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In Bringing 'Goosebumps' To The Big Screen, Jack Black Gets His Creepy On


If you are or if you have ever been a kid, if you like to read and you like to creep yourself out, then you probably know the name R.L. Stine. He is the tremendously popular and prolific author of horror stories for kids. He's written hundreds of them. Now one of his most popular series, "Goosebumps," has been made into a movie. We will speak with R.L. Stine tomorrow. But first, we're going to talk with the person who stars as Stine in the "Goosebumps" film, none other than Jack Black. He's made his career as an affable goofball in hits like "School Of Rock, "Bernie" and as the voice of "Kung Fu Panda." But as Stine, he strikes a much more sinister tone.


DYLAN MINNETTE: (As Zach) Hi. Hey, we're just moving in.

JACK BLACK: (As R.L. Stine) You see that fence?

MINNETTE: (As Zach) Yeah.

BLACK: (As R.L. Stine) Stay on your side of it.

MARTIN: Jack Black, welcome to the program. Thanks for joining us.

BLACK: Thank you for having me, yes.

MARTIN: It seems like you always have fun. But was it fun to be a little creepy?

BLACK: This was a dream come true. I've always wanted to be a creepy character. One of my favorite performances of all time was Jack Nicholson in "The Shining." And I've always wished that I could play a character with that kind of dark side. And this was my opportunity to do that, you know, even though it's much less horrifying than "The Shining," obviously.

MARTIN: Yeah, let's hope.

BLACK: It's a kids monster movie, but he still had some of that villainous flavor that I longed for.

MARTIN: Why did you long for that? Why did you want to do that?

BLACK: Well, it's always fun to play the bad guy, you know? It's something that I haven't really had the opportunity to do. And the villain is always sort of the most interesting part of the movie - case-in-point, Darth Vader. What good is "Star Wars" without Darth Vader? Hannibal Lecter, can't take your eyes off him. He won the Oscar. He was only on screen for seven minutes.

MARTIN: Did you like to be scared as a kid?

BLACK: Yeah, I liked monster movies, and I still do. I'm a little bit obsessed with monsters. I like to draw them. My boys are the same. They love monsters and they like being scared, but not too scared. They always ask me - like, before we watch a movie, they'll say, wait, is there blood? So, you know, that's one of the things that they don't do. They don't want to see blood. But there's a thrill there, and kids need thrills and chills, too, you know? And when you get to a certain age, it's almost like a rite of passage. Yeah, I watched a monster movie and yeah, I'm not a baby anymore. I'm brave. I can - you know, there's sort of an empowering thing there.

MARTIN: A lot of people will see this movie who are of an age where they're not really sure who they are. You know, they're trying to figure out who they are, where they fit into things, and that's partly what it's about. And I just wonder how do you find the thing that is your thing? How did it work for you?

BLACK: Well, it kind of all came from playing, a sense of adventure, enjoying life. And I think the best thing to do is just to focus on what you want to do, what you like to do as opposed to who you want to be and who you wish you were. That doesn't ever really get you to anywhere interesting in my experience. And a lot of times, you can get sidetracked on going yeah, I want to be like that person, as opposed to, you know, just figuring out what's fun.

MARTIN: You know, there's a line in the film that kind of speaks to that I wanted to play. Your character, R.L. Stine, is talking about how he comes up with these ideas for these monsters. And I'll just play that short clip.


BLACK: (As R.L. Stine) When I was younger, I created my own friends - monsters, demons - to terrorize my neighborhood and all the kids that made fun of me. And they became real to me. And then one day, they actually became real. My monsters literally leapt off the page. As long as the books remain locked, we're safe. But when they open, well, you've just seen what happens.

MARTIN: It's kind of creepy (laughter).

BLACK: (Laughter) Yeah, very creepy. And you can hear that amazing music in the background. That's Danny Elfman, who really is the only composer that bridges that gap between comedy and scary, you know? If we didn't get Danny Elfman, we would have gotten someone pretending to be Danny Elfman 'cause he's the only one that does that really well - funny-scary.

MARTIN: You know, it's funny that you said that term funny-scary because I took my kids to see the screening in preparation for talking with you.

BLACK: Oh, yeah.

MARTIN: And my daughter said, it was funny and it was scary.

BLACK: Yeah.

MARTIN: It was funny-scary, you know, which is exactly what she said. So do you have a favorite monster in the film? There are lots of monsters.

BLACK: Yeah, there's over 40 monsters in the movie. But I think my favorite has got to be Slappy, the ventriloquist dummy. He's sort of the ringleader of all the characters.


BLACK: (As Slappy) All my friends in one place. I've never been so happy. I don't want this day to end. And it doesn't have to, as long as we get rid of Stine.

You know, he's the least intimidating in terms of his size. He's just a little doll. But he has that cruel intention behind the eyes, and it's his brilliance that makes him scary.

MARTIN: So we before we let you go, as I mentioned, we're going to speak with R.L. Stine tomorrow. And you spoke with him, right, in advance...

BLACK: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...Of working on the film.

BLACK: You have to.

MARTIN: Why do you have to?

BLACK: Well, you know, when you're working off of source material that's so popular, we had to have his blessing. We had to know that he liked the script, that he liked the direction we were going because if you make the movie and R.L. Stine says, I do not approve of this film, I do not like it, then, you know, there's no reason really to do the movie. You have to have him on board.

MARTIN: Did he influence how you played him?

BLACK: Yeah, no, he's not a sinister dude at all. He's a really sweet, fun guy to hang out with and a really great sense of humor. And I needed to play a darker version of him, and he was fine with that. He influenced us just in terms of - his advice was don't be too scary. You know, you can thrill, but don't traumatize. Remember there's a lot of kids in the audience for my books, so let's lean in to the comedy and have some fun with it. You know, so we took that to heart.

MARTIN: Jack Black stars as R.L. Stine in the new film "Goosebumps." It opened yesterday. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

BLACK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.