Jack Black is a bit of an enigma. He’s played all kinds of characters over his long career, including a luchador, a fraudulent teacher, an explorer, a videographer, a murderer, and a romantic partner. Basically, Jack Black can do it all. Jack keeps his personal life pretty private though. How much do you really know about this hilarious and talented actor?
Keep reading to find out how he met his wife, how he got his first roles, and what he’s the most nervous about.
Jack Black was born Thomas Jacob Black (so no, his parents did not give him a rhyming name) in Santa Monica, California. His parents, Thomas William Black and Judith Love Cohen, were both satellite engineers.
Black’s mother was born Jewish and his father converted to Judaism. Jack’s mother had three children from a previous marriage. Jack and his siblings were raised Jewish, and they both had a bar mitzvah. Jack’s parents divorced when he was ten years old.
His First Acting Gigs
Jack has always been a natural performer. At the age of thirteen, he starred in a television commercial for the video game Pitfall. Jack was able to get several small parts on prime time TV in his early days.
Take a look back into TV history and see if you can spot him on shows like Life Goes On, Northern Exposure, Mr. Show, Picket Fences, The Golden Palace, and The X-Files. Basically, Jack was getting a fair amount of work, but he wasn’t yet a recognizable actor.
His Big Break
After a series of small roles and bit parts, Jack Black got a slightly bigger small part in High Fidelity in 2000. He played a wacky employee in John Cusack’s record store. Jack considers this part his breakout role. After 2000, he started getting lead roles in movies like Shallow Hal, Nacho Libre, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, Year One, and Gulliver’s Travels.
However, it was School of Rock that really sent him into superstardom. He earned a Golden Globe nomination for his work in that movie.
Other Kinds Of Movies
Jack Black started off as a comedy guy, probably because of his zany personality and knack for slapstick. He hasn’t only done comedy, though. In 2005 he acted in Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong. Jack has also done a lot of voice acting work, most notably as Po in Kung Fu Panda.
In 2006, he starred in a romantic comedy called The Holiday opposite Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Cameron Diaz. Who knew Jack Black could be romantic?
It’s not just Jack Black’s character from School of Rock who’s totally obsessed with rock and roll music. Black is the lead singer and guitarist for the comedy rock duo, Tenacious D. He and his bandmate, Kyle Gass, have released four albums.
They’ve made music videos, they play live shows, and they tour around the world bringing music and laughter to their fans. Tenacious D even won the award for Best Metal Performance at the 57th Grammy Awards.
His Battle With Addiction
You didn’t think all of that energy was purely natural, did you? Jack Black struggled with a cocaine addiction when he was just fourteen years old.
He told E News, “I was having a lot of troubles with cocaine… I was hanging out with some pretty rough characters. I was scared to go to school because one of them wanted to kill me. I wanted to get out of there.” Good thing Jack got himself out.
Tragedy In The Family
In 1989, Jack’s older half brother Howard died of AIDS. Howard was just 31 years old at the time.
Jack told E News, “Losing a family member is the worst thing I could imagine. I have two gay siblings: my big sister, Rachel, and my big brother, Howard. He was a big influence on me. He took me to my first rock concert. I was 11; he was 23. He was so vibrant, creative, amazing. He shaped my taste in music.”
In January 2006, Jack Black asked Tanya Haden to marry him. Tanya is the daughter of jazz bassist Charlie Haden. The pair attended Crossroads School together back in the day and reconnected 15 years later at a friend’s birthday party. They got married on March 14th that same year.
Their first son, Samuel Jason, was born on June 10th, 2006, and their second son, Thomas David, was born on May 23rd, 2008.
Not A Huge Trump Fan
Jack Black was an Obama supporter in 2012. He’s been an outspoken critic of Donald Trump since the day Trump announced he was running for president. On the day of Trump’s inauguration, Jack Black and his Tenacious D bandmate, Kyle Gass, performed the song “The Government Totally Sucks” at a live concert.
Black told the audience, “We haven’t played [this song] for years, because it just never felt appropriate – But now, we’re happy to unleash the beast. The government totally sucks.”
