In “Nacho Libre”, the follow-up to his cult hit “Napoleon Dynamite”, writer/director Jared Hess has cast Jack Black as the title character in his next off-beat comedy. Black plays monk 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. Out doing promotion for the film, Black talks about slipping into a pair of tights and an eccentric accent:
Question: You’re on baby watch?
Black: I am.
Question: What have you learned from Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt about Parenthood?
Black: Hmmm, Tom Cruise; yeah, I guess there’s a couple times I wished I had the inviso-machine. What is that thing he bought from the hospital?
Question: The sonogram machine.
Black: That would have been cool, actually. But you know, I heard he goes and plays ball with his kids. I’m sure he’s a fine dad, a little nutty, I’d be a little scared. But you know, it’s probably like growing up Orthodox Jew or really hardcore Christian; they’re religious people, they’re a little nutty in general. Today was one of those times where you wake up and sometimes I wake up and I’ll be tired and I’ll be like, ‘Ah, I was gonna get up anyway, it’s all right.’ But today was not one of those days. Today was like, ‘Ooh, I would definitely sleep seven more hours if I didn’t have to get up and do things.’ It was actual physical and emotional distress.
Question: And that was just five minutes ago?
Black: Yeah, and now makeup, and they brought me here, fresh-faced. Anyway. What were we talking about? Tom Cruise? Yeah, he’s a daddy, too. A lot of celebrity daddies all of the sudden, and I just want to say I called it first and everybody else just got busy. But I called it like two years ago – ‘I wanna have a kid.’ And then everybody else was like, ‘What? Jack’s having a kid?’ And I’m pretty pissed.
Question: What attracted you to the project?
Black: Well, 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. We called him up and said, ‘Hey, let’s party.’ And he said, ‘It’s a coincidence; I wanted to party with you guys cause 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, I will go with you.’
Question: You had some pretty good moves in this film. What kind of preparation did you do?
Black: 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 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 was a lot of days when I needed the deep ’tish’ or the ‘Mr. Myagi’ rub.
Question: Did you do it all? Wearing the mask, you could have had a double sometimes.
Black: Yeah, that was the benefit of having the mask; not only did I look like a kick-ass superhero, but also easy to slip in my fat stuntman.
Question: So how much did you do and how much did he do?
Black: I did probably 95%, maybe 92.
Question: Was this one of those things where you figured you’re in the best shape of your life now, so you finally wanted to do a movie where you’re topless the entire time?
Black: No, you jest, but the thing is, a couple of those shots in the movie, I was watching and was like, ‘Wow, I’m kinda ripped there; I see some actual washer-board definition.’
Question: What was it like wearing tights for most of the movie?
Black: I got some good tights; I picked up the material, actually. At first it was gonna be kind of a silky, looser fitting, and I was like, ‘That’s not what tights are about.’ What the hell was I saying? Now I have to wear these things. But then I was like, well, this is where the comedy is. It was good?
Question: Was there a lot of improv?
Black: Not a lot of improve; little nuggets fly in and out here or there. I can’t really remember if I had any good improv’s or not, but it was a fun, collaborative feeling on the set. If I thought of something funny, Jared was always into trying it, so that was cool.
Question: What about the accent. You nailed the accent.
Black: Well, thank you. I worked hard on the accent, just tried to immerse myself in the world of Mexico, learned as much Spanish as I could. You know, I lived down there for a few weeks, so I was surrounded by authentic, rich accents.
Question: Were there any injuries on-set? It looked like those midgets could cause a lot of damage.
Black: 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; we were rehearsing and he didn’t want to be there. He’d be like, ‘Ah man, I’d rather be in Mexico City doing my next wrestling match.’ He was like the Michael Jordan of the little people’s wrestling association.
Question: What about working with kids?
Black: Well, 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 children; they all want to know what Jack’s doing. I wasn’t sure if my pipe, my pied pipe, worked south of the border, that maybe it only works on American kids. No, it works in Mexico, too; they come following me around all through the land.
Question: Have any of the other Mexican wrestlers seen the movie yet?
Black: I don’t know, to tell you the truth; I know they’ve had screenings of the film, but I have not been to any of them. But from what I’ve heard, the peeps in the Latin communities are really into it, so that’s good.
Question: What’d you think when you first saw it?
Black: I love it; it’s definitely the most original movie I’ve been in.
Question: What do you respond to in Jared’s vision?
Black: 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.
Question: Is Hector very well known in Mexico and how was it working with him?
Black: He’s worked in Mexico; I don’t think he’s a big star, but he was a great find for us, because when were auditioning people in Mexico, he just jumped off the screen. He had a real natural hilarious way about speaking and he was just seemed like a really obvious choice. I had a great time working with him.
Question: What was it like working with the other wrestlers?
Black: It turned out they’re mostly sweethearts. I was worried going into it like, ‘Oh, man. I’m gonna be wrestling like real luchadors, who have not acted in movies before. They’re just gonna be like treating me like one of the wrestlers. They’re gonna 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 kick-ass and there was nothing to worry about.
Question: Did you hurt anyone?
Black: 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. Yeah, sexy.
Question: Where did you get the idea to do the confessionals?
Black: It’s just 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 once or twice a week.’ So that’s why there are some pretty grumpy podcasts in there, where I woke up like I did today and had to go to work and then talk to the camera for extra credit. I’m glad we did that, because now I look at them and laugh looking back at – it reminds me – it’s like a video diary. Wish I had a real video diary of my life, kind of. I should have been doing that podcast for myself, every couple days for the last f*cking 36 years. That’d be unbelievable; just once a week, check in, talk about the week.
Question: What would you tell your future self?
Black: Future self? Oh no; I would just say, ‘Today I had some granola for breakfast.’ Yeah. I don’t know what I’d – I don’t really have any advice for myself. It would just be cool to have a document of. Yeah, my breakfast diaries.
Question: Did you write the song you sang in the locker room?
Black: 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. I was stoked that came out funny. It’s my specialty, writing bad songs that are also really good.
Question: What about the Tenacious D movie?
Black: Sorry, I was just thinking ‘really good bad songs,’ not ‘really bad good songs.’ Really good bad songs. What’s the status of Tenacious D? Speaking of bad-good songs, good-bad songs? We have finished our movie which will come out in November along with our album. I’m very excited, because it is kick-ass.
Question: How did you distinguish between when you were being Jack Black, actor and Jack Black, producer?
Black: There’s virtually no distinction; the only difference was that we were the boss. There was nobody that was the father figure telling us to have 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.
Question: How did you run things differently on this set?
Black: With an iron fist and a velvet glove. I think we were good producers; it’s just you have to be filled with opinions. You can’t just be like, ‘I don’t know, what do you want?’ You have to really think about every aspect of the movie and weigh in and oversee other people’s stuff.
Question: What was it like shooting in Mexico and to produce there?
Black: 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.
Question: Was the city pretty supportive?
Black: I think so; I know that the mayor – we were going to go and party with some guy who I guess was some big muckety-muck, it doesn’t matter. The people there 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 plucked down a lot of pesos for the various delicious dishes. I had a lot of chicken mole.
Question: Which skills that you learned on this movie will you integrate into your everyday life?
Black: Well, I can perform the Anaconda Squeeze at the drop of a hat. If somebody tries to come at me from behind, I know how to do the Wind-of-the-Land Double-Squat, so they’d better think twice.