The child stars of School of Rock have revealed they were bullied after the film’s box office success.
Richard Linklater’s comedy, starring Jack Black as a struggling musician-turned-substitute teacher, became an unexpected hit upon its release in 2003, making $131m worldwide.
Joining Black in the film, which was written by and also starred The White Lotus creator Mike White, were a cast of unknown young stars, who were high-schoolers and middle-schoolers at the time.
However, instead of embracing the kids’ new-found fame, some of their fellow students at school reacted negatively to their classmates appearing in the film.
In a new 20th anniversary retrospective of School of Rock, some of these former child stars opened up about their experiences of being bullied in the wake of the film’s release while chatting with Rolling Stone.
Joey Gaydos Jr, who played lead guitarist Zack “Zack-Attack” Mooneyham, said going back to school was “rough” as he was seen as “a three-headed freak, basically”.
He told the outlet: “I came back with all this culture in my brain to a pretty one-horse town outside of Detroit. And I was looked at like a complete weirdo, and that was hard.”
Gaydos Jr said he even got physically assaulted by one person, stating: “I remember going to a football game in high school, and some older girl coming up and smacking me in the face because, ‘Look at that weird guy from the movie.’ People thought I had it all going on. I couldn’t believe it.”
Rivkah Reyes, who played bassist Katie, said that her treatment by other kids led to her “being really, really sick and really, really mentally unwell and using anything I could to feel nothing” for a decade after.
“But the last five years, I’ve been sober and re-navigating the film industry and comedy and writing and all of it,” she said. “It’s just so much easier when there’s not all that extra stuff in the way of me, my actual self.”
Veronica Afflerbach, who played “groupie” Eleni, said the kids in her school were “brutal” to her over her role in the film – so much so that she decided “I’m never doing this again” after returning home.
“My parents wanted to make an investment, so they bought me a house,” Afflerbach said, adding: “And kids said really horrible things. ‘What else did you do to make that much money? Because it’s not from just a couple lines in a movie. You’re an extra.’ But I wish that I had given myself a chance to see where else [acting] could have taken me.”
Reflecting on how different cast members had similarly challenging experiences after the film, Brian Falduto, who played the band’s fashion designer, said: “To have this experience where we were all made to feel special because of our differences was really cool, but then it also made it all the more difficult when we went back to school.”
Kevin Clark, who played the band’s frontman Freddy in the film, died in a road collision on 28 May 2021, aged 32.
Speaking to Entertainment Tonight in 2022, Black said his “best memories” of the film were “that group kids, and how funny and great they were”. He described the film as “the highlight of my career”.
To celebrate the film’s anniversary, Black announced he will reunite with his former cast members, who are now in their thirties.
He told the same outlet earlier this year: “All those kids – dig this – they were 10 years old when we made that movie and now they’re all, like, 30. We’re gonna get together and have a 20-year anniversary. We like to jam. I’m looking forward to seeing all of the grownups from School of Rock.”
The National Bullying Helpline website and helpline open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Visit https://www.nationalbullyinghelpline.co.uk/contact.html