‘God of Rock, Thank You for This Chance to Kick Ass’: 20 Trivia Tidbits About ‘School of Rock’ on Its 20th Anniversary
Twenty years ago, Jack Black taught us how to rock. Well, he taught a class of nerdy prep-school kids how to rock, which is almost as good. School of Rock was a critical and pop-culture phenomenon that’s still Black’s best-reviewed lead role and found second and third lives as a stage play and a TV series.
Still, nothing beats the original, and to celebrate the movie’s 20th anniversary, here are 20 tidbits to rock out to…
It Was Written for Black
Screenwriter Mike White said he came up with the idea for School of Rock because he specifically was looking to develop a movie for his friend and neighbor Black. “I’d been living next door to Jack Black for three years, and I’d seen him with High Fidelity, and he blew up and started becoming a headliner for movies. I just thought, as funny as he’s been in some of the movies he’s made, I didn’t think there had been the perfect vehicle to capitalize on his brand of charm and charisma,” White explained.
Inspired by Real Life
White was also inspired by The Langley Schools Music Project, a cult album from the 1970s where a teacher teaches grade school kids classic rock songs.
Black on Making a ‘Kids’ Movie
Black said in 2003, “It’s kind of a drag that ‘kid’s movie’ automatically equals ‘crap’ these days. It’s because people are extra careful around kids now, and they talk down to kids. But I loved the old movies like The Bad News Bears or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. There’s a stigma with kids’ movies, but I was excited by the challenge to actually make one that would be funny.”
The Birth of Rock
Black’s interest in becoming a musician emerged in high school via his time in chorus and musical theater. He even played the lead in Pippin.
Thank You, Kyle Gass
Black’s Tenacious D partner, Kyle Gass, taught him how to play guitar in exchange for fast food.
An Extensive Casting Process for the Kids
Director Richard Linklater auditioned thousands of kids from across the country, searching for children with actual musical skills.
Legit Rock Musicians Helped Teach the Kids
Alt-rockers Craig Wedren and Jim O’Rourke, from the bands Shudder to Think and Sonic Youth, respectively, helped train the kids in rock music.
Linklater Gets on Board
Black and White were uncertain when Linklater was first suggested for director, fearing he was too much of an “art house” filmmaker. Linklater also had doubts and initially passed, but producer Scott Rudin persisted and eventually changed his mind.
Linklater’s Daughter Deserves Some Credit
Linklater’s daughter was the same age as the kids in School of Rock. The director has said that he would have been a poor fit for the job had that not been the case.
‘School of Rock’s Originals
All of the original music in the film was written or co-written by Black.
The Title Song
Black was struggling to write the movie’s title track until he went to a Strokes concert. The opening band was The Mooney Suzuki, who Black loved. After the show, he went backstage, told them about School of Rock, and asked if they’d like to write a song for the film. They sent Black a rough cut of the track the next day.
The Kids Could Improv
Linklater is famous for letting actors improvise and continued that trend with his cast of kids. “It’s rare to have a director that trusts you as an 11-year-old to make decisions as a performer,” said Aleisha Allen, who played Alicia.
One Kid Got Canned
While they were not mentioned by name, a recent Rolling Stone oral history revealed that one child was let go during filming. Linklater said, “It was in rehearsals. There was a kid who wasn’t with the program, so there were tough decisions to be made. I think he wanted a bigger part.” Veronica Afflerbach, who played Eleni, said, “The kid was counting lines and creating a culture of competition. We never counted lines.”
The Editor Was Nervous About Black
Editor Sandra Adair was initially concerned about editing a Jack Black performance, explaining, “I had never worked on a film that Jack Black was in, and I didn’t really know much about him. I thought, ‘Uh-oh, we’re going to have so many takes of things he’s doing at the spur of the moment.’ That happens sometimes when an actor is doing ad-libs in their takes, and then the other actors aren’t doing that. They don’t cut together. You can’t use it. But that was absolutely not the case. He was so disciplined. He could deliver 21 takes over and over and over, and each one has a different twinkle in the eye or a different intonation. He nailed it every single time.”
Black Begged Led Zeppelin for ‘The Immigrant Song’
Getting music rights from Led Zeppelin is notoriously difficult, so Linklater made a video of Black begging for it. Black said, “It was Rick’s idea. He was like, ‘Man, you’ve got to get this song.’ We recorded that scene with the Zeppelin song and an Aerosmith song and something else, but the Zeppelin was the only one that really infused the scene with that high-voltage rock energy that we wanted. It’s kind of like the high point of the movie, where the kids have this kick-ass victory to be entered into the battle of the bands. Linklater said, ‘Let’s film you in front of 1,000 extras, and you just make your case for why Zeppelin should give us the song.’ I just sort of improvised a little crowd participation/grovel session with the crowd on the set that day, and by God, it worked! We sent it along with some clips from the film, and they allowed us to pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars for the song.”
Black shared that some of the kids were already into classic rock: “(Drummer) Kevin Clark was deep into Metallica already, and Joey Gaydos, the lead guitarist, has kind of an encyclopedic knowledge of rock. The rest of them had to be schooled a little bit.”
Back in the Saddle Again
In 2013, a 10-year reunion concert was held at the Austin Film Society with White, Black, Linklater and all the kids from the movie taking part.
Back to School?
In 2017, White was asked about a potential sequel. He said, “It would be awesome to do a School of Rock sequel. It’s just hard — we’ve got to get the band back together. Maybe one day.”
The ‘Highlight’ of Black’s Career
Last year, when asked about the then-approaching 20th anniversary, Black said, “My best memories are that group of kids and how funny and great they were. It’s definitely the highlight of my career. I can say that honestly.”