Jack Black’s face has been present in movies since the early ‘90s. What was his first?
Jack Black’s first role in a feature-length film was as Jose Augusto Rafael “Augie” de la Parra, in Airborne. The film premiered in 1993 with generally poor reviews. It centers around a surfer’s difficulty fitting in at a roller-skating high school. Airborne holds a 21% approval rating on the aggregate review website Rotten Tomatoes.
Keep reading to find out more about Jack Black’s film debut.
Jack Black Early Roles
In 1982, aged 13, Jack Black got his first acting job—a commercial for the video game Pitfall!
Take a look a fresh-faced Jack Black advertising this retro video game:
After Black’s first taste in acting, he had several small roles in television, including Northern Exposure, The Golden Palace, Life Goes On, Mr. Show, Picket Fences, and The X-Files.
Black’s first movie role was Jose Augusto Rafael “Augie” de la Parra, in Airborne (1993). His role is a minor role, as one of the students in a Cincinnati high school.
He, along with other students, bullies a new arrival from California due to his love of surfing and inability to roller skate.
The film was received poorly at the time. The consensus on review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes, reads: “Airborne skates downhill with a threadbare story, flat characters, and wince-inducing dialogue.”
Chris Willman of the Los Angeles Times, however, praised the production team and cinematographer for the film’s “surprising natural light look.”
He also commended the composer for providing a “well above average rock score,” and determined the skating scenes to be “inherently cinematic.”
Less positively, the same reviewer also deemed that, “Off the skates, it’s at best mediocre Nickelodeon fare. The first major filmic celebration of inline skating and holy Rollerbladers, Airborne is hell on wheels and itchy limbo off.”
He continued, “The occasional action scenes are as appropriately tortuous as the tired teen out of water plot is torturous. This is a kid flick that’s speed skating on one leg.”
Stephen Holden of The New York Times, commented: “a modest attempt to take a familiar genre, the surf movie, and spin it into a new subgenre, the Rollerblades film.”
Despite the scathing reviews, in recent years the film has achieved cult classic status, helped by the now-famous cast members Jack Black and Seth Green. In addition, Stewart Copeland, the drummer for rock band “The Police,” wrote the music.
News site “Argus Leader” describes the movie as “the best movie from Cincinnati that you’ve never seen.”
On the 25th anniversary of the film’s release, Northside Yacht Club in Cincinnati hosted a screening of Airborne to excited fans.
Shane McDermott, who played the lead role of Mitchell Goosen in the film, has given up acting and is now a painter and realtor. He talked to SlashFilm.com about how the movie went from flop to cult favorite.
“I think it was the time when Airborne was just playing on HBO and on different channels. It would just be repeated and repeated and so many people just enjoyed the film,” he said.
“And then it kind of became this cult classic. Which is great. If you want to be known for something, Mitchell Goosen [his character] is the right way to do it,” he continued.
After making his film debut, Jack Black had a series of other small roles in films including Demolition Man, Waterworld, The Fan, The Cable Guy, Mars Attacks!, Dead Man Walking, The Jackal, Crossworlds, Enemy of the State, among others.
It wasn’t until the year 2000 that Black had his breakout, leading role in High Fidelity, in which he plays a record store employee with an encyclopedic knowledge of music.