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Jack Black: I wish I were a great writer

Jack Black, who plays bestselling children's author RL Stine in an upcoming horror-comedy 'Goosebumps', says it would be "cool" to be able to write his own movies

As A 10-year-old, Jack Black persuaded his father to take him out to watch 1979 sci-fi horror movie, 'Alien'. Just a few minutes into the screening, he curled up in his seat. "My dad knew that he had made a mistake, but he didn't take me out of the theatre. After watching the movie, I had horrible dreams for about three weeks," the Hollywood actor recalls.

Jack Black (second from right) in a still from Goosebumps, based on the eponymous RL Stine horror series  Jack Black (second from right) in a still from Goosebumps, based on the eponymous RL Stine horror series
Jack Black (second from right) in a still from 'Goosebumps', based on the eponymous RL Stine horror series  

Now, it is Jack Black's turn to take his kids, aged nine and seven, to the cinema to watch his latest movie, 'Goosebumps'. The adventure film is based on a popular children's horror series by bestselling author RL Stine, who's dubbed as the Stephen King of children's literature.

With the film slated to hit theatres soon, the actor speaks to hitlist about all things scary — with a dash of humour. Excerpts from the interview:

Q. Why did you want to make 'Goosebumps'?
A. I thought it was really funny and scary in the right amounts. It was something that I could take my kids, aged nine and seven, to see. I wanted to make this film because it's scary, but not too scary. Rob (Letterman, director) has kids as old as mine, so we were conscious of making something scary that they would think is cool, but without getting nightmares.

Q. What can you recall of your meeting with RL Stine?
A. I met him in an attic of an old New York building. It wasn't a creepy attic though; there were no scary cobwebs. He was there, wearing black, and looked at me and smiled. I think we hugged. We sat down and talked about the movie and our plans and I said to RL, 'I am not going to be doing an imitation of you. I'd like to do an interpretation because the movie calls for this dark, sinister, intimidating presence and obviously, you are a sweetheart'. I didn't want to ruin the movie by doing an exact impersonation of the actual RL Stine. He was pleased. He said, 'I totally get it; do whatever you have to do to make a good movie'. And, he loved the script.

Q. How challenging was it to play him?
A. It felt natural to me, maybe because I have entered a dark period of my life (laughs). I am able to play characters with a little more depth, darkness and intimidating nature.

Q. How important is the music in the movie?
A. We have the incredible Danny Elfman. I can't imagine a better composer because when you think of someone who makes funny and scary music, there's only him.

Q. What do you think an adult audience will take from this film?
A. This film has great comedians and cast members. The guys who play the police officers are incredibly funny and you might recognise them from other TV shows. Grown ups can actually enjoy it, independent of having their kids there. It's a really fun movie.

We have an incredible group of CGI animators on board. The gigantic praying mantis is incredible...  We also have Slappy (right), who I think is  my favourite
We have an incredible group of CGI animators on board. The gigantic praying mantis is incredible... We also have Slappy (above), who I think is my favourite

Q. You really packed a lot of monsters into the movie...
A. We have an incredible group of CGI animators on board. The gigantic praying mantis is incredible, and Rob Letterman is brilliant with CGI and animation, so I am really stoked that he is following through so stridently. We also have Slappy, who I think is my favourite.

Q. What are your favourite movie monsters?
A. I like the classics, your Frankensteins and your Draculas and all the Werewolves. Darth Vader was huge for me when I was a kid. John Carpenter's 'The Thing' was terrifying. I saw Alien when I was 10; that was terrifyingly awesome.

Q. What scary movies do you watch with your kids?
A. Mostly the old ones because they aren't really scary anymore, like the original 'Frankenstein'. All of those black and white ones are open season — except for 'Psycho!' That one is a little too much. We watched 'The Invisible Man' recently. My sons loved that one. The special effects were so rudimentary.

Q. Have you ever tried writing scary children's stories yourself?
A. No. I wrote a screenplay, 'The Pick of Destiny', and a lot of songs but not scary ones. There is no RL Stine in me. I wish I were a great writer. That would be cool. Then I could be writing all my own movies and stuff.

Q. Do you get scared easily?
A. I do get scared, unfortunately. If a hurricane were to hit, I would be the first one out of this room. My adrenaline kicks in but, unfortunately, it doesn't translate into heroism. I would probably run out of here and save myself before you.

Q. What scares you more: the real world or your imagination?
A. That's a good one. Global warming is a scary thing, but a lot of people, including a couple of presidential candidates, say it is just in my head. I am pretty sure it isn't.

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