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Mr. Jones, 65, was known for serious roles in such films as “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “JFK” and “Natural Born Killers.” A newbie to comedy when he made “Men in Black,” Mr. Jones says each sequel has been a cheery reunion, mainly because of Mr. Smith.

Will is more generous than anyone, and he spreads joy,” Mr. Jones says. “He walks into a studio, walks onto a set, and … he makes certain that everybody’s happy. He can’t help himself.”

“You gotta have fun,” Mr. Smith says.

Barry Sonnenfeld, who directs the “Men in Black” movies, recalls that Mr. Jones was shooting on his own for two weeks on the first one while Mr. Smith was finishing “Independence Day.”

That established a good foundation for the day their very different personalities — the reserved Mr. Jones testing his comedy chops, the jovial Mr. Smith teaming with an Oscar heavyweight — finally came together on set.

Will came on to the movie that was sort of Tommy’s set already, and I thought that was very helpful in retrospect. Because although Will would always be deferential and charming, Will is an 8-month-old Great Dane puppy, and he’s got way too much energy, way too much joy, too much karmic perfection. And I think that might have affected Tommy,” Mr. Sonnenfeld says.

“But Tommy and Will, from the very beginning, from the entire first movie, loved each other. Will genuinely feels Tommy’s one of the funniest people he’s ever met, because Tommy is George Burns and Will is Gracie Allen. You need both.”

With Mr. Jones‘ K as straight man, Mr. Smith’s J as comic foil, the “Men in Black” series has delivered one of Hollywood’s most enduring pairs of mismatched buddies.

“Partnerships are good engines for narrative,” Mr. Jones says. “If you think of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the Cisco Kid and Pancho, the Lone Ranger and Tonto. On and on.”

“It’s the opposing energies for me,” Mr. Smith adds. “Those opposite energies are so extremely spelled out. It’s like the last two guys that you imagine are going to be partners, and there’s no cross-over of each other’s lanes.”

The interview — or couples-counseling session — ending, Mr. Smith rises from the sofa, while Mr. Jones slips in a closing dig.

“Help me up,” Mr. Jones barks.