In “The D Train,” Jack Black plays Dan, a small town type desperate to convince the coolest guy in class, a small-time struggling actor played by James Marsden, to attend their 20-year high school reunion. But Dan winds up a little too into Marsden’s Oliver, and Oliver himself doesn’t find the advances unwelcome, at least when he’s drunk and high on pills. In reality Black and Marsden have their own reunion: in 1995, before either was known, they both appeared in the same episode of “Touched by an Angel.” Not that they have many memories of it, though that's probably for the best.
Did you two see each other since that episode?
James Marsden: No, we did our best to forget the experience. We both had to be reminded that we shared the screen together.
Jack Black: Is that reunion coming up for “Touched by an Angel”? That should be happening soon. Do they do reunions for episodes?
Marsden: They should.
This is a special kind of a buddy comedy. How did you develop your rapport?
Black: I’d like to think my rapport with James is a bit different than our onscreen rapport. The movie depends on a non-rapport, actually — an uncomfortable sycophantic situation. It wasn’t really important that we get chummy off-camera. But we did.
Marsden: I love that it was two guys who never hung out in high school. What would they have in common? What would they talk about? The connective tissue was this desperation for validation between the two of them. My character makes him relevant and important if he gets me back to the reunion, and he makes me feel relevant and important by praising him. It’s a shaky ground for a friendship but interesting for comedy purposes.
The film dwells on how even minimal fame can seem like mega-celebrity to people in small towns.
Marsden: I remember when reality shows started happening. One of my friends from high school was going off on how he met someone from some reality show. I guess nowadays they’re the real celebrities; reality stars are the people who are on the cover of every magazine now. I grew up thinking I wanted to be a news anchor, because they were celebrities. They were on TV every night or every morning. It’s amazing what putting someone on a television screen does to people. Even if you’re Bob Bodiddly selling Chevrolets, people act strange around and give you extra attention, just because someone points a camera at you.
What have your interactions with people you went to high school been like?
Marsden: There are two types to me. One is the people who are excited; “Wow, you did it, that’s so cool, really happy for you!” Then there’s the other that’s like, “I don’t know what the big deal is.” They’re overly put out by you. “I don’t even watch TV or movies. Who are you again?” Then you find out they’re the ones that know the most about what you’ve done.
Black: You ever get this one? “I gotta be honest, I’m not a fan. That’s the kind of guy I am. I always tell the truth and I’m not afraid to just be up front. I’m for real. I’m just going to stay here and be in your face for a while. So how’s everything else going? No, because we can be bros. In a way, we can be deeper bros than people who kiss your ass, right? Because you probably respect me more for that. Now we can be best friends.”