A Previous Engagement
Before he married his very lovely wife Tanya, Jack Black was engaged to actor, producer, and comedian, Laura Kightlinger. They were together from 1997 to 2005. Laura was a series regular on Louis C.K.’s show Lucky Louie, and she created her own comedy television show called The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman.
Eight years is a long time, but in the end, it just wasn’t meant to be.
He Started A YouTube Channel
At the end of 2018, Jack Black made a very important announcement — he was launching his own YouTube gaming channel. Black isn’t your typical out of touch celebrity. The first video he posted to his channel proved that he knows quite a lot about gaming culture, meme culture, and YouTube drama.
To say that people were excited would be an understatement. His introductory video was viewed over nine million times in a matter of weeks.
Black’s movie Nacho Libre has gained a cult following over the years, but the concept of the movie is pretty ridiculous.
While on the press tour for the film, Jack Black said, “At first, I would have rather been naked to tell you the truth, because I just look so goddang ridiculous. But then I thought, “Wait, that’s my job. The stretchy pants are my friends. I love the stretchy pants!” It just took a little mental adjustment, because I know that when I’m embarrassed and scared about acting, that means I’m going to get some good life-nugget knowledge out of it. And I love the knowledge nuggets.”
The Shallow Hal Backlash
One of Jack Black’s first starring roles was in Shallow Hal, a rom-com about a man who is cursed to see decent people as gorgeous, and mean, selfish people as ugly. He ends up falling in love with a fat girl (Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit) only because he sees her as skinny (Gwyneth Paltrow not in a fat suit).
The movie got a lot of backlash for equating ugliness with fatness and falling into the same traps it was trying to expose. In an interview, Black said, “I wasn’t proud of [the movie], and I got paid a lot of money, so in retrospect, it feels like a sell-out.”
No Makeup, No Problems
In 2005, Jack Black played an old-timey movie maker in Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong. The movie got mixed reviews, but most people thought it was mediocre at best and problematic at worst.
Jack Black refused to wear any makeup while filming because he heard a rumor that Clint Eastwood refuses to wear makeup. Of course, that rumor wasn’t true. Clint Eastwood knows that makeup is part of the cinematic process.
He Gives Back To The Global Community
Jack Black got a whole new perspective on life when he traveled to Kampala, Uganda on Red Nose Day with Comic Relief USA. While he was there, he helped children in poverty and spread awareness of poverty around the world.
The experience completely blew Jack’s mind. He realized how lucky and privileged his kids were when kids around the world are living in impossible situations every day. He has since further dedicated himself to the charity effort.
Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny may have become a cult classic over the years, but it wasn’t a successful film when it came out. The film didn’t do so well at the box office. It only made a total of $8.2 million in the United States.
The reaction to this film disappointed Jack so much that he said he would never write another script again. I guess sometimes writing is best left to the professionals.
A Real Stage Dive
Jack Black is a very physical actor, so it’s no surprise that he wanted to do his own stunts in School of Rock. Jack Black actually did dive off the stage and crowd surf at the end of the movie. No body double was needed.
They did have some stuntmen in the audience though to make sure that nobody dropped the film’s leading man. Overall, the shot was a success and Jack never hit the ground.
They Snagged A Led Zeppelin Song
School of Rock is basically a love letter to all of the greatest rock bands of all time. That movie wouldn’t have felt complete without a nod to Led Zeppelin. The problem is, Zeppelin rarely allows people to use their music in films.
Director Richard Linklater filmed Jack Black pleading Led Zeppelin to let them use their song. Surprisingly, the band was charmed by the request and Jack was allowed to sing The Immigrant Song in one of the scenes.
Actors who look alike often end up competing for the same roles in Hollywood. Back in the day, Jack Black said that his acting nemesis was Philip Seymour Hoffman. The two actors were always up for the same roles and Hoffman would get parts that Jack auditioned for.
Hoffman and Black had a similar body type, so they were both getting typecast for a while. You probably think of Jack as a comedic actor and Hoffman as a serious actor, but in reality, they both played very diverse roles.
The True Stories Behind School Of Rock
Jack Black himself was the inspiration behind a lot of the crazy antics that take place in the film. When Mike White (who played the real Ned Schneebly) wrote the film, he drew on experiences he had while he was living in Jack’s apartment building.
