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Jack Black's father is ... Meat Loaf? Only in the movies

Jeff Strickler
McClatchy Newspapers

Jack Black and Kyle Gass (right) star in New
Line Cinema's musical comedy
Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny.
(Zade Rosenthal/New Line Cinema)

For five years, Jack Black has been telling people he'd like to cast Meat Loaf as his father.

"He never told me that," Meat Loaf said. "But he told everyone else. So when he called and asked if I'd play his father, I had to say yes."

He felt so obligated to take the role that he didn't even ask to see a script for "Tenacious D in `The Pick of Destiny,'" which opens Wednesday.

"I just did it because I really like Jack," he said. "I knew it was going to be funny, and I knew it was going to be off the wall. I didn't need a script."

In a way, the role offered Black a chance to repay a favor. In 1999, the cable network VH1 commissioned a made-for-TV biopic about Meat Loaf's singing career. Black landed the starring gig, in part because Meat Loaf lobbied for him.

"He was the guy I had requested for the role from day one," Meat Loaf said. "He's an actor, but he understands singing. He gets music. He respects the integrity of the lyrics. But then the project got postponed, and his career took off. We couldn't afford him anymore."

In an it's-a-small-world ironies, one thing that catapulted Black to stardom was Tenacious D, a spoof rock `n' roll duo he created with fellow comic Kyle Gass as part of a stage improv show. While VH1 was trying to get the biopic project back on track, HBO approached Black and Gass about a weekly series based on Tenacious D.

The movie purportedly shows how the singers got together in the first place. It's a musical, which is another aspect that intrigued Meat Loaf.

"Jack never did send me the script, but he sent me the song I sing," he said. "That was all I needed. Everything I needed to know about my character was in that song."

It wasn't that he never tried to explore what Black had in mind for the character when he wrote the script. But they've both been very busy - Black starred earlier this year in "Nacho Libre" and Meat Loaf just released a new album, "Bat Out of Hell III" - and they couldn't find the time to get together.

"We came close once," Meat Loaf said. "He was in Las Vegas at the same time I was. He called and told me to come over. But he only had half an hour (of free time), and it took me half an hour to get there."

As it turned out, the song ended up taking on a life of its own.

"The song just sort of happened," he said. "I rehearsed it a couple of times at home. Then I went down to a studio. I thought I was just doing a demo, but when we got done, they said they liked it the way it was, so they kept it. That's the version that's in the movie. The whole thing ended up taking only 15 minutes."

The song comes in a flashback scene in which the father warns his son about the evil he believes is inherent in rock music.

"He's a control freak and a religious zealot," Meat Loaf said of the father. "That's the only guideline I needed for the character. I took it from there."

It's not the most flattering characterization, he admitted. He isn't worried about it having any effect on his image, but it could turn out to be a problem for someone else - namely, Black's real father.

"I asked Jack if his dad was really like this, and he said no," Meat Loaf recalled. "I said, "In that case, your dad is going to hate me forever.'"

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