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The Untold Truth Of Jack Black

Jack Black is one of those celebrities we all suspect is really fun in real life. This is probably thanks to his personal brand of comedy that manages to be ten-cups-of-coffee energetic but in a super chill way. He's most famous for his hilarious rock band, Tenacious D (a duo with Kyle Gass that's also included collaborators like Dave Grohl), and for hit movies like the instant classic School of Rock, cult classic High Fidelity, and the Jumanji reboots. Or maybe you know him best as the voice of an animated kung fu-fighting panda.

Black leans into the perception of himself as the lovable jokester, but he also takes his work very seriously. And as you might expect, there's a lot more to this lovable ball of energy than meets the eye. From his personal beliefs and his troubled teenaged years to his behind-the-scenes prep for some of his funniest films, here's the untold truth of Jack Black.

Jack Black's parents were satellite engineers who loved folk dancing

Jack Black grew up in Los Angeles — Hermosa Beach, to be exact — but his showbiz instincts didn't come from his parents, Judith Love and Thomas Black. They were satellite engineers at TRW Inc., a now-defunct aerospace and automotive corporation, and they even worked on the Hubble space telescope.

Black admitted to GQ that he was never exactly sure what they did — "I always imagined there's a lot of mathematical equations on chalkboards and stuff" — but said that there's a chance they worked on spy equipment. However, they had a tendency to take what Black describes as "a very volatile relationship" to work with them, and after one big fight in the parking lot, both had their secret government clearances revoked.

They divorced when Black was 10, which he found hard, even though he said they were both very loving and encouraging on their own. Judith and Thomas wholeheartedly supported their son's artistic interests, as Black told The Guardian, "My father and mother came to every school play I ever did," and he added that his stepfather used to drive him to auditions. Judith and Thomas may even have harbored theatrical streaks of their own — they were both into folk dancing, which may have been how they met.

Jack Black was raised Jewish, but now, he's an atheist

Black's mother was born Jewish, while his father was born Protestant but then converted to Judaism. As Black clarified to the H3 Podcast, "It wasn't just because he loved my mom, but also because he was into Judaism."

This meant Black was made to attend Hebrew school three times a week as a child, which he saw as just extra school. After his bar mitzvah at 13, he was allowed to stop going, and he now identifies as "kind of an atheist," as he told NPR's Terry Gross in August 2012. He explained, "I don't have any real spirituality in my life ... but when music can take me to the highest heights, it's almost like a spiritual feeling. It fills that void for me."

Black hasn't abandoned his Jewish upbringing entirely. In April 2012, Black told Conan O'Brien that he and his wife, Tanya — who was also born Jewish but is now atheist — really wanted their two sons, Samuel and Thomas, to go to a Hebrew school. Black also started taking them to a synagogue near their home.

Unsurprisingly, Black still has a soft spot for some of the traditional songs. "I actually do love that song. It's kind of like the original heavy metal song," Black told O'Brien of "Chad Gadya," which is sung at the end of the Passover Seder. And in an interview with The Guardian, he proudly belted out the festive song "Chanukah, oh Chanukah!"

He was a troubled teenager

Jack Black went through his rebellious phase at around 13, but he took it a bit further than most people. In addition to more typical tweenage activities like skateboarding, he started "hanging out with some pretty rough characters," as he told Parade, and he also began smoking cigarettes and pot and drinking beer. When he fell out with one of those rough characters and things got violent, he was too afraid to go to school. On top of all that, he would race cars around Hollywood's twisting roads, and he also started using cocaine. "I should have been put in jail," he admitted to The Guardian.

The turning point came when one of his friends used Black's mom's credit card to go on a shopping spree and buy cocaine. At that point, as the actor explained to GQ, Black's parents enrolled him in Poseidon, an exclusive private school for the badly behaved kids of the rich and/or famous.

At Poseidon, Black opened up to a therapist about his wayward period. As he told Parade, "I spilled my guts, telling him I felt guilty about stealing from my mom to get money for cocaine. ... It was a huge release and a huge relief. I left feeling euphoric, like an enormous weight had been lifted from me. It changed me." He also got the opportunity to start acting again, especially once he moved to Crossroads, an arts-oriented private college prep school.

The guy can really sing

Jack Black's most famous vocal performances tend to lean towards comedy, but don't be fooled, his singing voice is no joke. As Foo Fighters frontman and Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl told The Washington Post, "He's totally capable of singing like a professional opera singer."

Black remembers the moment he discovered his face-melting singing voice. It was during an audition for a high school play, and he sang "Glory" from a 1972 stage musical called Pippin. "When I found that extra gear, I was able to throw it into overdrive, with some gravel and some power, and I was like, 'What is this thing that I have, this Lamborghini that I didn't know I possessed?'" he told Off Camera with Sam Jones.