He witnessed Black’s ridiculous behavior first hand. Many of these ended up in the movie, including running through the halls of the building naked and blasting his favorite classic rock at top volume.
Dedication To Character
Jack Black was praised by critics for his role as Bernie Tiede in the 2011 film Bernie. Tiede is an actual person. He’s a mortician who befriended an 81-year-old widow just so she would add him to her will. Then he murdered her. The real Bernie is currently serving a life sentence in a Texas prison.
In order to properly portray the character, Black visited Bernie in jail many times. While in the prison, Black actually sung the gospel hymns featured in the film.
His Favorite Role
Jack Black has played many characters over the years. He’s taken on comedic roles, dramatic role, and everything in between. So which one of those parts was his favorite to play? It’s none other than Po in Kung Fu Panda.
This story about a die-hard Kung Fu fan who just wants to be a part of the action really stole Jack’s heart. Plus, he got to work with Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman.
His Favorite Band
Jack Black appreciates rock and roll in all forms. I doubt that there’s anyone in Hollywood more passionate about rock than Jack Black. So what’s his favorite band, you ask? Nope, it’s not Led Zeppelin. It’s not ACDC either.
Jack Black is a huge fan of The Who. In an interview, Jack said, “They were the first ones to ever rock HARD. The recklessness! The deliciousness!” I guess that’s true. Who has anything bad to say about The Who?
A Secret Passion
Everyone knows that Jack Black is into music and movies and video games, but did you know that he also has a sporty side? There’s one sport that Jack loves more than all other sports, and that sport is snowboarding.
Jack told People Magazine, “it’s been years since I’ve done it. I’m trying to stay in shape for when my boys [Sammy, 4, and Thomas, 2] are ready for their first snowboarding expedition.”
An Emotional Man
Who among us hasn’t cried at a particularly nostalgic children’s movie? Come on, you all know what I’m talking about. If you didn’t cry during Toy Story 3 there might be something wrong with you.
Black told People, “I cried thrice during Toy Story 3! Thrice! When those toys hold hands as they slide down into this fire pit of doom? I haven’t been as moved by an expression of mortality in a long, long time.”
What Makes Him Nervous
From the outside, it seems like Jack Black is a pretty boisterous and outgoing guy. Just because he appears super confident, it doesn’t mean that he’s always on his A game. Nothing makes Jack Black more nervous than appearing on a late night talk show.
When People asked Jack what makes him nervous, he responded, “The big talk shows. The Lenos and Lettermans. You don’t have to be smart, but you have to have something. There’s a lot of pressure. I start trying to think something up to say about a month in advance.”
He’s Worth A Lot Of Money
Look, we all know that Jack Black is doing well financially. He’s starred in some big film franchises and he’s got years of acting under his belt. But how much is Jack Black worth exactly?
Well, according to The Richest, the long-time actor is worth an estimated $40 million. His estimated yearly income ranges between $2.2 million to $2.5 million as well as an estimated $522,00 from endorsement deals. Looks like Jack is doing alright.
He Was A Wild Teenager
We already know that Jack Black was addicted to cocaine when he was just fourteen, but the wildness didn’t stop there.
Jack told The Guardian, “I think I’m lucky to be alive. Teenage boys feel immortal. It’s that weird mix of hormones and not yet fully formed brains. They actually are insane. I should have been put in jail. I got into drugs and I stole money from my mum. It was a bad time. I used to drive around the streets, the curvy Hollywood hills like it was my personal race track, “catching air” with five kids in the car, me just screaming “Yeaaagh!” We were having fun, but there could’ve been a tragedy.”
He Loves Being A Parent
Jack has two sons, and being their father is the best gig he’s ever gotten.
He told The Guardian, “My children are magical creatures and I love them to death. But it is challenging. It takes a lot of energy. When you get home from work you need to spend time with them – you can’t just go and work on the computer. You need to give them your attention and listen to them and play their games, and those crazy pretending games take a lot of energy.”
He’s A Homebody
From the outside, it looks like Jack Black would be the partying type. In reality, it’s quite the opposite.
In an interview with The Guardian, Jack said, “I’m at home with my wife and kids all the time now. I don’t go out for wild nights. It’s a lonely existence just floating around without a life partner. With other people I’ve been with, even when I was with them, I’d feel alone. When we found each other, it seemed really obvious. When I’m with Tanya I have this great feeling of sharing experiences, of not feeling alone in the universe because I’ve got her beside me. I’m a bit of a romantic.”
