In a Democracy Now! exclusive, rising movie star and Tenacious D bandmember Jack Black speaks about Hollywood politics and his new documentary, "60 Spins Around the Sun," about comedian/activist Randy Credico. [Includes transcript]
Click here to read to full transcript Jack Black is a rising star in Hollywood, he has been in such films as "High Fidelity" and "Shallow Hal" and is a member of the — let’s just say eclectic–band Tenacious D. Now Black, in his latest project, has jumped into the world of documentary film production.
The documentary is called "60 Spins Around the Sun." It tells the story of comedian/activist Randy Credico, one of the leading critics of New York’s Rockerfeller Drug laws. The documentary is directed by Black’s girlfriend Laura Kightlinger. It premiers this Sunday at the AFI Fest in Los Angeles at the Arch Light Theater.
Yesterday at 4:00pm–around the time Jack Black wakes up–Democracy Now! caught up with him by telephone at his home in Los Angeles.
- Jack Black, actor and musician.
AMY GOODMAN: Hey is this Jack?
JACK BLACK: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Amy Goodman.
JACK BLACK: Hi, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Good. Thank you for joining us.
JACK BLACK: Thank you for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, it’s good to hear your voice and we’re actually both on the phone. I’m not in the studio, either. But I thought I would just jump right in. Actually, right now, I’m driving on the West Side Highway in New York past 'The Intrepid' warship.
JACK BLACK: Oh.
AMY GOODMAN: And thinking about you there on the west coast and wondering what is it like in Hollywood in this time of war and occupation?
JACK BLACK: Well, we don’t have any warships here in Hollywood, but you definitely feel the fear and impending doom that this administration’s kind of mindless march to who knows what.
AMY GOODMAN: So, your film "School of Rock" just opened. Can you talk about it?
JACK BLACK: Yeah. I’m really proud of it. You know, Mike White wrote it and he is one of my favorite writers. So I was excited to start the project and a lot of people were saying to me, God, are you sure this is a good idea doing a kids’ movie?
But I knew that this was going to be, you know, something special because it’s not corny like most kids’ movies. It’s actually really funny and it has a subtle subversiveness that I’m attracted to.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the subversiveness? Tell us the storyline.
JACK BLACK: Well, it is about this guy, Dewey Finn, who is a frustrated rocker, kind of a failed musician. And he gets kicked out of his band at the beginning of the movie. And he get this opportunity to Pretend to be a substitute teacher to make some money, just to get by. But then once he gets in there, he can’t just cash the check. He has to — He has to teach these kids something and he teaches them the only thing he knows, which is to rock. And, you know, there’s a lot of funny, great scenes with the kids. I had a blast.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Jack, you’ve also executive produced "60 Spins Around the Sun"? About Randy Credico?
JACK BLACK: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: That is about dropping the rock, the Rockefeller drug laws and the whole campaign around that.
JACK BLACK: That’s right.
AMY GOODMAN: Request you talk about why ran —- Can you talk about why Randy and what this is all about?—
JACK BLACK: Well, yeah. It’s actually my girlfriend, Lara Kietlinger who’s a great stand-up and writer. She was obsessed with Randy Credico before we even started going out. When we first started dating, she was talking about this documentary that she was making. Seven years ago. And so I kind of got interested, you know, just because I wanted to be sort of in her world and part of everything that she was interested in and the more I learned, the more I wanted to become a part of this project because, you know the Rockefeller drug laws are just — I think they’re insane.
They’re populating our prisons with people, you know, first-time drug offenders — Single mothers that have a little bit of coke end up going to prison for 20 years or something. It’s just cruel and unusual punishment.
And Randy Credico, this is the thing that’s great about the documentary is that it is not one of these super heavy-handed depressing, you know, films and it easily could be that, because there’s so much tragedy. But it’s funny and it’s entertaining and Randy is this kind of insane standup comedian-turned political activist and it’s just so funny to see him traveling across the country on his little four-wheeler, coming to the rescue of these people, you know, in need. And it is touching and funny.
AMY GOODMAN: Right now, in Hollywood, you know, in this sort of post Michael Moore Oscar era where he outed the commander-in-chief, talking about this fictitious presidency and this fictitious war.
[Part of Michael Moore’s acceptance speech for the Oscar award for his film 'Bowling for Columbine']:
MICHAEL MOORE: We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons, whether it is the fictition of duct tape, or the fictition of "orange alerts" — AUDIENCE: Boo!
