Oct 31, 2018
By Nicole Bitette
How a script for a friend turned into a cross-platform classic.
Do you picture kids in school uniforms behind giant instruments and Jack Black’s mischievous grin every time you hear the first few seconds of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”? If you do, you know the association is thanks to Mike White’s seminal classic School of Rock, which hit theaters 15 years ago this month.
White wrote the film to showcase Black’s comedic chops, in opposition to the predictable scripts that Hollywood was handing him—or the “boring frat-guy garbage” as Black described to The New York Times. At the time, the actor was best known for his role as the record store know-it-all from High Fidelity, while director Richard Linklater had earned indie fame for Dazed and Confused, Waking Life, and Before Sunset. (School of Rock remains Linklater’s top-grossing film ever, with an inflation-adjusted global box office of $180 million.)
The movie’s enduring appeal has a bit to do with this unorthodox collusion of talent, including an endearing cast of kid musicians. It’s also due to a storyline centered on the heartwarming trope of an adult goofball who finds meaning in teaching children. The film exceeded initial box office projections—and went on to become a Broadway show and a Nickelodeon television series—because of its sophisticated performances and unfettered humor. It revived the idea that a movie made for families should be just as emotionally layered, well-acted, and hilarious as a film for adults.
In honor of its anniversary, Viacom spoke to some of the stars, creators, and production executives who were part of the process.
"I'm reading these scripts and was I like, ‘I could do better than this.’"
John Goldwyn, former vice chairman of Paramount Pictures: It was a wonderful, wonderful script. It was funny and it had an interesting concept and at the center of it, it had this wildly funny guy, who at the beginning of it is a big hot mess and finds himself by the end—albeit faking his way—as a teacher. It was just as good an idea for a movie … Those three guys made this movie, I was just lucky to be around.
The kids of 'School of Rock' behind the scenes. Robert Tsai, Joey Gaydos, Jr., Miranda Cosgrove, Kevin Clark and Becca Brown.
Becca Brown, Angelo Massagli and Keivn Clark on the set of "School of Rock."
Becca Brown, Joey Gaydos Jr., Caitlin Hale, Kevin Clark, Aleisha Allen, and Robert Tsai dress up for fun during "School of Rock."
The Nickelodeon TV series, "School of Rock."
"School of Rock" on Broadway.