Yesterday I sat down with “Bernie” star Jack Black and director Richard Linklater to talk about their latest collaboration, which was critically acclaimed upon release but, as early releases tend to do, faded a bit as the season’s big efforts took hold. But Millennium Entertainment is trying to stir a little consideration where it can, bringing the two to New York for a SoHo Apple Store conversation on Monday followed by a late-night soiree at Merc Bar downtown.
“Bernie” marks the second collaboration for Black and Linklater after 2003’s “School of Rock.” But, despite the fact that, as noted yesterday, Black really responded to Linklater’s work as an independent filmmaker, he didn’t really think of him for the film (which was written by his friend Mike White, who also stars). It was, in fact, the “stroke of brilliance” from a well-known producer that put the project together with the filmmaker, and the rest, as they say, was history.
Here’s the exchange:
Jack Black: “It’s not because I was a huge fan of his and it was like, ‘Let’s work together on ‘School of Rock.” That was really Scott Rudin.”
Richard Linklater: “That was an arranged marriage.”
JB: “Mike [White] had written this script that was really funny and we couldn’t think of anybody that we thought would be the perfect director, and Scott Rudin was the one that said, ‘Let’s bring in Rick.'”
RL: “He had been offering me things for years that I had been turning down.”
JB: “I was like, ‘I love Rick, but I don’t really think of him as a commercial director. I think of him more as an artist. And this is like a broad comedy.’ But it was a stroke of brilliance on Rudin’s part. That’s one of the things he does best is combining things.”
RL: “That was the first time I had been on someone else’s palette. That was Scott’s palette. I passed on it at first. There were some things I didn’t think I could pull off, so I passed. And my agent called and said, ‘Scott Rudin’s not accepting your pass.’ [Black laughs] I go, ‘Oh, really?’ It’s like, ‘He wants to talk to you.’ And we talked for like an hour and a half. He was fishing around, ‘Well, what do you think could be better,’ or whatever.
“I was paranoid. That was the first film I had come aboard that I didn’t originate. I always turned those down. But it was the best lesson in my life, really, to have that collaboration, because Jack and Mike and myself, we really rock and rolled there. We took it in the area that Mike had wanted it to go all along, and maybe it had been there, but it had been sort of developed out of it, you know? So we were like, ‘Fuck it. We’ve got the commercial concept here. Let’s make our own movie that we’ll be happy with.'”
Black was talking at one point about wanting to do a movie about a jazz singer. Linklater noted he has in fact been trying to put together a film based on a day in the like of 1950s jazz trumpeter Chet Baker for years now, but as idle pitching around the lunch table progressed, we had finally settled on it: “School of Jazz.” Black’s character, 50 years old, music taste a bit more refined. “We’re on a schedule of every eight years, so look for it in 2020,” Black quipped.
Check back later this week for the full interview with the duo. In the meantime, here’s Black’s appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman” last night:
“Bernie” is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD.