Did you feel like you were turning into Bernie off-camera?
Nah, I’m not really that guy. Well, maybe a little bit. But I don’t like lose track of time, like, “Where was I?” You know, those people who sink so deep into their character that the real Jack Black disappears.
When we watch your performance, it seems like Jack Black is just dying to get out. How do you hold it back?
How do I hold back the real Jack Black? Maybe that is the real Jack Black. Maybe those other times I was forcing a clown show. But the real Jack Black is like Sean Penn. How about that?
That is my secret weapon. Whenever I bring out the ‘stache, my most powerful performances come to life. I don’t know if you saw Nacho Libre, but it’s like a superpower when I grow it.
In the beginning of the movie, when you’re driving and just start singing along in the car. It communicates this giddy happiness that’s so central to Bernie. Did Linklater just put you in the car?
It’s a great song. It’s got a great bounce to it. It was fun to sing along to it. It was important to Rick that I know every lyric. I was like, “Really? Can’t I just come in and out?” He goes, “He would know every lyric. Bernie would know every lyric.” So I really studied it hard. I’m not really one of those people that remembers lyrics or jokes. Even my own. I’m in the middle of trying to remember all the new album.
You mentioned how sweet Bernie is, but he did commit this heinous crime. Was he a con guy who was there to take advantage of a vulnerable old lady or was he just a nice guy who couldn’t take her abuse anymore?
I think it’s more the latter. He was a sweet guy who was a real pleaser. He liked people to like him, to a fault. To a degree where it’s better maybe just to leave her and let her hate you than to stay and let things get as bad as they did. I do think the corrosive corrupting power of money was involved. On the one hand, he wanted her to love him, so he didn’t want to leave her and risk her being angry. In addition to that, he had become accustomed to the money. He liked having money, mostly to give to other people. I mean, he enjoyed going on trips with her but mostly he just liked giving it all away and seeing the effect it had on other people. It was seductive, yeah, but I don’t think it was devious, like he made plans to get all her money by killing her.
Bernie doesn’t do a very good job of covering his tracks. Do you think he wanted to get caught?
I think he was relieved when he got caught, for sure. He’s afraid of everybody hating him, and the huge shitstorm that was about to hit his life. I’m sure he was conflicted with that.
You actually got to meet Bernie Tiede in prison, right?
Yes. It was a relief to see that he was, in fact, a sweetheart. It felt it was reinforcing our theory of what he would be like. But it was very surreal. I had never been in a maximum-security prison before. Lots of hardened criminals in there, doing hard time for hard crime. And then there was Bernie, who’s just this big sweet soft gentle mammoth of a man. He didn’t really fit in with the general population in there, to say the least. It was good just to connect with him and talk with and listen to his accent and his behavior; ask him a few things about his life.
No. I didn’t feel like it was any of my business. I should’ve asked more questions, but I’m kind of a shy person. I don’t like to probe.
What was it like working with the legendary Shirley MacLaine?
Shirley is a hero of mine. I was always been a fan of her performances, going way back to The Apartment. It’s rare that someone can be that beautiful and that talented. There was no one hotter than her back in the day. She’s hands down the most talented and hot. It’s a powerful combination. She’s like a Jack Nicholson level of awesome. She put me at ease early on. She would laugh at all my dumb jokes and make me feel like I was worthy.
You reunite with director Richard Linklater on this film. What happened with the proposed School of Rock sequel?
I’d love to do a School of Rock sequel. We’re just trying to figure it out. We never came together and saw eye-to-eye on what that story would be. [But] never say never. At this point, I think it would have to be about how rock is dead and how it’s Stewie’s job to figure out how to bring rock back to life somehow.
So what is your next project?
My next Tenacious D album comes out next week. And then we do a world tour. Well, we’re going to do all of the United States and then Europe. We’re not going to Australia or Asia. Then I’m really hoping to get started on the Charlie Chaplin movie right after the Tenacious D tour.