A relatively reserved comedy to have been written and directed by the infamous Farrelly brothers, the movie casts Black as a sexist pig who's transformed after a chance encounter with real-life motivational guru Tony Robbins. Where once he simply fixated on the external attributes of the opposite sex, the "hypnotized" Hal is now capable of seeing only their "inner beauty." When he falls for the boss' daughter, she looks like Gwyneth Paltrow to him -- but to everyone else she looks like Gwyneth Paltrow in a 300-pound fat suit.
Although he admits "partying too late last night" following a gig with his rock band, Tenacious D, Black gives it his all during a recent interview in Los Angeles.
CL: We spotted you at the press screening last night. Was that your first time seeing the movie with an audience?
JB: That was my first time seeing it, period.
Well, the main thing I took away from it is ... I'm adorable! C'mon, you all saw it, and you can't deny it. Now go and print it, because it's just plain true. I'm irresistible! I dare anyone to dispute that.
If you were ever stuck in an elevator with Tony Robbins, what would you seek his advice about?
Actually, I did ask him for some advice between takes, you know, about overcoming stage fright or the red-light syndrome, how to be more relaxed and confident when the cameras are rolling. He was like, "Well, you should really come to one of my seminars." And I'm like, "Why do I have to come to one of your seminars, dude? You're right here!" He was very tight-lipped and wouldn't give out any secrets. Hell, those seminars are like $70, and you're in an auditorium with about 20,000 other people. I wanted a little one-on-one action, but apparently that costs much more.
The Farrelly brothers say you were initially intimidated about working with Gwyneth Paltrow.
That's a damn lie! Just because she's this prize-winning actress, one of the great young stars of our time? If anything, she was intimidated by me, by my sheer physical prowess.
Plus, she lacks your so-called "indie cred."
That's true-ish, but not really, because if you look at some of her early work, like that Paul Thomas Anderson movie she did (Hard Eight), that had loads of indie cred. I mean, she's proven herself on every level. Did you see her on "Saturday Night Live"? She was hysterical! No, I had issues all right, feeling like I didn't deserve to be in a film with her, like she was going to judge me and realize what a fraud I am.
How did you break through all that? Obviously, it was no thanks to Tony Robbins.
Damn right it wasn't! Actually, the Farrellys pulled me aside before the very first rehearsal and told me to overact as horribly as I could, and so I did. I started hamming it up as hard as I could, flailing my arms around and making all these exaggerated facial expressions. When they yelled, "Cut," everybody was like, "Wow, Jack, that was great," and then we all cracked up. Gwyneth was like, "Thank God. I was really starting to sweat it there for a minute." Trouble was, then we did it for real, and I was basically the same!
Up to now, you've made a name for yourself playing sidekicks and best friends.
Yeah. It was never part of my plan to play the leading man, but when this opportunity came up, I had to do it. My goal has always been to be a career sidekick, or a character actor.
Mainly, it's just a lot easier. You get to go in a couple of times a week, and you can focus all of your energy and power into kicking butt in those one or two scenes. A lot of times, it seems like the person who's carrying the movie doesn't always have the funniest part. More often than not, it's the people on the sidelines.
Do you feel burdened by the responsibility of carrying Shallow Hal, then?
No, it isn't a burden, just a cool opportunity. I mean, now that I've seen the film and realize it's the best movie since Star Wars, if not better than Star Wars, all I can say is I must be a genius!
By the same token, fans of the Farrelly brothers who might be expecting another raunchy, gross-out comedy like There's Something About Mary may be surprised to discover there's a deeper, more sensitive side to Shallow Hal.
Sometimes audiences get accustomed to a certain something you do, but what's great about the Farrellys is they don't worry about any of that stuff and they just do what they want to do. That's good, because it's all about growing and trying different things.
Do you think they ever cross the line of good taste with any of the so-called "fat jokes" in the movie?
As someone who has always struggled with his own weight, all I can say is I was never offended.
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