Starring Jack Black as a fictional version of Stine — one of the bestselling children's authors in history — Goosebumps gives Black a chance to amuse a younger audience like he did in 2003's School of Rock.
"I am no stranger to entertaining kids," Black, who is also heard but not seen as Po in the Kung Fu Panda films, tells Bio. "I have been doing that for almost a decade now. I think it is just because I have a lot of childish qualities myself. I am still a big man-child so I relate to what kids think is funny."
What was a change of pace, according to Black, who most recently starred in the R-rated The D Train, was the fact that he wasn't playing a lovable character — a "squishy, loser hero" — but rather a dark, brooding genius.
In order to capture the genius that is the faux Stine, Black, who admits he is no Daniel Day-Lewis, turned to another on-screen genius for inspiration: Orson Welles.
"I wanted to give [my Stine] a little extra gravitas," says Black. "I couldn't just be good, old Jables playing the genius writer, so I wanted to do someone who was considered a genius and maybe had a dark secret. It seemed like Orson Welles filled the bill. So I literally watched Citizen Kane 40 times and then went to the set. That was my preparation."
And, according to Black, the real Stine was okay with that. While he wasn't involved in the writing of the movie, director Rob Letterman and Black met with him prior to filming and asked him for notes on the script and his blessing.
"He loved the script," Black says. "He didn't mind that I was doing a much different characterization of him. He has got a great sense of humor, so he was fine with the fact that I was portraying him as this anti-social grouch. He understands drama. The necessity for liberties to be taken."
The story behind Goosebumps is the idea that all of the characters that Stine has created for his novels exist in real life and are trapped inside the manuscripts. When those books are opened, out come the monsters, and the rest of the movie is Stine, his daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush), their next-door neighbor Zach (Dylan Minette) and his buddy Champ (Ryan Lee) trying to capture all of the monsters and get them back into the books before they destroy the entire town. And along the way, Hannah and Zach fall for each other.
"It is the love story between Dylan and Odeya that is the heart of the piece," Black says. "It is the emotional center of the movie. There are tons of monsters that are super exciting, but those two are the engine that make the movie go. You get emotionally attached to that storyline. You root for them — and may even shed a tear."
Goosebumps, which is a blood-free scary movie, even got the seal of approval from Black's kids — Thomas, 7, and Samuel, 9 — who saw it at a screening at their school.
"My boys love monsters," he says. "They are obsessed with all kinds of creatures. They draw monsters and they have all kind of scary apps on their iPads, so I knew they would dig this movie, and sure enough, they love it."
Directed by Rob Letterman from a screenplay by Darren Lemke, Goosebumps is being released on Friday, October 16 to capture the Halloween crowd, albeit the younger audience who can't get into the R-rated movies, and for grownups who need a little comedy with their scares.
In honor of the holiday, we asked Black and the rest of the Goosebumps' cast what gives them real-life goose bumps:
Jack Black: My thing that gives me goose bumps sometimes is the size of the universe. Also, the survival of the human species when I think of the inevitable death of every human being. It would be sweet if we could live all the way to infinity, but we are going to have to build a Death Star because the sun, at some point, is going to engulf the planet. That is probably not for a billion years. We'd be lucky if we make it that long. We need to build about a million Death Stars and spread them all over the galaxy. I will leave it at that.
Slappy the Dummy: Termites.
Dylan Minette: For me, it's the idea of someone being in your house at night that shouldn't be there.
Odeya Rush: This might be stupid, but when I was younger I used to be afraid of escalators. Going down, I always thought, the step going into the floor, I don't know why, but I was going to slide in or something.
Ryan Lee: For me, it's spiders and ghosts. Earlier, I decided if those things were combined, it would be the most terrifying thing.
'Goosebumps' premieres this Friday, October 16th.