Stick it to the man! 2003 was the year of the writer Mike WhiteCollaboration with Jack BlackDirector Richard LinklaterOn the musical comedy School of Rock. The movie was so popular that it was adapted into a Nickelodeon series, and a Tony-nominated musical. Andrew Lloyd Webber.
In the original movie, Dewey Finn (Black), a struggling singer, goes undercover to work as a substitute teacher at a local prep school to make some quick cash to pay his rent. He pretends to be Ned Schneebly (White), his former bandmate and best friend, and discovers that all his students have musical talent. He forms a band with the children, intending to enter a Battle of the Bands contest to win the cash prize.
White wrote the script after he had lived next to the author. Jumanji: Welcome into the Jungle Actor in Los Angeles looking to showcase his comedic chops.
“He was starting to get a lot of heat as an actor and he would occasionally give me scripts that had been submitted to him to star in,” White recalled to Viacom in October 2018. “They were invariably these flat comedies or he was, like, the John Belushi guy who gets drunk and falls through a sliding glass door or something. I’m reading these scripts and I was like, ‘I could do better than this.’”
The White Lotus creator continued, “Obviously, music is a big passion of [Black’s]; he has his band Tenacious D. I had the idea of him leading a band of little kids — somehow it just seemed like a funny visual. Then I had the idea of him being more W.C. Fields-like. [character] a little bit, like a guy who isn’t really somebody you’d want around kids, but that’s part of the fun of it.”
After the script was written, the creative team was confident Linklater could complete the project and turn it into a smash hit.
“It was a huge, different thing for me to come aboard,” the filmmaker explained in his Richard Linklater – Dream is Destiny documentary. “I was a color on his palette, someone had cast me as the right person to perhaps realize this thing that he thought had potential.”
The Boyhood Director was confident about casting children who were musicians, rather than actors.
“I began casting in New York in 2002. The casting process took seven months, which was unusually long. Everyone involved knew that finding the right young people, even if not professional actors, who also had musical gifts would require time, patience, and an intensive search,” casting director Ilene StargerViacom was recalled in 2018. “It didn’t matter if they had had prior acting experience; in fact, we wanted the film to have a freshness, re: unknown talent where possible.”
The film starred young stars. Miranda Cosgrove, Maryam Hassan, Robert Tsai, Joey Gaydos Jr., Rivkah ReyesKevin Clark, who was a precocious, musical fourth-grade student.
“It was so fun to see those kids as real performers,” White told Viacom at the time. “I think that obviously made the movie feel more authentic as far as the musical performances, but I think it also made it more authentic as far as the acting performances, too.”
Hassan, for her part, didn’t realize the gravity of the project until they were filming.
“Going into it, I had no idea,” the songwriter recalled to Vulture in January 2021. “It didn’t hit me until a month or so into filming the extent of what I was doing. I knew what the movie was about, but not enough to initially realize, ‘Oh, we’re the kids who will be part of Jack’s band.’”
Hassan, however, was convinced that the Holiday Star was more of a friend of the children than he was of them.
“Honestly, I think Jack was more blown away by us,” she added. “We were all young and had so many musical and vocal talents. He would often end a scene being like, ‘Wow, remind me how old you guys are! You can do all these things at your age! How?!’ He was always fascinated by our talents, and he enjoyed watching us work. He was a fan in that sense.”
Scroll down to see the complete list School of Rock cast has been up to since the movie’s debut: