Advertisement

‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ Star Jack Black on His Viral Britney Spears Cover and Singing With Danielle Brooks in ‘Minecraft’

Outside Los Angeles’ AMC Grove the afternoon of March 3, entertainment professionals and mall-goers alike were treated to a unique Hollywood spectacle as Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Ke Huy Quan, Kyle Gass and more showed off their best martial arts moves on the “Kung Fu Panda 4” red carpet. Tenacious D’s cover of “…Baby One More Time,” which recently went viral on social media and is featured in the film’s end credits, played as bandmates Black and Gass shot scenes for the song’s forthcoming music video.

On the carpet, Black explained to reporters how the cover and video shoot came to be: “The director Mike [Mitchell] said, ‘Hey, we’d love to have a Tenacious D song at the end, will you do a song?’ And I was like, ‘Can we do Britney Spears?’ and he was like, ‘Yes,’ and he said that he wanted to do ‘…Hit Me Baby One More Time’ because it’s kind of in the vein of kung fu…And then we’re like, ‘Hey, let’s do a music video on the red carpet.’ So that’s what we’re doing.”

More from Variety

The music video was not the only performance on the carpet. A spirited Chinese dragon dance set the tone for the bustling event, which celebrated the release of the fourth film in DreamWorks’ hugely successful franchise about a panda named Po with a passion for kung fu and dumplings.

Other cast members in attendance included Awkwafina, Ronny Chieng and James Hong. Chieng told Variety that his favorite memory from production was seeing his character design for the first time, which he doesn’t want to spoil, but calls “very unique.” “I actually asked them for a cel shade of the character because I loved it so much. And they told me that they don’t do cel shades anymore because everything’s 3D. So [directors] Mike and Stephanie drew one for me. So at home I’ve got a one-of-a-kind cel shade of the character.”

Meanwhile on the carpet, Black was undoubtedly channeling Po, the endearing panda he’s embodied since 2008. Dressed in a black and white suit resembling the fuzzy creature, he frequently executed his signature move throughout the premiere: a swift right kick delivered with distinct panache.

Co-director Stephanie Ma-Stine explained to Variety why she believes Po is such an enduring and beloved character: “Every obstacle that he faces, he faces with with an overwhelming positivity. Even if he gets knocked down on his feet, he’ll get right up again. And he dusts himself off and and he’s able to face the world with positivity and humor.”

She also detailed what it’s like working with Black, whom she calls “so smart and so worldly.” She said of his approach, “He’s always improvising, but the first thing he does is he makes sure that he understands what the sequences are, what the scene is about, what the entire movie is about, so that he knows where in his journey or character arc he is. So then, that way he can riff while staying true to the spirit of the script at the time.”

While certainly in full-on Po mode, Black took the time to confirm to Variety that he’ll indeed be singing with co-star Danielle Brooks in the upcoming “Minecraft” movie: “I love Danielle Brooks. I’ve been a fan of hers ever since I first saw her on ‘Orange Is the New Black’ and she’s just been killing it in her career,” he said. “And the fact that we’re working together on ‘Minecraft’ is mind blowing. And we’ve been having a ball in New Zealand, and I’m so proud of her going to the Oscars…I always tell her, ‘You’re the class of the cast’ and she’s crushing it and can’t wait for you to see the movie.”

After the carpet wound down, the stars took to the Grove’s “Kung Fu Panda 4”-themed trolley to ride the short distance to the AMC theater in style. Black, Quan, Cranston, Awkwafina and Hong stood at the helm of the trolley’s roof and waved to the crowd as the dragon dancers led the way with a percussion ensemble accompanying them.

Inside the theater, Black credited his classic kick as his only kick. “I don’t need to talk, I just do kicks,” he said. “So proud of the movie, so incredible working with you, Mike and Stephanie. You guys talk while I do kicks.”

While Po is tasked with finding his Dragon Warrior successor in the latest film, Ma-Stine promised Variety, “This is definitely not the end of Po’s story. Please look forward to more.”

It’s the year of the dragon, after all.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.