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The Tao Of Jack Black

Author: Gaynor Flynn
Monday, 30 June 2008
3D's Gaynor Flynn caught up with Jack Black, star of Kung Fu Panda and the upcoming ensemble comedy Tropic Thunder, at the recent Cannes Festival of Film.

Jack Black is a man of many talents: actor, singer, comedian. Now he can add kung fu master to his ever growing list of skills. He mastered the art for his latest role, Kung Fu Panda, a cute animated tale about an overweight loveable bear called Po, who finds out the fate of the world rests in his chubby, accident-prone paws. Of his many varied roles to date (King Kong, Hhgh Fidelity, Be Kind Rewind, to name a few) Po is the character most like him, says the 39-year-old. 'I am Po, Po is I'. The film also stars the voice talents of Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan.

I understand you're a method actor, so what did you do to get into Po's headspace-
Well it's true I am a method actor and I did spend many weeks inside a cage with a panda fighting with kung fu. No, there was no research of that kind for this film role. I just went with my instincts and my own feeeeeelings.

The philosophical side of this tale is about the hidden potential in us all. Did that appeal to you-
Yes, I felt a kinship with the panda because when I was younger I was a dreamer. I dreamed of being a comedian and people thought it was a foooooolish dream and I would never get there, so it resonated with me the message that you can follow your dreams and stay true to who you are. It made me feel gooooood. I wanted to be the panda.

Is this movie saying it's fine to be a fat panda, and is that a good message to be sending to overweight kids around the world-
I must say yes to that. It is about that and sooooooo much more.

You had the opportunity to work with Dustin Hoffman. How was that-
Well, of course it was intimidating to face one of my heroes and one of the masters of the craft, since I am just a clown.

Were you a martial arts movie fan before-
That would be affirmative. Recently Stephen Chow has been blowing my mind. I saw Kung Fu Hustle then I went back in the catalogue and saw Shoalin Soccer and I think the guy's just brilliant, and of course I grew up on Bruce Lee like every other kid my age. I wanted to be Bruce Lee. There's something about kung fu, the spiritual side of kung fu and a wisdom that goes along with the meditative movements, and it seems very mysterious and fascinating. Maybe that's why there's been a surge in popularity, because people need a new infusement of spirituality. I'm not sure that's a word.

What was harder to do, Po the panda or your upcoming role in Tropic Thunder-
It was harder to play the guy in Tropic Thunder. But that might also be because I was strapped to a yak for a large part of that movie. And it didn't want me. Turned out the yak was pregnant. Playing Po was very easy in some ways, because it was very much me.

Can you elaborate- How were you like Po-
I have to say I don't feel like I was playing a character when I played Po, I was just myself because I kind of think of myself as a bear, I'm very furry and soft and squishy and lazy, but sometimes fierce and crazy. I am Po. Po is I. And there was really very little acting involved.

Can you talk a bit about the way comedy is going at the moment with people like Ben Stiller, who directed Tropic Thunder-
I think it also has to include Sacha Baron Cohen. Although he's not from America. He's just as a big part shaping the new trend that's really in your face. It's a little political, a little bit dealing with sensitive stuff, but in a funny way. And I don't really know what to say about it, except that I like it and want to be part of it.

What do you play in Tropic Thunder-
It's just about Hollywood ac