Saturday, October 7, 2023

Great Magazine Reads: Remembering School of Rock 20 years later

The perfect storm for a great comedy, in my book, mixes how touching a film is, hilarity, and a great soundtrack. That’s probably why School of Rock landed at #16 on my top 60 funniest movies ever list.

Rolling Stone has a great oral history of the film in its latest issue, celebrating a look back at the 2003 classic, which was clearly Jack Black’s crowning achievement. Here are some of my favorite insights from the article:
  • Director Richard Linklater’s film made about $20 million, which was the record for music-themed comedies at the time. It’s aged very well and has been a huge net good for society as real schools of rock have proliferated since then.
  • The screenplay was written by one Mike White, who not only co-starred in School but also went on to create the must-watch TV show The White Lotus. Black says of White, “He just made me laugh so much. I was always fascinated by his strange magic.”
  • Linklater, already a hot commodity from Slackers and Dazed and Confused, didn’t want to direct the movie because he thought it was cheesy, unrealistic (all that noise in a classroom?), and formulaic, but “Black, Linklater, and White all met up at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles to discuss the script.” It turned out that Linklater and White didn’t get along, so that was another hurdle at the start.
  • Linklater, as he famously does, picked a cast of kids that were not necessarily even child actors, but he did want ones who could sing and play instruments.
  • At first, Black was nervous about working with kids. He says, “In retrospect, it seems ridiculous because I’m such an immature idiot that it was a perfect match to be with a bunch of kids. We had a blast — horsing around and making jokes and making fart noises in between takes.”
  • Linklater had to fire one kid a week into shooting because he was complaining of not having a big enough part, but there was no room for egos when the rock was needing to be delivered!
  • Sonic Youth’s Jim O’Rourke was brought in to be the music consultant and started the kids off working on simple songs, like Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane.”
  • “The character of Summer was not a great singer, but [the actor] was. O’Rourke had to teach her how to mangle an off-key ‘Memories’ from Cats.”
  • Linklater had tried to get the rights for a Led Zeppelin song for Dazed but was unsuccessful. This time, he had Black and the kids make a video pleading for them to be able to use “Immigrant Song” and it actually got the band’s attention and worked!
  • Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow, the Osbournes, and the Jackass guys inspired some of the kids to put Jack in their Cokes at the film’s L.A. premiere.
  • The kids still have a group text called Schnayblay.
  • Kevin Clark, who played Freddy the drummer, died in 2021 when a driver hit him while he was riding his bike. “In his last few years, he had been teaching at a School of Rock.”
  • Black now says, “… That character with the love of rock and not really fitting in the world of rock … it does mirror my experience with the entertainment industry. It felt like the planets aligned and I got to do the movie that I was born to do.”
Business Insider also has a good roundup of what the kids have been up to since School of Rock.

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