School Of Rock was officially released 20 years ago
This week marks 20 years since the much-loved comedy classic School Of Rock first hit cinemas, meaning two decades have passed since Jack Black recruited a class of fourth graders to compete in a now-infamous “battle of the bands” competition.
School Of Rock tells the story of struggling rock musician Dewey Finn,who blags his way into a prep school as a substitute teacher to pay his rent.
When he quickly realises that the only subject he’s at all qualified to teach others about is rock ‘n’ roll, he hatches a plan to turn the school’s pre-teens into his own personal backing group, and ends up finding his purpose as their sweet and supportive rock mentor.
In the last 20 years, the film has gone on to become a modern classic, and even inspired its own West End musical. It also blessed us with some iconic quotes (“You’re tacky and I hate you!”), and moved audiences with its perfect balance of comedy, drama and heart.
To mark the 20th anniversary, we’ve dug out 20 things about School Of Rock that you probably never knew…
1. School Of Rock was written by Mike White, who also stars in it
Mike White and Sarah Silverman as seen in School Of Rock
Before Mike White wrote the hit Emmy-winning anthology series The White Lotus, he penned the script to School Of Rock and appeared opposite Jack Black as his overly generous roomate.
It’s Mike’s character’s identity that Dewey steals in order to land the substitute teacher job to pay his cut of the rent, posing as Ned Schneebly or “Mr S”, despite having no teaching qualifications.
2. Mike White was actually inspired to write School Of Rock by his experiences being neighbours with Jack Black
Jack Black and Mike White in 2011
Imagine what it might be like living next door to Jack Black. Well, it sounds like it’s pretty much exactly what you would expect, according to Mike, who was struck with the School Of Rock idea after living in close quarters with the actor and musician.
“Jack was my next-door neighbour for a few years. 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,” Mike explained to Paramount. He decided he could do a better job, and was inspired to write School Of Rock.
He said: “I just remember how funny it was living with Jack at the time in New York. It felt like he was bringing the comedy home.
“I remember fire alarms going off and him in his underwear trying to turn off fire alarms and bringing home Christmas trees and pine needles exploding all over the house. I felt like I was living in a Jack Black movie, literally, both at work and at home. It was a lot of fun.”
3. Director Richard Linklater almost passed on School Of Rock
Richard Linklater with School Of Rock stars Mike White, Miranda Cosgrove and Jack Black in 2013
It’s not uncommon for directors to have their initial reservations when looking at a movie on paper, but director Richard Linklater had some strong opinions on the script at first glance.
“It was cheesy; there was a formulaic quality to it,” he recently toldRolling Stone.
“Then I got a call from my agent. She’s like, [producer Scott Rudin] is not accepting your pass.’ I’m like, ‘Well, then, let’s talk.’”
Richard added: “He was basically grilling me on what I responded to and what I didn’t respond to, and he was agreeing with a lot of what I was saying. I had to know for sure that I could wade into this studio situation and feel good. Creatively, I had to feel like it was going to be my movie.”
4. Jack Black still considers School Of Rock to be the pinnacle of his career
Jack Black as Dewey Finn/Mr S in School Of Rock
There’s nothing better than when a star looks back at a performance with the same nostalgia and admiration as fans, and the cultural impact of School Of Rock isn’t lost on Jack Black.
“My best memories are just that group of kids, and how funny and great they were. It’s definitely the highlight of my career, I can say that. Honestly,” he told Entertainment Tonight.
5. Yes, all the kids in School Of Rock really did play their instruments
The young stars of School Of Rock as seen in the film
Director Richard Linklator was insistent that the young cast of School Of Rock should be musicians first and foremost, which required an epic nationwide casting search across the United States.
Casting director Ilene Starger explained in Paramount’s oral history of the film that School Of Rock had an “unusually long casting” process of seven months, recalling: “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.
“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.”