In an interview with Terry Gross on NPR, Black said that his early musical influences included Van Halen and Bobby McFerrin, a vocalist famous for reproducing the sounds of different instruments. "I had always imagined going out on stage by myself and blowing people's minds just with the power of my singing voice," Black said. He also joined a short-lived band in high school. "We were the worst," he told Sam Jones. "We had probably five rehearsals and one gig — disbanded." But the singing stuck.

Jack Black met his wife in high school

Black married Tanya Haden, an accomplished cellist, in a small ceremony in March 2006. The couple had first met around 15 years earlier, at elite Santa Monica high school Crossroads, but although Black had always had a crush on Haden, he'd been too scared to ask her out. They met again at a party in April 2005, and after Black finally got the nerve up to talk to her, they started dating. "I'm really crazy about her," he told GQ a few months later. The following year the couple eloped (very rock 'n' roll), and in June, Haden gave birth to their son, Samuel. Two years later, they had a second son, Thomas.

Before dating Haden, Black didn't see himself as a marriage-and-kids guy. "I didn't like the way it worked out with my parents. I didn't ever want to be in a divorce, so I was never going to get married," Black told Parade. But meeting Haden changed his mind. "When we found each other, it seemed really obvious. When I'm with Tanya, I have this great feeling of sharing experiences, of not feeling alone in the universe," he told The Guardian. Now, his favorite place is home with his family. He's even semi-seriously planning to retire after one more movie because, "I don't like going away from Tanya and the boys. I spend too much time away from home."

Jack Black joined a famous acting troupe

Black started acting at 13, appearing in commercials and a TV series. He also landed a part in a play directed by a then-unknown actor named Tim Robbins, but Black dropped out three weeks into a six-week run. After high school, Black went to UCLA to study theater, but he dropped out in his sophomore year to fully commit his talents to the Actor's Gang, an LA-based experimental theater troupe co-founded six years earlier by ... Tim Robbins.

Despite their earlier awkward encounter, Black convinced the Gang to let him in. He then auditioned for and landed a small but memorable role in Robbins' directorial feature debut, the must-watch mockumentary Bob Roberts. Black also appeared in Robbins' second movie, Dead Man Walking. However, it was his turn as music snob Barry in High Fidelity that started to open doors.

Black had met the movie's star, John Cusack, and writers, D.V. DeVincentis and Steve Pink, at the Actor's Gang, and they agreed he was perfect for the role. Black was hesitant, mostly about his own acting abilities, but fortunately, Pink persuaded him.

High Fidelity led to bigger budget movies, starting with Shallow Hal, opposite fellow Crossroads alumnus Gwyneth Paltrow. Black later felt that starring in such a commercial movie, and one that wasn't creatively satisfying, impacted the indie reputation he'd built. "But in exchange, everybody else at least knows who I am. So that's the trade-off," he told Spin.

Jack Black and Kyle Gass started out as rivals

LA theater troupe the Actor's Gang didn't only help Black's acting career. It was there that he met Kyle Gass, the other half of the self-described "Greatest Band in the World" (aside from Led Zeppelin), comedy rock duo Tenacious D. But Black told MovieHole that he and Gass were originally rivals. "We were like the musical dudes in the theatre company," Black said. "But after a couple of years, we joined forces and became best friends and thus the 'D' was born."

It took another few decades, several albums, an appearance on a comedy variety show helmed by David Cross and Bob Odenkirk, a three-episode HBO sketch series, and a movie called The Pick of Destiny for Tenacious D to transform into platinum-selling, arena-headlining rock gods. However, the two parts of Black's career have occasionally clashed. He told MovieHole, "It's hard when you rock and act at the same time. It's not easy. ... It's like a juggling act or something." But although Black has thought about retiring from movies semi-seriously, he's less clear when it comes to his music. He and Gass are planning to do at least one more Tenacious D record and possibly a film.

He calls School of Rock his finest moment

Black is famously irreverent during interviews, so he may not have been entirely serious when he described School of Rock as "my finest moment" to The Star. However, he probably was sincere when he added, "It's where all the planets aligned."

In the film, Black plays Dewey Finn, an aspiring rock star who impersonates his long-suffering roommate, Ned, to land a gig (and make some much-needed cash) as a substitute teacher, and he forms a band with the kids in his class. The movie was written for Black by his friend Mike White — who also plays Ned — after he and Black worked on Orange County together. White later explained to GQ that he wanted to show his friend had more range than people were giving him credit for. As White put it, "All the scripts that were being sent to him were very much like the fratty guy who gets drunk. ... There's such a bigger charm to him." The two even lived together during filming.

