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Jack Black Is Back
Interview by Marie Morreale

Jack Black voices Lenny, a great white shark who is a closet vegetarian in Shark Tale. (Photo: Courtesy DreamWorks Animation) Click here to see a slide show.

Jack Black plays Lenny, the vegetarian great white shark, in Shark Tale. Before this movie, Black starred in Shallow Hal, School of Rock, and did the voice of Zeke in Ice Age. He even received a Golden Globe nomination for his role in School of Rock. Currently, Black is working on a King Kong remake, directed by Lord of the Ring's director Peter Jackson. Read what he had to say about his new movie!

SN: In Shark Tale, Lenny dares to be different in the face of a lot of pressure from his family and friends. You were a pretty unique kid. How did you deal with being different? Were there people who supported you?
Black: Well, my being different was an asset. It was good. It worked well for me when I was in theater, when I was doing plays and stuff. The originality and creativity comes in handy there. But besides that, it sort of—you can feel a little bit lonely. Because outside of the theater you feel like a little bit of a freak if you're different from everybody else. And I wasn't so much different than everybody else. I just liked a lot of attention. I was kind of a clown. I really wanted to be special.

SN: What lessons can kids take from Lenny's story?
Black: I think Lenny's story is similar to Oscar's story in that it's good to be comfortable with who you are. Just being yourself is not always an easy thing to do because you're worried about what other people are going to think about you, but in the end it's best not to pretend to be something else.

SN: This wasn't your first animated film, was it?
Black: This was my second, but it's my first one where I had a real role. The other one, Ice Age, I had such a tiny part I don't even count it really.

SN: What's the biggest difference between playing a role actor-to-actor and being just a voice?

Black: The biggest difference is how much easier it is. When you do a real live action movie, you come to the set and you go through makeup and hair and you put on your costume and you wait for two hours or so for them to set up all the lights and get the scene ready to shoot. Then you go and you shoot like one page of dialogue and that takes all day. When you're doing an animated feature, you go into the recording studio and you go directly up to the microphone and start recording. There's no waiting around, and you'll do 20 or 30 pages of dialogue and you'll say, "See you later!" And you won't see them again for like two months. Then you come and do another 20 or 30 pages. It's a much different process, but it's a lot easier and faster.

SN: Did you ever do your dialogue with another actor in the recording studio or was it always solo?
Black: It was solo until the very end. I got to do some work with Will Smith, which was cool.

SN: Was that totally insane? I can't imagine the two of you together.
Black: I know. We're both pretty high-energy dudes. It was cool. I liked the way we worked together. I thought we were a pretty good team. We might be the new Abbot and Costello.

A little fish named Oscar (Will Smith) and a big shark named Lenny (Jack Black) become unlikely best friends in Shark Tale. (Photo: Courtesy DreamWorks Animation)

SN: What was the best scene in the movie? Have you seen the rough cut?
Black: Well, my personal favorite is probably when me and Oscar get into the big giant battle royale; when we fight right in the middle of the underwater Times Square with all the crowds. I love that scene.

SN: Are you going to be doing a lot of promotion for it when it comes out?
Black: I can't, because I'm going to be doing King Kong, but I'm doing my part right now actually.

SN: Tell me a little bit about King Kong. Where are you filming that?
Black: It's all in New Zealand.

SN: Is there anywhere in the world that you haven't been that you'd love to go, either as a vacation or to do a film?
Black: Well, you know, New Zealand was definitely one of the places I wanted to go. I've never been to Prague. I've heard it's beautiful. I've never been to Venice and I know that Shark Tale is going to premiere in Venice. I wish I could have been there. I've never been to Iceland.

SN: If you could talk to kids and tell them why reading is important, what would you say?
Black: It's just gymnastics for the brain. It makes it stronger. Wait, I have a better reason to read books. A lot of times, when you talk to someone who's read the book and seen the movie of the same story, almost every time the people will say the book is better. The reason is that books are just better than movies in general.

SN: You can let your imagination go.
Black: They're just a better form of storytelling.

SN: Do you have any favorite books now, or favorite books as a kid?
Black: My favorite book as a kid was A Wrinkle in Time. Do you remember that book? That was an amazing book. It's a mind-bender. I still like the mind-benders. Speaking of [Stanley] Kubrick, I read the Arthur C. Clark book 2001: A Space Odyssey. That was weird, because I think he wrote the book at the same time as the screenplay was being written, not before. They worked together on it. It's an amazing book and it totally informs the movie. It filled in the gaps.

SN: Do you keep a journal and write down notes with ideas for films?
Black: I don't keep a journal. I kind of wish I did. I have started a few journals. (laughs)

SN: What advice would you like to give a teen who would like to get into the performing arts?
Black: I would say they shouldn't just limit themselves to one performing art. They should do music and acting and dancing and even try their hand at some directing and writing, because all of that stuff helps the other stuff, and the more stuff you do, the better chance you'll have of making a living in the industry, because it's very competitive. Doing everything really gives you an edge.

Click here to see a slide show.