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In the upcoming comedy The D Train unpopular Dan (Jack Black) hopes to become the hero of his high school reunion by bringing back popular classmate Oliver (James Marsden), an actor starring in a Banana Boat sunscreen commercial that Dan stumbles upon late one night.
Given the central role of the ad to the movie, The Hollywood Reporter asked Black, Marsden and co-star Kathryn Hahn if they could recall memorable commercials from earlier in their careers. While Black remembered starring in a video game commercial that was his first acting gig, and got him his SAG card, Marsden and Hahn revealed that even though both have been acting for years, there aren’t any memorable or embarrassing ads in their past — because they were never cast in any.
In fact, Hahn said she was “fired from [her] commercial agent” because she wouldn’t stay for auditions.
“It feels horrible. You don’t want it, and [then] you don’t get it and it’s like a rejection like, ‘I didn’t even ask for this rejection.’ And then I would walk out,” she recalled. “It would be these crowded New York City audition rooms. I would look in, see all the ladies sitting around and close the door and leave. I couldn’t do it.”
Marsden also struck out with commercials but found work elsewhere.
“I went on many commercial auditions and never booked one,” he told THR ahead of the Cinema Society and Banana Boat-hosted New York screening of The D Train Wednesday night. “I was lucky because I did start to get little acting roles here and there and I was like, ‘OK, well maybe my bread will be buttered over here and I won’t have to do the commercial stuff.'”
While Hahn and Marsden have unfulfilled advertising ambitions, neither of them said they could relate to Black’s character’s feeling of having unfulfilled high-school ambitions.
Read more ‘The D Train’: Sundance Review
“I’d never do anything to get validation from my peers growing up. It was never that important to me. Some people really get bent out of shape if they’re not included in every social circle, and I didn’t really care when I was younger,” he said. “So I don’t carry any bad memories from high school or anything that I felt like I had to prove. I was really just too young and naive and excited to move to L.A. to be an actor, and if it didn’t work out, I was going to go back and do something else.”
Hahn said it took her a while to stop caring as much what people thought.
“It took a much longer time than high school, for sure. I feel like it’s really post-children that I’ve been able to not really give as much of a shit,” she said. “And just not try to fit into any sort of group. You know, in high school it’s a group and in Hollywood it’s a group. It’s just been a different set of high school rules and you get older and older. I wish that I had realized that your authentic self is really just the best way to go. Then you don’t feel like you’re a liar or claiming to be something that you’re not.”
But Black thinks those adolescent issues are universal.
“We all have weird wounds from things that happened in our youth,” he said. “That’s what shapes us.”
Even the lead singer of Nirvana felt that way, he said, recalling Brett Morgen‘s “unbelievable” Kurt Cobain documentary that premiered on HBO last Sunday.
“So there’s this guy who is just the coolest, most gorgeous, most talented person on the planet, and yet he still is kind of raw and insecure and has this low self-worth issue, and it’s all because that’s what went down in high school,” Black explained. “Doesn’t matter what you do to repair it. Those wounds kind of stay with you. That’s the weirdest thing about the documentary to me. It’s like, ‘Dude, don’t you see where you are? Who you are?’ And he really doesn’t. It’s so strange.”
At the screening, writer-directors Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel said it was Black’s character “who is so obsessed with changing his high-school persona that he would go to great lengths to do that,” as Paul characterized it, that really got them started with the story.
“We like that idea of that desperation to change his high-school persona,” Mogel added.
Although having two directors might seem like something that could cause conflict on a film set, Paul and Mogel explained working together helming the film was just a “natural extension” for their work together as writers.
“We’ve been writing together for a long time, so we have an easy partnership I would say. We think in the same directions and like the same kinds of things,” Mogel said.
Other stars at the screening included Brooke Shields, Girls‘ Allison Williams, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s Ellie Kemper, Alan Thicke and The Monkees‘ Micky Dolenz. After the movie, guests partied at the Jimmy at the James Hotel, drinking signature Qui tequila cocktails like Lawless Libation and Class Reunion Punch.
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