Looking back at the movie in 2019, Black told GQ, "It's definitely the movie I'm most proud of ... and when we did the first read-through with the whole cast, it was just like lightning in a bottle — and that's the only time I've felt that I was meant to do something. And now, the rest is all just gravy."

He threw himself into wrestling for Nacho Libre

Jack Black and Mike White were keen to work with Jared Hess, co-writer and director of Napoleon Dynamite. And it was Hess' idea to tell a story about lucha libre, a popular form of Mexican wrestling.

In 2006's Nacho Libre, Black plays Ignacio, an orphaned cook in a monastery who dreams of becoming a luchador (a lucha libre wrestler). And Black literally threw himself into the role. He'd done judo as a kid, which had taught him how to fall down and throw people, and he trained with a former luchador known only as Tom (luchadors are famously secretive about their true identities). Black also went to Mexico, where he watched lucha libre movies and matches. And believe it or not, he told IndieLondon, "I worked hard at the accent. I watched a lot of films, and I learned as much Spanish as I could."

Black may have embraced the physical side too much. During one scene, he dove out of the ring and hit his head on a metal chair, sustaining a nasty gash above his right eye. Black told GQ that one of the producers insisted that "the best plastic surgeon in Mexico" had to stitch it up. "This incredible plastic surgeon came to the hospital, and she was dressed in a full ball gown! She'd come straight from a fancy event ... and she did the surgery on my eye," Black remembered. The movie was a hit in Mexico, including with lucha libre fans.

Jack Black is more than just the funny guy

Whether playing a classic stoner, an irresponsible substitute teacher, an aspiring luchador, or a wannabe influencer turned cartographer, Black has proven that he can deliver belly laughs. But his most famous roles bely his remarkably versatile acting range.

In 2007, he appeared in Noah Baumbach's drama Margot at the Wedding, opposite Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh. And eight years after School of Rock cemented his reputation as the high energy comedy guy, Black reunited with director Richard Linklater for the darkly comedic Bernie. Black played the titular character, a friendly Texan undertaker who gets involved with a rude old lady (played by Shirley MacLaine) but snaps under her demands and murders her. The relatively understated performance even earned him a Golden Globe nod.

Black has also been a welcome presence in big action blockbusters, including Peter Jackson's King Kong, in which he got to deliver the famous line, "It was beauty killed the beast," and the two recent Jumanji reboots. He's even got into the festive feels, as he played Miles, Kate Winslet's character's love interest, in Nancy Meyers' festive classic The Holiday, one of the best romantic comedies of all time. Sure, Dewey Finn and Tenacious D are hilarious, but Black can play more than one note.

He actually drew an animated movie

One of Black's previously hidden talents is drawing, which he started doing even before acting and music became big parts of his life. He used this skill to create an animated movie, Post-Apocalypto, alongside his Tenacious D bandmate, Kyle Gass. Black drew all 3,000 sketches by hand, using a ballpoint pen, which Tenacious D bassist John Spiker scanned into his computer to be colorized and animated.

The plot follows Black and Gass' alter egos, JB and KG, as they struggle to survive on a road trip after an apocalyptic event, all while still maintaining their status as rock gods. They posted the six chapters of the movie on YouTube between September 28 and November 2, 2018. The last chapter coincided with the release of the movie's soundtrack, which became Tenacious D's fourth studio album. And on November 8, they combined all the chapters into a full movie.

Although it was hard work, Black told The Washington Post that he enjoyed the process. "In many ways, I preferred that to going to set. ... I secretly hope this is successful enough that I'm asked to do more drawing," he said. And he got his wish. In February 2020, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Black and Gass were turning the series into a 180-page full color graphic novel, which was published in September 2020.

Jack Black is not afraid to get political

While some celebrities prefer to keep their politics quiet, Black is an outspoken Democrat. He endorsed Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, telling The Hollywood Reporter, "I think Elizabeth Warren would be a great president. She's the smartest candidate in the race. She speaks with the most clarity regarding the big structural change needed to make government work for everyone."

In October 2020, Warren joined Tenacious D's cover of Rocky Horror Picture Show's "Time Warp," with the left they were jumping to being the political one. Speaking about his politics to MSNBC, Black said, "This is a time in history where everyone's gotta get out there and plant their flag in what they believe in ... you wanna be able to tell your kids and your friends and future generations, 'This is where I stood and I tried, I did my best to make my voice heard.'" He ended with, "We recommend you vote for Biden-Harris because we feel very strongly about that!"