MICHAEL MOORE: We are against this war, Mr. Bush! Shame on you, Mr. Bush! Shame on you! And anytime —
MICHAEL MOORE: Anytime you have the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up! You have the majority of the people against you, your time is up!
Thank you very much.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, what is the climate like? Are people afraid to speak out? Can you put out sort of more hidden messages? Can you be overt about it? Is there pressure? Doesn’t it make any difference?
JACK BLACK: I think at this time it’s getting easier and easier to speak out — the more ridiculous the war becomes, you know? Obviously it was impossible to speak out — You know, you’d feel really self-conscious to speak out after 9-11 for the first, you know, few months.
You had to feel kind of — You know, you didn’t want to say anything against the administration when it seemed like we were in a state of emergency.
But as soon as we started going into Iraq, it just felt so wrong, and they had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden and — Now it seems like you’re crazy if you’re Not against this whole campaign — As far as I’m concerned.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of the pentagon working more and more with Hollywood, to put out its message with movies like, oh, "Black Hawk Down", and on forward?
JACK BLACK: I think it’s funny whenever politicians have strong opinions about what film — You know, the content — Oh no, I’m getting a call on the other line. It is going to beep until I get rid of it. Can you hold one second?
AMY GOODMAN: Sure.
JACK BLACK: Sorry about that.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s OK.
JACK BLACK: I have to learn how to block those out.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s OK. We didn’t hear it on our end.
JACK BLACK: I wasn’t even answering your question anyway, I was just going to something that I wanted to say. But what were you saying about "Black Hawk Down"?
AMY GOODMAN: I was just saying what do you think of the pentagon mining Hollywood? Like Karl Rove coming to Hollywood and saying that it’s got to work more closely with the government so you get films like "Black Hawk Down?"
JACK BLACK: Yeah, that just sounds — That just sounds wrong to me. Yeah.
I mean, I don’t mind if a filmmaker works with, you know, a government official or some politicians as a consultant, just for accuracy’s sake, but what I find unbelievable is when a politician will try to pass policies on what the content can be in a movie.
You know, what’s "good" for us to see — what’s "bad" for us to see, and the censorship that comes from that.
And I wish it was all Republicans that were doing that. But, you know, there’s Democrats out there like Lieberman and others that are really all about censorship and that drives me insane.
Because on the one hand, the politicians say, hey, actors, stay out of politics. You don’t know anything about it.
And then they’ll turn around the next day and they’ll have all these opinions on the content of films and I say, hey, then you stay out of films because You know nothing about it.
It makes me a little hot under the collar.
But as long as they’re going to have opinions on what art should be, I’m going to have some stupid opinions about their political, UH, stuff.
AMY GOODMAN: What is it like to have a fellow actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as your governor now?
JACK BLACK: It’s scary. Such a drag. I can’t believe that — I can’t believe we’re so dumb.
I’m sorry. I apologize to the rest of the country and the rest of the world. I — Yeah.
I’m one of the Californians. I didn’t vote for him, but — It’s so weird. You know what it’s like? I don’t know anyone, none of my friends watch NASCAR racing and yet I hear that it’s huge, tens of millions of people love it and watch it.
And that’s what it’s like when something like this happens. None of my friends would vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger and it’s kind of shocking when he gets elected.
It’s like where are all these people that believe in this crazy thing? They’re hiding somewhere.
AMY GOODMAN: Does it make you kind of think of maybe running for political office?
JACK BLACK: No. I wouldn’t be good at it.
AMY GOODMAN: Last question about Randy Credico. As you go on the big shows, here was Randy — I think you had him in the film, was it on Johnny Carson as he got blacklisted for making some comparisons.
JACK BLACK: Yeah. That’s true.
[excerpt of film}
JOHNNY CARSON: This is his first appearance on national television. Works in Hollywood out here at the Improvisation. Would you welcome him, please, Randy Credico. Randy?
RANDY CREDICO: That was the greatest moment of my life in show business, to hear that you got "The Tonight Show," you got the brass ring, do you know what I mean?
RANDY CREDICO: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, Johnny. What a great introduction. As you said, I do political impressions — -
RANDY CREDICO: [Doing himself and also doing impersonations]: I’m doing great. You know, I’m doing the Reagan. The Jesse Jackson. The Ted, Ted, Ted Kennedy and all of this and there was a point where one guy said this guy’s great, right? He is coming back. I thought that I would get the chair, doing that well. There was a point where I was going to get the chair. Everyone wants to sit in the chair next to Carson.- I mean, he is the king so you’re waiting for the king, you know, to judge you. You submit Yourself more to him. You are playing to him and I was, more than to the crowd.
