Jack Black plays against type in Goosebumps, the big screen adaptation of R.L. Stine’s wildly popular young adult horror books, out Friday. The comic actor wants you to know his portrayal of R.L. Stine is a character, and not really like the actual author. “I did hang out with R.L., but didn’t really channel him, except for the fact that he’s brilliant so there’s that,” says Black from The Four Seasons Hotel Miami.
“He’s like really a sweet guy who is fun to hang out with. And my character is sort of antisocial and super prickly and kind of an A-hole.” Stine gave his stamp of approval to the film, which follows a bunch of neighborhood teenagers who accidentally unleash a torrent of monsters from a mysterious, locked book.
“I sat right next to him [during a screening],” reports Black. “He was totally digging it. Either that or he was a really good actor.” As for his own acting, Black prepared by watching old Orson Welles movies.
“He is like the prototypical genius,” says the School of Rock star, lowering his voice a few octaves to replicate the Hollywood legend. “I totes loved playing one, and pretending like you have this powerful mind and to be sort of dark and sinister.”
But Black — he of such comedies as Shallow Hal, Nacho Libre, High Fidelity and Kung Fu Panda — can’t ever really be too dark and sinister. “I’m usually the snuggly clown, but this time, yeah, I get pretty creepy,” admits the Southern California native, adding that R.L. has some redeeming features. “It seems like he’s going to be the villain, but then through the course of the movie you see he’s just misunderstood. That was kind of a cool arc. Hopefully you’ll like him.”
We don’t have our doubts. Black’s a likeable guy, that rare comedian who is as amusingly sarcastic off screen as he is on.
Unfortunately, he only had a short time while in Miami, where he had a spaghetti lunch (“Buurpp! Excuse me!”) and was learning how to say “goosebumps” in Spanish (Piel de gallina, for inquiring minds).
“I’ve got to fly away on my private jet shortly,” says Black with a wink. “Now you know how I roll. I’ll be in my PJ’s soon.”
But no rest for the married father of two (his wife is singer/artist Tanya Haden). A major holiday is coming up: Halloween. “I’ve got two boys [ages 7 and 9], so we have to do the trick-or-treat thing.”
So will the movie star play dress-up right along with them?
“I’m thinking about being something that will cover my face so I don’t have to take selfies during the process,” Black said.
The sometime rocker (he’s in a satirical band called Tenacious D) then pondered going as one of French house electronica duo Daft Punk, who wear Darth Vader type masks on stage.
“So if you see a Daft Punker out there, leave me the hell alone!”
He was joking. We think.