He Used To Be A Cub Scout
Before acting came to mind, Black had another ambition. As a boy, Black was a Cub Scout who had dreams of becoming an Eagle Scout. He was enrolled in both the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts before he aged out of the programs.
“I was a rambunctious youth… I was a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout, and I didn’t reach the level of Eagle Scout and I do plan on doing that. I want to go back,” he said on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
He Likes To Be Liked
You’ve already read that Black played murderer Bernie Tiede in Bernie, which is a movie he is particularly proud of. But while Black is known for his zany character portrayals, playing a guy who killed someone proved to be a challenge.
“The big hurdle for me was playing a guy who murdered someone, you know? Someone who’s not a lovable loser, who’s not entirely sympathetic. That’s difficult for me because I love to be liked,” he told The Guardian.
He’s Decidedly An Atheist
Though Jack Black grew up in a Jewish household and had a Bat Mitzvah, he says he’s an atheist. “Well when I was a kid I remember hearing that a barmitzvah was like your birthday times 10. And it was not like that at all. I got socks. So I turned to atheism,” he told The Guardian.
Still, Black identifies as a “normal Jew” and is raising his sons in the Jewish faith.
He Has A YouTube Channel
If you can’t get enough of Jack Black, then lucky for you the big screen isn’t the only place you can appreciate his antics. In late 2018, Black made an announcement announcing that he started a new “games channel” called Jabilinski Games.
The channel will reportedly cover a variety of topics outside of games, such as food and life. As of January 2019, it is one of the fastest growing channels on YouTube.
He Thinks This Film Deserves A Sequel
While Nacho Libre didn’t quite take off with a lot of people, Black says he’d still be down to do a sequel for it. The film was written by Jared and Jerusha Hess and Mike White.
“I sure hope [there’s a sequel]. I love working with Jared. I think it’s a good bet that we’ll collaborate on something again. Mike had an idea that it would be Nacho goes to Japan, we’ll see though,” he once said.
He Loves To Name-Drop
Jack Black has obviously met his fair share of celebrities as an actor in Hollywood, but even he can get a bit starstruck at times. Not only was he thrilled to work with the legendary Shirley MacLaine in Bernie, but there’s an actress he was excited to work with and he loved letting everyone know.
Black starred in The House With a Clock in its Walls alongside Cate Blanchett. “I like to drop her name… ‘Just a little movie I’m doing with Cate Blanchett!”” he told Parade.
He Does Get A Little Shy Sometimes
While speaking about legend Robin Williams, Black recalled to Parade the couple of times that he has crossed paths with the comedy legend. At one point, a director invited him to dinner where Williams was also in attendance.
“I was in awe and intimidated by the whole experience. I don’t do well in the presence of other luminaries and artists. Especially ones I respect. I find that it’s just better to enjoy them from a distance. I can’t do complete sentences,” he said.
He Doesn’t Mind Sticking In One Genre
Jack Black has been known to star in many comedy films. At first he starred in ones that were more geared towards adults, but in recent years it’s obvious that Black has been doing a lot of children’s comedies.
“I’m not consciously trying to make more kid-friendly movies, it’s just what I’m drawn to. I had so much fun doing Nacho Libre. I had a tremendous time on Goosebumps. Why not embrace that?” he said.
How Black Channeled His Jumanji Character
If you’ve seen the most recent iteration of Jumanji, then you know Jack Black plays the avatar of the most popular girl in school. But for someone who is used to playing obnoxious male characters, Black had to do a little research to understand his role.
“You watch a few episodes of Teen Wolf and you also listen to some John Mayer. Then you really start to feel it,” he told Entertainment Weekly.
He Already Has Ideas For Part Three
Many were surprised to see Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle become the success that it was. It wasn’t long before Hollywood put the greenlight on a “Jumanji 3” movie, which is already in production.
Black told MTV, “I say we take this mother into space. ‘Cause my question with Jumanji is, ‘What is this game? Who invented this game?’ It has to be some alien technology. Am I right? Or it’s some crazy jungle medicine man magic.”