JACK BLACK on 'NACHO LIBRE' Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
June 9, 2006
In Nacho Libre, the follow-up to his cult hit Napoleon Dynamite, writer/director Jared Hess casts the comedic Jack Black as the title character--a man of the cloth who secretly takes up Mexican wrestling in order to fulfill his dreams and earn a little extra scratch for a group of poor, hungry orphans. This offbeat comedy, built on the foundation of Jack Black unabashedly parading around in tights and putting on an exaggerated accent, frequently demonstrates the same quirky sense of humor as its predecessor, and fans of Hess' breakthrough project may find a lot to enjoy in this outrageous adventure.
In this interview, Jack Black, who pulls double duty as both star and producer, talks about the making of the movie--from perfecting his moves to admiring his own physique, from shooting on location in Oaxaca, Mexico to touring the city.
MEDIA: What attracted you to this project?
JACK: Mainly it was wanting to work with Jared Hess. Great director. Loved Napoleon Dynamite. And I wanted me some of that Dynamite action--some of that sweet Nappy D! Good stuff. So me and my partner Mike White--we got a movie company now, called Black and White--called him up and said, "Hey, let's party." And he said, "It's a coincidence. I wanted to party with you guys because I liked School of Rock." So we hung out and tried to think of something to do, and he was like, "You know, I've always been really obsessed with Mexican wrestling, with Lucha Libre. Would you want to be in a movie where you were a Mexican wrestler?" And I was like, "Well, if you're at the helm, my friend, then I will go with you!"
What kind of preparation did you do for the physical stuff?
I did a lot of wrestling preparation. I had a real luchador pro who taught me all the moves. His name was Tom and he didn't reveal his secret wrestler's identity to me. And he said that I was a natural. I don't know if he was just trying to pump up my confidence, but I believed him. He was like, "There's no move that you can't do. You're gonna do it all!" So there was a lot of high-fives in the wrestling ring. But I was pretty sweaty. It was not easy. There's a lot of days when I needed the deep tish or the Mr. Miyagi rub. [rubs hands together Mr. Miyagi style]
Wearing the mask, it seems like you could have easily used a double for the wrestling...
Yeah, that was a benefit of having the mask. Not only did I look like a kickass superhero, but also, it was easy to slip in my fat stuntman.
So how much of Nacho's stuntwork did you do?
I did probably 95%. [shrugs] Maybe 92!
Did you figure you were in the best shape of your life for this movie, and should therefore spend much of it topless?
[laughs] No. You jest, but the thing is, a couple of those shots in the movie I was watching, I was like, "Wow, I'm kind of ripped there. I see some actual washerboard definition."
The two midget wrestlers looked like they could cause a lot of damage. Did you sustain any injuries at their hands?
No, those dudes were cool, actually. One of them was probably the best wrestler of all the wrestlers. He had a really busy schedule. I don't think he liked me. There was a weird thing there when we were rehearsing. He was like he didn't want to be there. "Ah, man, I'd rather be out in Mexico City doing my next wrestling match." He was like the Michael Jordan of the little people's wrestling association.
How did you get along with the other wrestlers?
It turned out they were all mostly sweethearts. But I was worried going into it like, "Oh, man. I'm going to be wrestling real luchadors who have not acted in movies before. They're going to be treating me like one of the wrestlers. They're going to break my neck. Because I'm a sweet, delicate Hollywood comedian. I can't deal with this real athleticism." But it turned out that I was kickass and there was nothing to worry about.
Did you hurt anyone in the ring?
No, I didn't. I actually hurt myself. It wasn't all butter and cookies. I hit my head on a metal chair when I was diving at my opponent, and I needed stitches. And so I got some Mexico stitches and it healed up pretty good. Can you see that? [points to scar above his right eye] Yeah. Sexy.
How did you get along with the orphan kids?
They were really funny. We had great kids. I always like working with the kids. I've had good experiences. I'm kind of the Pied Piper of the childrens. They all want to know "What's Jack doing?" And I wasn't sure if my pied pipe worked south of the border. Maybe this only works on American kids? No. It works in Mexico, too. They come following me around all through the land.
Did you improvise a lot of your lines?
Not a lot of improv. Little nuggets fly in and out here or there. I can't really remember if I had any good improvs or not, but it was a fun, collaborative feeling on the set. If I thought of a funny idea, Jared was always into trying it. So that was cool. That's what I like.
What kind of practice did you go through for Nacho's accent?
I worked hard on the accent. Just tried to immerse myself in the world of Mexico. Learned as much Spanish as I could. And I lived down there for a few weeks, so I was surrounded by authentic, rich accents.
What do you like about Jared's sensibilities as a director?
He's definitely drawn to the peculiar, and he's got a very quirky, strange sense of humor that is unique. And that's what he brings to the table--something fresh, which is so refreshing when everything is so cookie-cutter boring now, you know?
The Nacho Libre website features a video diary called "Jack Black's Confessionals." Where did this idea come from?
Somebody in marketing at Paramount was like, "All the kids are watching the iTunes, iPodcasts...We need to get in on the latest technological way to..." And so they gave me a video camera and said, "Can you just videotape yourself every day?" And I said, "No! But I'll do it like once or twice a week." So that's why there's some pretty grumpy podcasts in there, where I woke up like I did today and had to go to work and then talk into the camera for extra credit. But I'm glad we did that, because now I look at them and laugh, looking back...Wish I had a real video diary of my whole life. I should have been doing that podcast for myself, every couple days for the last f*cking 36 years. That would be unbelievable.
If you started doing that today, what would you want to record and tell your future self?
Future self? Oh, no. I would just say, "Today I had some granola for breakfast." I don't have any advice for myself. It would just be cool to have like a document of...
...what you ate?
Yeah. My breakfast diaries.
Did you write the song that Nacho sings in the locker room?
"I write the songs that make the whole world sing!" I did write the song in the locker room with Jared and Mike. We all jammed that out together. And I was stoked that came out funny. It's my specialty, writing really good "bad songs."
How did it feel working on a film as both producer and actor, as opposed to just actor?
The only difference really was that we were the boss, and there was nobody that was the father figure telling us to have our homework done, or this or that. We were self-governing. It's like going to college as opposed to high school, when you're producing your own movie. The freedom is there and it's good.
And as the bosses, how did you run things on set?
With an iron fist. And a velvet glove! [laughs] No, I think we were good producers. You [just] have to be really filled with opinions. You can't just be like, "I don't know. Whatever you want." You have to really think about every aspect of the movie and weigh in and oversee other people's stuff.
What did you think of your shooting locations in Mexico?
Gorgeous. We got some of the best locations. I think a lot of people are going to want to go down and shoot more movies in Oaxaca after they see this movie, because it's stunning.
Was the city pretty supportive of the crew's presence?
I think so. I never met the mayor. We were going to go and party [with] some guy who I guess was some big muckety-muck. Doesn't matter. The people that we saw in the streets were all stoked to have us there. We didn't cause too much trouble. And I know that the restaurant that I went to every night was stoked that I was there. I plunked down a lot of pesos for the various delicious dishes. I had a lot of chicken mole.
What kind of mad skills were you able to take away from this movie?
Well, I can perform the Anaconda Squeeze at the drop of a hat. If someone tries to come at me from behind, I know how to do the Wind of the Lion Double Squat, so they'd better think twice!