Spend a few minutes with Jack Black and James Marsden on the phone and it’s clear the “D Train” co-stars loved making their high school reunion-themed film (opening Friday). It was the first time the two of them had worked together since they both appeared in an episode of “Touched by an Angel” 15 years ago.
“That’s something I had totally forgotten,” Marsden said Wednesday.
“Me too,” added Black with a laugh. “I think it was forgotten accidentally … on purpose.”
Of course, we had to get the obvious out of the way immediately: Had either one attended any of their own high school reunions? That would be a big, fat “no” for Marsden, who claimed, “I always seemed to be somewhere else in the world working, making a film” when his reunions came up. That said, the actor’s voice betrayed a note that indicated he likely would not have gone back to Putnam City North High School in Oklahoma City — even if he had been stateside. “To be honest,” Marsden added, “I don’t really think of myself as a reunions kind of guy.”
As for Black, he did confirm he had attended at least one of his school’s reunions, but unlike the Dan Landsman character he portrays in the movie, he had nothing whatsoever to do with organizing those festivities. “I went. I went. I had a nice time. Saw some friends. It was fine,” said Black with that famous, sardonic tone he often has in his voice.
When I asked if being famous was something of a roadblock to enjoying a fun, relaxing time at a high school reunion — as classmates clamor for photos or Hollywood tales — Black came back with a quick retort.
“Hey! Just because you’re famous doesn’t mean everyone likes you. There can be a downside to that kind of thing, with some people thinking you’re stuck up, just because you’ve made some movies and have become well-known.
In “The D Train,” Black’s Dan Landsman becomes obsessed with getting his class’ most popular guy — Marsden’s Oliver Lawless — to come back to the 20th reunion at their suburban Pittsburgh high school. It all starts with him seeing Lawless in a Banana Boat suntan lotion TV commercial — not realizing that television spot was about the only thing the struggling actor had landed since going to Hollywood.
After concocting a wild, fictional story for his boss (played by Jeffrey Tambor), Dan does go to Hollywood and, after a series of over-the-top capers, succeeds in getting Lawless to indeed come back for the reunion. That makes Dan — who was always the nerdy wannabe outsider in high school, and still is! — a hero with his classmates on the reunion committee.
For both Black and Marsden, the film is really a dark comedy that showcases the dangers of pretending to be something one isn’t.
“Both Dan and Oliver are not being truthful to each other — or really to themselves — about who they are and what they’re up to,” said Marsden.
“It’s a lesson a lot of people really need to learn,” added Black before the duo hung up.