Jack Black, who’s celebrating his 46th birthday on Friday, has cemented himself as Hollywood’s affable, maniacal (yet lovable) goofball over the past decade or so. The Tenacious D guitarist’s recent parts in The Brink, and as children’s author R.L. Stine in October’s big screen adaptation of his book series Goosebumps, also show that he’s capable of being more than just an onscreen dimwit.
Before making his name, however, Black was pigeonholed into an entirely different persona… big, bad, bully. Aside from an adorable ’80s commercial, Black didn’t begin to work steadily until his early 20s. And of that work, many of his early roles had him playing the tough guy. Let’s take a walk down memory lane, and actively try to avoid a locker room swirly from Gulliver.
Pitfall! commercial (1983)
Fourteen-year-old Black would be a video games enthusiast. In a commercial that often crops up during the star’s late night appearances, young Black touts the adventures of Pitfall Harry, the main character in the Atari 2600 video game Pitfall! Clad in an explorer’s hat, Black details his “exciting” adventures with the 8-bit game.
Bob Roberts (1992)
Long before dabbling in politics on their aforementioned HBO show The Brink, Tim Robbins and Black were sharing the screen in another project about the affairs of state: Bob Roberts. In Black’s film debut, he plays a musical and political groupie of Robbins’ Bob, a conservative Republican folk singer running for Senate.
The young Black, who dons a trench coat for his small (but significant) part in the satirical mockumentary, espouses his love of Bob and even pitches his garage band to the wanna-be politician with gusto. Watch the creepy passion in Black’s eyes as he tells a local news station that Bob’s a “poet and a genius” in the above clip.
Mean bully role No. 1: In teen skater movie Airborne, a Californian transplanted to Ohio to live with his aunt and uncle struggles to fit in, mainly because his only friend is Seth Green (who’s hair is unbelievably bad). The teen’s surfer dude vibe immediately sparks the ire of local hockey players and their friends, a gang of your typical high school movie jerks that included Augie, played by Black. His character “really likes to sleep.” Same, Augie. Same.
Demolition Man (1993)
In a blink and you might miss it part, Black is a gun-toting, sewer-dwelling extra in Sly Stallone’s science fiction action adventure Demolition Man. Black has just one line as he stands across from Rocky and Sandy Bullock, weapon at the ready. Catch him in the above video at around :40 seconds.
The NeverEnding Story III (1994)
Mean bully role No. 2: Did you know there were THREE NeverEnding Story movies? Or is it, technically, just one long continuous film tale? Regardless, there are three, separate installments, and thankfully so, because Black finally landed a role with a little more air time.