6. And after those seven months were over, Richard Linklator had to replace one of the kids just one week in
Richard Linklator on the set of School Of Rock
“I shouldn’t even be saying all this publicly,” Richard Linklator said during a different “oral history” of the film with Rolling Stone. “It was in rehearsals. There was a kid who wasn’t with the program, so there were tough decisions to be made. I think he wanted a bigger part.”
The crew remembered the actor’s “unprofessional” behaviour, which included “counting lines and creating a culture of competition”.
“I always tell people: “Hey, don’t fuck with me, I fired a kid on School Of Rock,” the director joked.
7. The child stars’ parents were initially a little worried that Jack Black might be a bad influence
Jack Black with co-stars Maryam Hussan and Cuitlin Hale
Jack Black may be an actor brimming with comedic charisma, but parents were a little worried about how his larger than life persona might influence their young kids.
“The thing about Jack was, we all came into it, especially with our mums, as being 10-year-olds with our parents being kind of terrified,” recalled Jordan-Claire Green, who played Michelle.
“Because, you know, you see him in things like Orange County and Tenacious D, and he’s just so wild and out of control, and I think my mum was just terrified that he was gonna be a terrible influence on me.”
8. But he was actually amazing with the kids in the film
On the contrary, Jordan said Jack was “amazing” behind the scenes and would be a regular presence on set.
Miranda Cosgrove, who played the precocious Summer Hathaway, also said Jack was “the best” and would play games with the young members of the cast.
9. Apparently the real mums of the kids could have been worthy of their own reality show
In the last 20 years, School Of Rock has become known as a modern-day comedy classic
The parents of all the child actors were apparently having plenty of fun behind the scenes while their kids were hard at work on set.
Cinematographer Rogier Stoffers recently told Rolling Stone that the “biggest missed opportunity was the reality show movie about the mums”.
Costumer Joseph La Corte recalled a particularly wild night out with all the mothers, who “for the most part, were very quiet and religious and what have you”.
He took them to the New York drag bar Lips, which ended with some of the mums “on all fours on their chairs and drag queens were spanking them”, while others were “on top of the hood of a car smoking a joint” and “dry-humping a tree”.
“The next morning, we had a rehearsal for the Battle of the Bands in Staten Island. Everyone had sunglasses,” recalled the cinematographer.
10. Unfortunately, some of the child stars had a tough time returning to school after the film’s release
Joey Gaydos Jr and Rebecca Brown in School Of Rock
Acting in School Of Rock was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for much of the young cast, but not all of their school peers saw it the same way.
Joey Gaydos Jr., who played the guitar-wielding Zack Mooneyham in the film, said he was looked at like “a three-headed freak” when he returned to his hometown in Detroit.
“I was looked at like a complete weirdo, and that was hard,” he shared with Rolling Stone. “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.”
11. Dewey Finn’s stage dives were inspired by an unfortunate real-life incident
Dewey takes two very different stage dives in School Of Rock
Jack Black performs two memorable stage dives in the film – one successfully, the other…not so much.
It turns out that the former – in which Dewey launches himself off the stage and falls flat on his face, topless – was inspired by English rock band The Cult, after Jack saw lead singer Ian Astbury experience a similar mishap at LA’s Viper Room, according to an interview with Indie London (as reported byScreen Rant).
12. Dewey’s conversation with teen keyboard player Lawrence was also inspired by something that really happened
In one scene, the sweet and timid keyboardist Lawrence approaches Dewey to ask to be taken out of the band, telling him he doesn’t feel “cool enough”.
This was apparently inspiredby a real conversation young actor Robert Tsai had with director Richard Linklater, after he tried to talk the filmmaker into letting him leave the project because he didn’t feel right for the role. The director explained that his insecurity was what made him perfect to play “Mr Cool”.
13. Another of the film’s child actors went on to be a Nickelodeon star
Miranda Cosgrove in 2023
Fans of the film will remember band manager Summer Hathaway, who was played by Miranda Cosgrove.
