“The truth is I didn’t tell the whole story,” Black confesses. “I held back. What the hell! I’m going to tell you. She’s actually pregnant with triplet…pandas, which is great news for the panda population. We got three new pandas coming. Unfortunately it’s really bad news for Brad Pitt, because they are not his.”
Luckily for the serial jokester, the two remain “good friends.”
It wasn’t all Angelina talk during a recent interview with the new dad, we also got the scoop on his latest role as Po the panda, working with Dustin Hoffman and more.
Hollywood.com: You started working on this film four years ago. How has Po evolved since the start of the project?
Jack Black: I evolved as a character. When we first did it, I remember I was like, “I wonder if that’s too whiney or too shrieky.” And calling up the next day and saying, “I want to come back in. I think maybe I was too whiney or shrieky.” And then I came back and we did it again. But, I never did it all in one sitting. I never sat down and did the whole movie at once, because that’s not the process they were working with – it was more organic script development.
HW: I thought you brought a lot of emotional realism to the part. Were there moments that you really connected his story to your own story?
JB: I knew Dustin Hoffman was in the movie so I wanted to be absolutely method acting in my performance. I didn’t want to be outshone by the master himself. Ah, I would think about things like when we were doing the scene where I was talking about the Furious Five and how much I idolized them and was really excited that they were going to have a presentation of the Dragon Warrior. And I substituted, “Okay, what would I get that excited about? Radiohead my favorite rock n’roll band is going to be playing at the Wiltern. I have to go see them. They are going to be adding a new member of the band and maybe I can be in Radiohead!” And, you know, things of that nature. Little “What if?” exercises is what we like to call it in the Strasbourg technique that I’m really good at.
HW: What was your childhood dream? Was it always acting? Was it music? Were you into martial arts?
JB: I loved acting and I loved the arts in general. I also loved the martial arts. Yeah, I was crazy for improv games.
HW: Po learns the ways of kung fu through Master Shifu. Was there a mentor or guide in your life who helped you in your acting career?
JB: Deb Devine was my teacher in 9th grade. She actually said, “Hey, why do you want to be an actor? Why don’t you be a writer or director? Those are the ones who are really the brains behind the movies. Why do you just want to be a puppet?” You could say that she was discouraging me from being an actor, but I don’t think so. I thought it was really great advice. And I have tried to do some writing. I’ve written for myself songs and sketches and stuff for my band, Tenacious D, and it helped me to find my voice as an actor. And that’s what I always tell people who ask me, “How do I become an actor like you?” I tell them to write their own ticket. Do your own movies and things. Don’t wait around to be a puppet in someone else’s show.
HW: Can you talk about the day you worked with Dustin Hoffman and what that was like?
JB: I can call him Dusty now, we’ve gotten to that point. It was great to work with him…‘Cause for the most part, we work in isolation…It’s fun to work together, but it’s also really helpful to be able to just focus on your performance and to just explore all the different lines and joke angles you can take without the other actor there who is like, ‘C’mon Jack, we’re on hour number three on the same joke. I’m Dustin Hoffman, I have to move!’ But, when we did get together, I was intimidated because I have been a huge fan of his for my whole life…he is the master for real.
HW: Did you feel like you needed to suck up?
JB: Yeah, I was a suck up. I don’t think I said anything too embarrassing. I think I actually clammed up a little bit. I got a little quiet.
HW: Are you a method actor like Dustin?
JB: Totally. I lived with Pandas for three years before we even started recording, since I heard about the project. I eat bamboo. Bamboo and cheeseburgers. No, I did actually take a summer of Strasburg classes here in LA and I learned how to hold an imaginary cup of tea. And I still have it; sensory memory.
HW: Dustin found the process painstaking, what about you?
JB: No, I think we have different approaches. I’m more of a stand up than a method actor. I think he definitely prefers to have another human being to bounce off of and have like, real human interaction. I’m fine with just doing it in a vacuum. In a space vacuum of my own. Yeah, I’d do it in a mirror, my technique. I would find it just as difficult if I had his role in Kramer vs. Kramer. That would be very painstaking to me.
HW: You are a dad for the second time, what are you looking forward to?
JB: You just gotta make all the time precious that you have with the babies when you are not working. Like right now? I should really be with my babies right now. But I’ll get back. And you have an hour in the morning and an hour at night. And you really make the most of that time…Oh, yeah. Hours in the middle of the night, oh, I have been [doing that].
HW: Is your older son able to watch this yet?
JB: Yeah, I’m gonna wait until he’s…this movie, any movie – you don’t want to take a little baby into a big, dark movie theater. That’s in itself is an intense movie experience. Even though he’s pretty intense already, but you have to keep things soft and sweet for a bit while longer.
HW: Is he musical?
JB: Yes, very musical. He’s got great rhythm and loves to dance. I made him a dance mix on my iPod which I’m pretty proud of. I think I cracked the code…[its got] "Groove is in the Heart" by Dee Lite. That’s one of the nuggets. "Dancing Queen" by Abba. What else is on there…"Surf Wax USA" by Weezer. Lots of good jams. A little Stevie Wonder in there …"Higher Ground." It’s on the baby dance mix. I recommend it for anyone with babies.
Kung Fu Panda opens in theaters June 6.