Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Jack Black's latest film, "Be Kind Rewind," gave him a chance to sing.<BR>

Some comedians play it straight during interviews.

Jack Black imitates the French accent of director Michel Gondry, breaks into a goofy "Ghostbusters" song and generally faces another 10-minute phone call on the publicity treadmill with good humor.

In "Be Kind Rewind," Black is a hapless New Jerseyite who tries to sabotage a power plant but ends up magnetized — and unwittingly erases all the videotapes in a neighborhood store.

He and a pal (Mos Def) have to re-create movies such as "Ghostbusters," "RoboCop" and "King Kong," which coincidentally starred Black in 2005. "Michel always loved 'King Kong"' and had it in the script before Black signed on.

"I was trying to get a movie going with him because I was such a big fan. Right before I went to make 'King Kong,' he said, 'Make sure to tell (director) Peter Jackson to make the fur on King Kong's legs blow in the wind,' and I thought that was such a weird thing, that he was obsessed with King Kong's leg fur," the actor said with deadpan humor, from Los Angeles.

"That's what Michel's all about, the little details, the magic of the animation."

Gondry's brain, much like those belonging to his characters in "The Science of Sleep" or "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," seems wired differently from those of fellow directors.

"He's like 60 percent filmmaker, 40 percent crazy scientist-inventor. All the props and costumes have his fingerprints on them. He's like a problem-solver figuring out how to do things in cheap and funny ways."

Take the "Be Kind" version of RoboCop.

"One of the coolest things about RoboCop, his gun comes out of a slot on his leg and then just immediately when he's done with the gun it goes back in his leg holster and it goes in and it disappears behind a sheet of metal in his leg.

"And the way he did that really cheaply ... was just have a toaster oven strapped to my leg, which was a bumper from a Volkswagen or something, and then when the toaster oven pops, out comes the little toy gun. OK, that doesn't sound like a brilliant invention now, but when you see the movie. ..."

The movie's characters call their practice of re-creating something from scratch using everyday materials "Sweding." Black may be part of Tenacious D, but no musicals are "Sweded."

"The idea was that these guys were not born natural performers. They were, like, a junkyard dude and a video-store rental guy thrust into the spotlight because of these circumstances, and if all of a sudden we were busting out really professional-quality musical performances, it might have taken you out of the movie a little bit." But then he added, "I did get to sing when I sang my new 'Ghostbusters' theme," and then he did it over the phone.

Black, who made his movie debut in "Bob Roberts," doesn't like to watch himself on-screen.

"I go when there's a premiere and I have to. I'm a little uncomfortable watching myself in front of other people, which is weird because I love to make people laugh, but it's just too stressful, and I'm very critical of myself when I see myself. I prefer to leave and let the magic take care of itself."