The new movie Goosebumps is based on the series of children’s horror and supernatural novels by R.L. Stine, of which there are literally dozens. So instead of adapting just one of the stories, the filmmakers decided to use as many of Stine’s monsters as possible in a meta-movie in which Stine, played by Jack Black, keeps the forces of darkness at bay by keeping his original manuscripts safely locked away. But what happens if those books are accidentally opened?
The result is a madcap ride in which a trio of young heroes (played by Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush and Ryan Lee) confront just about every kind of creepy-crawly creature you could think of. Chief among them is Slappy, a ventriloquist’s dummy who plays a crucial role in creating the chaos that engulfs the kids and their town. At the recent press day for the movie, Screen Rant got to sit down with both Black and Slappy himself, and we did our best to get through the interview despite the clear tension evident between the two stars….
Jack, was there an equivalent to Goosebumps for you growing up?
Jack Black: You know, I loved monsters and I would watch tons of old monster movies, but yeah, I didn’t have Goosebumps when I was a kid. You know, I grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s before Goosebumps was popular. But I liked all those Edgar Allan Poe stories, I liked creepy stuff.
Did you have favorite monsters growing up, like the Universal monsters or anything like that?
Jack Black: Yeah, well. I loved Frankenstein and Dracula. The classics. King Kong, Godzilla. You name it, I loved all of those movies.
Slappy: I thought those were all good guys!
Jack Black: Oh, yeah…
Well, to your way of thinking, they might be, Slappy. Did any of them inspire you in any way? Do you look to any of the great classic monsters as a role model?
Slappy: Well, I am mostly inspired by myself and how great I am, but I’m sure they’re in there somewhere.
I like how humble you are. Jack, is it easy to work with someone who’s so modest about his own talents?
Jack Black: Let me tell you, we had a great time on the set. We only had a couple of instances of friction, but for the most part –
Slappy: He locked me in a trunk! I could hear him laughing!
Jack Black: There came a time when I had to put him away, yeah. He didn’t know the limits of what you can and can’t do on the set.
Slappy: You just wait.
Jack Black: But we were a pretty good team I’d say overall.
Well, Slappy, when you’re working with a big star like Jack Black, you have to know that you can’t overshadow him necessarily.
Slappy: Well, I say all that but I do look up to Jack. Of course, I look up to everyone because I’m three feet tall. But he’s an okay guy, I guess.
It’s very easy to just create things through CG. Was it better for you, Jack, to have the real Slappy on set all the time?
Jack Black: Yeah, ‘cause it’s tough looking at nothing and pretending there’s a thousand-foot-tall praying mantis or things like that. But Slappy’s a tremendous actor. We made some cinema magic, I’d say, when he wasn’t trying to kill me.
Exactly. Slappy, was it easy for you to work opposite the real Jack as opposed to a CG Jack?
Slappy: I would have preferred if he was CG, it would have made it a lot easier, but I guess it worked out all right.
Jack Black: Yeah, thanks a lot.
Slappy: There was a lot of green screen involved, I really couldn’t be on set with him that much.
Now, Slappy, there’s a great tradition of evil dolls in the movies – the movie Magic with Anthony Hopkins and some classic old Twilight Zone episodes. Did any of those shape your performance in this film?
Slappy: I was inspired by Chucky a little bit, I’d have to say. I tried calling him on the phone, he didn’t answer, but I tried reaching out to get some insight from him. I suppose if I had to have a role model other than myself, it would have to be Chucky.
Jack, you met the real R.L. Stine, but I read that he’s nothing like what you did on camera.
Jack Black: Yeah, the real R.L. Stine is a real sweet guy, he’s a brilliant writer, and he’s funny, he’s got a real good dark sense of humor. But yeah, I needed to make this R.L. Stine more sinister, a little darker, and so I didn’t imitate the real R.L. Stine. And he was cool with it, he loves the movie so that’s good.
Just to get a little serious for a moment, you’re a dad yourself, is it cool to have books like this or a movie like this where a kid can appreciate the scary stuff without it leaving them scarred for life like a Stephen King book might do?
Jack Black: Yeah, I mean, that was a big reason I made it. I’ve got a seven-and-nine-year-old at home and they love monsters and scary things, so I wanted to make this movie that was scary and funny, but for kids, you know. It doesn’t cross that line to where it’s terrifying. It’s just sort of, you know, thrilling.
Slappy, do you want to leave the kids scarred for life? Is that your goal?
Slappy: Yes, that’s my only reason for doing the movie!
Are you signed for sequels?
Slappy: Of course I am! I’m writing my own, actually.
I hope you have a role for Jack in it.
Slappy: (to Jack) I have 12 scripts, I’ll pass them along to you.
Jack Black: I’d like to take a look at that script before we begin shooting –
Slappy: I’m working on number 13 right now.
Guys, thank you very much.
Next: More Goosebumps Interviews Soon!
In Goosebumps, teenager Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette), upset about moving from a big city to a small town, finds a silver lining when he meets the beautiful girl, Hannah (Odeya Rush), living right next door, and makes a quick friend in Champ (Ryan Lee). But every silver lining has a cloud, and Zach’s comes when he learns that Hannah’s mysterious dad is in fact R.L. Stine (Jack Black), the author of the bestselling Goosebumps series. As Zach starts learning about the strange family next door, he soon discovers that Stine holds a dangerous secret: the creatures that his stories made famous are real, and Stine protects his readers by keeping them locked up in their books. When Stine’s creations are unintentionally released from their manuscripts, Zach’s life takes a turn for the weird. In a crazy night of adventure, it’s up to Zach, Hannah, Champ, and Stine to team up and get all of these figments of Stine’s imagination – including Slappy the Dummy, the girl with the haunted mask, the gnomes and many more – back in the books where they belong to save the town.
Goosebumps opens in theaters October 16, 2015.