Jack Black is all about the energy. And in his new film Gulliver’s Travels, his persona is bigger than life…literally.
In this modern take on the Jonathan Swift classic, Jack Black plays a loser in life but winner in the land of the little people. An epic journey that transforms him in ways that his life – back in reality – will never be the same. It’s a redemption tale of becoming a bigger person not just in stature but in all aspects from career to love to friendship. And all that is tied up in this family friendly tale starring the hilarious and always ‘on’ Jack Black.
We recently – along with a handful of other Mommy bloggers – talked to the down to earth Jack Black in Los Angeles about his kids, potty talk and of course the new 3D extravaganza Gulliver’s Travels opening in theaters everywhere on Christmas Day December 25th.
Are your kids going to see the movie?
I think I’ll wait until later to bring Sammy, my four year old. I don’t want to bring him to the premier. It’s going to be too intense. He doesn’t really know that I’m famous yet, know what I mean? He might freak out if he realizes he’s sharing me.
Has he seen Kung Fu Panda?
He has enjoyed that film, yes.
Does he know that that’s you?
He has a concept of it now, yeah. He recognizes voices. The other day we were watching Bee Movie, you know, that Seinfeld movie? And he recognized one of the bugs because it was the same voice as the zebra from Madagascar. It was Chris Rock. And I was like, “Very good.” So, he’s starting to get it.
And he’s starting to notice for instance, the other day he said, “Does everyone know you?” And I was like, “A lot of people know me, yeah.” And he said, “Does everyone know me?” I said, “No. But, you know, people know you.” So, he’s starting to get, like, the concept of the biz.
And when you’re out walking around and there’s paparazzi everywhere, what are the reactions to that?
Well, we went to the park the other day and there were some creepy crawlers in the bushes with cameras. And he said “It’s okay to take pictures in the movies, but not in real life.” An I told him, “You’re right.” There should be a law to protect families.
I noticed that the film has a lot of potty humor, shall we say…and I was wondering how you deal with that kind of stuff in your house
I think it’s just in the DNA. It’s accepted. I’m not going to say it’s encouraged, you know? We didn’t introduce him to the concept of potty humor. But, kids naturally think its funny stuff, you know…poop, and pee and farts, it’s all just very funny. And I think it’s good, because it gets them over their issues with going to the bathroom by themselves and similar situations. I think it’s all pretty positive.
And just to mention quickly, I want to say there’s tons of potty humor in the book. We didn’t create those ideas just for our film.
Even the the fire scene (where Jack Black’s character urinates on a palace to put out a raging fire)? Is that in the book?
Oh, Yeah. Yes, Yes, It’s one of the funniest chapters in the book. We actually cut out a lot of potty humor that was in the book.
Yes, Because, when Gulliver first gets there and they’ve enslaved him because they aren’t sure who he is, they solve the poo problem by, like, strapping a giant box to his butt. There were all kinds of gross stuff that we had to go through and cut.
At one point in the movie, I really thought you were talking to the little people. So, how did you psych yourself up to do that?
Well, it doesn’t sound like real professional actor preparation. But, I do play with a lot of toys to get ready for the giant and tiny person relationships. And luckily I had a bunch of toys at home, because my kids have them everywhere.
I’m assuming that you’re kind of a silly person in real life.
I do have a silly side, yes.
Do you see any signs of that in your kids?
My boys, especially my oldest, he loves to ham it up. He’s the real performer in our household. He loves the attention and a captive audience. If you come over, you will see. He will entertain you.
Do you guys, sing classic rock and dance or play piano or get into any Guitar Hero (which plays a part in the film)?
No Guitar Hero. But, I have been introducing him to some of my favorite music that I think they would dig. For instance, they really like Weezer. I really recommend Weezer for kids.
How about that theme throughout the movie of getting over your fear of failure? It was an adult character, but you could relate it being a kid as well. I saw a lot of ties to being a kid and overcoming failure, throughout.
That’s a theme that we thought would be great that’s not really in the book. But, since it deals with, a giant and tiny people, we thought it would be cool to have that that insecurity theme about being a small person in a big man’s world and being, insecure about being lost in the shuffle. And I think that ties in really well with kids’ insecurities about being the little guys and wanting so desperately to be big, famous heroes. In a nutshell its basically you don’t have to pretend to be the president or you don’t have to be a big shot. You just have to have a big heart and be kind to your loved ones. That’s what it comes down to.
Now that you have kids, would you want to live in Lilliput? Don’t you think it is a simpler life?
Yeah. In a way, it’s an ideal society. But, as you said, everyone takes your word as as truth. That’s why he’s able to get away with making up this elaborate story about himself, because everyone just says, “Yeah, he said it. It must be true.” But, it’s a fun place for an adventure. But, no, I wouldn’t want to live there. You know why? Because it’s lonely being a giant. There’s no one big enough to give you a hug.
One of the things that’s so great about the movie is that it shows you in a new land, and how you can reinvent yourself in a way that sort of permanently changes you when you return to your homeland. But, since every kid can’t be transported to a fantasyland, is there a way that people can reinvent themselves in their own lives?
Wow, that’s a great question. It’s always a slow journey of self-discovery. That’s what it’s all about. The reason this role resonated with me was I remember being a kid and wanting so desperately to be special and wanting to be bigger than I was.
Has being a father sort of changed your whole perspective on life? Has it changed some of the roles that you gravitated towards? And even how you might act and perform.
I do think about it more now that I have the boys. I think about having movies that they can see, you know, in the next 20 years as opposed to having keep it on the shelf.
Is that one reason that you signed on the with the upcoming Muppets movie? Or is that a personal love?
That’s a personal love of the Muppets on my part. I would have done that with or without kids. And also, my good buddy Jason Segel who was in Gullliver’s Travels with me and wrote the Muppets. Jason told me about the Muppets, about two years ago–Jason has a crazy obsession with puppetry.
Did you take your family with you wile filming Gulliver’s Travels in London?
Yeah, I bring them everywhere. Until they’re in kindergarten. I don’t know what I’m going to do when they start real school. London is so great. In many ways, it’s better for kids, than raising them in LA. London has some beautiful parks. And great walking.
Do you think that doing modern versions of the classics makes people more interested in reading and literature, or do you think they’re like, “I don’t need to read the Swift book. I saw Jack Black’s movie.”
No, I think it’s a helpful bridge to actual literature. I think a lot of kids that see this will later on read the book. But, it’s not really a book for, eight year olds. This book is a little older. It’s a tough nut to crack for a kid. I think it’s definitely for the early teens, teens. Yes that age group for the book, But the film is great for even a younger age.
And you can find out yourself when the film open on December 25th – Christmas Day. Plus check out a clip from the movie here!