November 29, 2005 | 11:46 a.m. ET

You don't know Jack (Deborah Trueman, Dateline producer)

One of the best things about doing celebrity interviews, besides meeting people you often admire, is finding out things you didn't know about them before.

My latest assignment was to produce a piece with Stone Phillips on Jack Black, who is one of the stars of the upcoming film "King Kong."

JACK BLACK IN SCENE FROM NEW FILM SCHOOL OF ROCK
Paramount Pictures via Reuters
Actor Jack Black portrays a down and out rock star Dewey Finn who gets fired from his band and who faces a mountain of debts and depression in a scene in the film "School of Rock."

I had only known him as the funny guy who made me laugh out loud in films like "High Fidelity" and "School of Rock." But after digging through the research I found out there's a lot more to Jack Black than meets the eye.

So in that vein, I now present Five Things You Probably Didn't Know About Jack Black:

  1. He made his first television commercial at age 13 (and still remembers his lines!)
  2. His parents were both rocket scientists. Yes, you read that right.
  3. He started out as a serious dramatic actor and even had a part in "Dead Man Walking."
  4. He has a whole other career as part of "Tenacious D," a faux heavy metal rock group. He sings, plays guitar and also writes music. In fact, Black composed a special song for Stone Phillips which he surprised us with during the interview. You don't want to miss that.
  5. He has fulfilled a career dream by working with director Peter Jackson, who says that Jack Black is the only one he knows who can steal a scene from a 25 foot ape.

You'll be able to find out a lot more about Jack Black, and "King Kong", when Stone Phillips interviews both the actor and director Peter Jackson, this Friday on a special Dateline at 10 p.m.

Here's more from Stone on the interview, which we filmed in Mexico:

More video:Click here to watch "'King Kong' Video Diary: Day 46" courtesy of Newsweek and kongisking.net. Jack Black is in a tizzy over a report that he is only 5 feet 4 inches.

And click here to watch the "King Kong" trailer.

E-mail Dateline@MSNBC.com.

November 18, 2005 | 1:23 p.m. ET

Disturbing tapes, unanswered questions (Hoda Kotb, Dateline correspondent)

Imagine a world without John Lennon. Until the night of December 8th, 1980, millions of his fans simply couldn’t. It was on that date, as he returned to his home in New York City, that John Lennon was shot and killed— 25 years ago, next month.

What was known immediately was the identity of the killer: Mark David Chapman. But what is still a mystery is "Why did he do it?"

Chapman sat down in prison and recorded more than 100 hours of audio tapes, and those tapes are very disturbing. He sounds so calm, so measured, so matter of fact—all the while he is plotting one of most notorious murders of the century. 

The rare prison tapes were obtained by Dateline NBC, and Chapman reveals his powerful obsession with killing the pop icon. But what drove a former Beatles fan— a shy, religious loner— to commit murder? “Dateline” tracked down one of the last people to talk with him before he pulled the trigger.

Jude Stein met Mark Chapman camped outside Lennon’s apartment building in New York. “He was a man but he had a boyishness about him,” she told me when I interviewed her.

On Dec. 8, 1980, Stein was a groupie waiting for a glimpse of her idol. Mark Chapman was waiting to kill him.

Stein described Chapman as "absolutely calm, controlled, friendly and polite." She adds that she wouldn’t have known that he had a gun in his pocket. “Not in a million years,” she says.

But Chapman did have a gun that he loaded just that morning in his hotel room. He practiced his aim in the bathroom mirror.

By late afternoon, with no sign of Lennon, Stein says she called it quits. But she says she will never forget Chapman’s last words to her: “He said to me, ‘I plan to stay as long as it takes.’ We thought you know he was referring to getting his autograph, not referring to what he was intending to do.”

Mark Chapman is still in prison. He didn’t use the insanity defense. He said he wasn’t crazy. He plead guilty to second degree murder. Chapman has already served his minimum, 20 years. Since then, he’s been denied parole three times. Many of Lennon’s family, friends, and fans say the killer deserves no sympathy, no attention, not even a second thought.

According to reporter Jack Jones, Chapman is concerned about notoriety too, but for a very different reason— he’s now worried that broadcasting the audio tapes he recorded in prison will hurt his chances before a parole board. Chapman’s next parole hearing is scheduled for 2006.

Check out Dateline's special online section, which includes fan memories of Lennon.

E-mail Dateline@MSNBC.com

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