INTERVIEWER IN FILM: Speaking of Reagan, he did well the other night, surprised a lot of people. He was quite effective, especially in the beginning when they asked me if there was a secret war planned in Central America after the election, in which he said,
CREDICO DOING REAGAN: Well.. let me just say this, you take all these countries, Ella Salvador, Nicaragua, Gwata, and well ...you line them up diagonally and you will see that they, in fact, run right into the state of Illinois.
I was born and raised in the state of Illinois. I can recall when I was a kid, going to the county fair, livestock and exhibits — first prize…
RANDY CREDICO: I was doing very well.
INTERVIEWER: What did you say that grabbed him the wrong way?
CREDICO: A couple of things.
INTERVIEWER: Like what?
CREDICO: Gene Kirkpatrick. She is a U.N. ambassador and she says a lot of interesting things. As a matter of fact, if you examine those statements, you have to ask yourself did Eva Braun die in that bunker in 1945?
CREDICO:: Don’t do Carson. I do a little of Carson as well.
INTERVIEWER: As a matter of fact, he is the Tommy Newsome of the political scene.
CREDICO DOING CARSON: Hi, Ed. That sealed my fate. No chair.
JOHNNY CARSON: Randy Credico. Good job.
CREDICO::That was the most disappointing moment of my life when Carson did this, "good stuff" instead of saying come over here.
When he did the "Tonight show" with Johnny Carson and you came back to New York, it was all people talked about for a week. When he came back, no one asked him how it went because we all knew.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think comics are — You Yourself can do the kind of work you want to do now in the corporate media that they’ll broadcast what you have to say?
JACK BLACK: Am I afraid that I’ll be blacklisted?
AMY GOODMAN: Mm-hmm.
JACK BLACK: No. I don’t even think about it. Maybe that’s foolish, but, you know, I’m not out there with my politics, you know, front and center of my work like Randy was. I’m not really in danger of that, I don’t think. But I think it would be cool to be blacklisted for something you really believe in. I’m not really worried about that.
AMY GOODMAN: It makes your life hard.
JACK BLACK: That’s true. But I’ve done well enough that I have a pretty good nest egg. I can coast on it.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what are you going to do in this election year?
JACK BLACK: I don’t know. You know, I’m going to be open to anything that I can do to try to get — Get this total nincompoop out of office — this dangerous nincompoop, I call him.
AMY GOODMAN: You were talking about Bush but you were also talking about Lieberman and censorship.- What do you think about the Democrats?
JACK BLACK: You know, there’s different — There’s always going to be people in any group that I don’t like. But as a whole, I definitely — I’m a Democrat to the core. But, yeah, I think Lieberman’s lame.
AMY GOODMAN: So are you openly supporting someone?
JACK BLACK: No, not yet. I mean, I — I want to just throw myself behind the frontrunner and it’s not really clear who that is yet. I have a feeling it will be that Clark dude. Just because I think, you know, he’ll be appealing to more of the Republicans. Yeah. I’d go green party all the way if they had a prayer.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, maybe if you back them, they would.
JACK BLACK: Maybe if I run.
AMY GOODMAN: Will you?
JACK BLACK: No. Just kidding.
AMY GOODMAN: Will you?
JACK BLACK: Well if Schwarzy could do it, why the hell not? Doesn’t matter that I’m stupid.
As long as I surround myself with smarties, right?
That’s not true, by the way. That’s bush’s whole thing is that it doesn’t matter that he’s a total retards. He is surrounded by smart people, right?
That’s wrong! The captain of the football team has to have some brains, period.
It’s not — You can’t attack him on that, though. You can’t attack him for being stupid. That doesn’t work, I’ve heard. You have to attack him for being evil.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Jack Black, I want to thank you very much for taking this time to be on Democracy Now!
JACK BLACK: I hope I’ve said something that made sense.
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, you did.
JACK BLACK: Thank you for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: Sense is in the eyes and ears of the beholders, the viewers and the listeners.
JACK BLACK: Keep up the good work.
AMY GOODMAN: I hope you tune in sometime to Democracy Now! in Los Angeles.
JACK BLACK: I’ll definitely tune in to this program.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you very much.
JACK BLACK: Take care.
AMY GOODMAN: Bye-bye.
JACK BLACK: Bye-bye.
AMY GOODMAN: And that does it for Today’s show.- Democracy Now! is looking for feedback from people who appreciate the closed captioning.- E-Mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to democracy now!, P.O. box 693, New York, New York 10013.- Our website is democracynow.com.- And you can sign up for our daily digests that brings you daily news and information.-