Hell-raising guitarist Dewey Finn (Jack Black) is anti-establishment to the hilt, irreverent to the max, and worships the power of rock and roll. With a penchant for stage-dives and 20-minute solos, Dewy is determined to lead his rock group to victory at the local Battle of the Bands… but his band mates fire him instead.
Down-and-out, Dewey picks up a phone call intended for his roommate Ned (Mike White), and impulsively accepts a job as a substitute teacher. While Dewey might not have a clue how to teach, he does know how to inspire confidence in his young fifth graders.
When he accidentally overhears them performing in an orchestra class, he decides to mould these young musical prodigies into a high-voltage rock band, which will change their lives forever.
While the casting was under way, music supervisor Randy Poster, who had worked with director Richard Linklater previously on “SubUrbia,” set out to build a musical team. The first thing he did was to bring in a ringleader for the kids -- Jim O’Rourke, who produces and plays with Sonic Youth.
“One of the great advantages of this movie is that we had 10 weeks where we basically put the kids in rock-and-roll boot camp,” says Poster. “In that way -- both before and during production -- the kids became very comfortable with their instruments and all aspects of the story.”
Jack Black was glad to see Jim O’Rourke on board to help his young costars prepare for their roles and truly have a good time during the entire filmmaking process.
“Jim is a great musician, a good producer, and he even has some albums out on his own,” observes Black. “He rehearsed with the kids till their chops were really up and their rock licks were nice and shimmy-shammied.”
O’Rourke, who in addition to performing with Sonic Youth has produced for the bands Stereolab and Wilco, explains that first he needed to find out what the kids could do before he knew exactly what areas each had to work on.
“I needed to find out what they were used to playing, what style they liked to play in and what their strengths and weaknesses were,” says O’Rourke. “After I gathered that information, it was my job to make it all blend.”
According to Craig Wedren, who composed the film’s instrumental score and jammed with the kids during numerous band rehearsals, the set truly turned into a music camp and a safe haven for the kids to just rock out. “It took me back to when I was 12 years old and in my first band,” recalls Wedren. “It was a time you could just wail on your guitar or bang on your drums and make great music with your friends, and that’s what happened on the set with these kids.”
Joey Gaydos Jr., the lead guitarist, remembers when they began rehearsals. “The first time we actually played together, we were real sloppy, you know, because it was our first time,” admits the 12-year-old. “But when we began really practicing, we started to sound pretty good.”
While some kids were already familiar with the style of music they were going to play in “School of Rock,” others were not. Twelve-year-old Robert Tsai, for example, who had been playing the piano since the age of five, was strictly a classical musician.
“ Robert didn’t really know anything about rock music, so when rehearsalsfirst began it was quite a mystery to him what we were doing,” remembersO’Rourke. “I’d put a piece of sheet music in front of him andhe’d play it, but always in a very classical style. In the end, though,he was jamming with the rest of us.”
Rebecca Brown got into the swing of things, too. A guitar player since the age of four, the 11-year-old not only learned how to play bass guitar for the film, but she also had her first introduction to the cello, which she plays in the Horace Green Elementary School orchestra.
“All the kids are extremely talented and they really worked together as a team” observes director Richard Linklater. “Their experience mirrors the experience of the kids in the story. They started out playing in a comfortable musical environment, then basically, we just tried to make it fun for them -- just like Dewey Finn did in the film.”
While the young band of “School of Rock” rehearsed, the filmmakers reached out to musicians and lyricists for the key songs. In the end, however, it was Jack Black and Mike White who wrote a lot of the songs, including several solos that are performed in the classroom.
“They’re not really songs so much as nuggets of songs,” explains Black. “I could stretch them out and turn them into songs. But they’re more like little comedy nuggets.”
Mike White adds, laughing, “We were trying to write lyrics, and I thought, What would AC/DC do? I don’t think I’ve ever been in a script meeting where I was thinking what would AC/DC do.”
The song, “The School of Rock,” which is performed by Black and the kids in concert at the finale of the film, was written by the New York band The Mooney Suzuki.
“They opened in New York for The Strokes and I met them afterwards,” remembers Black. “So I asked them if they’d be into writing a song for the movie, and they said they’d give it a crack. Mike White gave them some lyrics; they worked on them and eventually made a really good song out of it.”
“I was totally psyched because, at one time, my entire life revolved around a Battle of the Bands,” admits songwriter and lead vocalist for The Mooney Suzuki, Sammy James Jr. “In fact, I’m in a band right now because I wanted to be in a Battle of the Bands in high school. That’s probably why the song came pretty easily. I just sat down to write, and within an hour I made a little four-track demo in my apartment.”
No Vacancy, the band that dumps Dewey Finn at the start of the movie, is fronted by singer/actor Adam Pascal, who starred in the original Broadway production of “Rent” and currently stars in the Broadway production of “Aida.” Their first song was written by Warren Fitzgerald, who plays with a band called The Vandals in Los Angeles, and their second song, performed at the Battle of the Bands, entitled “Heal Me, I’m Heartsick,” was written by Craig Wedren. George Drakoulias was the music producer who worked with the artists in the recording studio.
Running Time: TBC
Release Date: February 6
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