When Miranda joined the film, her sole acting credit was a brief appearance in the TV series Smallville, but she went on to become known for her roles as the mischievous Megan in Nickelodeon’s Drake and Josh before going on to star in iCarly.
She also voices Margo in the Despicable Me film series, and recently joined her co-stars in a revival of iCarly
14. It’s hard to imagine anyone else as Summer, but Jack Black actually questioned if she was right for the role at first
“When I first met her, I was like, ‘Are you sure she should be the manager? She seems a little shy,’” Jack Black said of his co-star to Rolling Stone. “Linklater was like, ‘Nah. She’s got something that’s very special.’ He called it.”
“It was my first time on a movie set. But after three days with Jack, I was completely not nervous anymore,” Cosgrove said.
15. There was one aspect of playing Summer that Miranda found especially difficult
Ironically, Miranda Cosgrove had to unlearn everything she knew about singing for School Of Rock.
“When I was younger, I had singing lessons with this older lady who taught me all those Broadway show tunes, and then I had to go in with this rocker guy who was trying to help me learn how to sing as bad as possible,” she told BuzzFeed.
“It was the dead opposite of what I was used to. We sang the song Memory back and forth to each other for, like, an hour just trying to see who could do it worse, it was so fun and freeing!”
16. Several actors auditioned to be Summer, who was originally meant to be an aspiring singer
The cast and crew of School Of Rock recalled a lot of children auditioning for the role of summer, who was initially written as a blonde, Britney Spears-type aspiring pop star.
Summer was eventually rewritten as an overachievning, conscientious student who turns down her initial assigned post as a “groupie” before gladly stepping into the role of manager.
17. Jack Black found School Of Rock’s anthemic final song at the last minute
Jack Black on stage during School Of Rock's climactic final sequence
Jack Black was tasked with coming up with the final song for the climactic battle of the bands concert. When he was suffering from writers’ block, he went to watch a Strokes concert, and caught the opening band The Mooney Suzuki who were “so funny and hard rockin’”, as he told GQ.
“I was like, ‘God, I wish I could write a song like that, that would be perfect for the end of the movie.’”
The Tenacious D star ended up going backstage to ask them for their help writing the track. And the next day he received a rough cut of the song, quickly declaring they “had the end of [their] movie.”
18. The film only got permission to use Led Zeppelin’s music after Jack Black begged them personally
Jack Black picketing with SAG-AFTRA and WGA members in July 2023
In an interview withGQ, Jack Black recalled director Richard Linklator failing to get Led Zeppelin’s music in the 1993 film Dazed And Confused, which prompted him to ask Jack to literally beg them to be able to use the iconic Immigrant Song.
“So I did, I begged them on video, with a huge audience of extras in the movie theatre that we were shooting in,” he explained. “And they all chanted with me, ‘Led Zeppelin, please bless us with your love’. I don’t remember what I said, it was ridiculous and off the top of my head.”
Thankfully, it worked. Jack said it himself – “it’s one of the best parts of the movie”.
19. Jack Black has repeatedly said he’s onboard with the idea of a sequel…
Jack Black jamming with his School Of Rock co-stars
Just like every classic movie, there have been rumours for years about a potential Rock School 2, which Jack Black himself has previously expressed enthusiasm about.
“I would love to do a School of Rock sequel,” Jack told Digital Spy in 2016.
“The thing is, I don’t want to do anything that doesn’t have the original creative team behind it, and it just so happens that I’ve worked with people who are real originals. And they don’t want to go back from whence they came, they want to go on to the next thing. I think that’s the true creative spirit – and it’s a ‘not really a sequel’ one.”
20 …But while that doesn’t sound likely, he has confirmed a cast reunion
The cast of School Of Rock will be getting together to mark the film's 20th anniversary
While we may not be getting a sequel just yet, Jack Black did confirm a School Of Rock reunion 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,” Black told Entertainment Tonight in an interview back in April. “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.”
He also promised to share videos and photos when the reunion does finally happen.