't officially have a green light, but I'm assuming it's going to happen.'' Black isn't interested in another comedy that would probably be easy for him to green light. ''I wouldn't even think of doing a School of Rock sequel without [writer] Mike White, and I don't think he would be inspired to revisit something,'' says Black. ''He hasn't done any sequels in his career, so I don't think he's gonna start now.'' Darn, so much for School of Rock: The High School Years.