Sounding like a tongue-in-cheek version of Alan Iverson during his infamous rant about NBA “practice” a few years ago, Jack Black recently admitted that his research for creating the lead voice in the animated “Kung Fu Panda” was, uh, suspect at best.
“Yes, I actually lived with the pandas for a few years before we even started recording,” the roly-poly comedian told movie scribes in Los Angeles last weekend. “Once I heard about the project, I ate bamboo. I had to eat bamboo. Bamboo and cheeseburgers.
“Seriously,” he went on, “I did actually take a summer of Strasberg classes here in L.A. and I learned how to hold an imaginary cup of tea. I still have it. It's a sense memory now. It's hot! It's hot! I use it. I'll use that technique on you.”
Meanwhile, Adam Sandler whose exceedingly more adult “You Don't Mess With the Zohan” battles Black and the family “Panda” for comedy box office dollars this weekend, actually did base his film – and the eccentric Israeli super spy he portrays -- on some serious back history.
“When I was a kid you always heard about the Israeli army,” Sandler said in a separate press conference. “You always heard that they were this tiny little country, and everyone surrounding them wants them gone. Anytime someone comes after them, they take care of business.
“As a Jewish kid, you were proud of that. You were like 'All right! They are trying to take out the Jews and the Jews ain't gonna let it happen.' I just admired them.
“Then,” the superstar comic said, “I hung out with a lot of Israeli guys out here in California. I went to some Israeli weddings and I couldn't believe how insane it got. I don't know, I just had an Israeli guy that used to cut my hair, too. I just thought about how it would be if he dreamed of wanting to do something else but was embarrassed to share it with anybody.
“To me, my favorite stuff when we would talk about the movie (was that) I always pictured it like Charles Bronson in 'Death Wish' and that you are messing with the wrong guy.
“I always thought it was funny that it's a hairstylist, that someone would come in and make light of what he does and think that there is no possible way he could kick ass as much as he could.”
Back to Black: “I knew that Dustin Hoffman was in the movie and so I absolutely wanted to be method acting with my performance and not be out shown by the master himself. I would think about things, like when we were doing the scene talking about the Furious Five and how much I idolized them and was really excited that they were going to have a presentation of the Dragon Warrior.
“That’s when I would just substitute something like, 'What would I get that excited about? Oh, my God, Radiohead, my favorite band. My favorite rock and roll band is going to be playing at The Wiltern (Theater). I have to go see them. They're going to be adding a new member of the band. Maybe I could be in Radiohead!'
“Things of that nature, little 'what if' exercises is what we like to call them in the Strasberg Technique that I'm very good at,” Black concluded, now laughing out loud, the way he hopes kids react to his new film.
Ironically, Black and Sandler will trade audiences for their next movies. Sandler is still shooting the family-oriented “Bedtime Stories” for a Christmas Day release. Black already has the R-rated “Tropic Thunder” in the can for an Aug. 15 opening.
John M. Urbancich
**Read more articles by John Urbancich**