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A Soul-Searching Interview with Adam Sandler

By Jordan I. Fox, Crimson Staff Writer

Adam Sandler is notoriously press-shy. He doesn't like critics, he doesn't do interviews, he doesn't want to be analyzed, dissected, uselessly praised or arbitrarily condemned. But Adam Sandler, fortuitously enough, also likes college students. After spending the last two years mired in various movie and music projects, Sandler finally has enough time to tour around the country and visit with the audience he cares about most. Adam Sandler is notoriously press-shy. He doesn't like critics, he doesn't do interviews, he doesn't want to be analyzed, dissected, uselessly praised, or arbitrarily condemned. But Adam Sandler, fortuitously enough, also likes college students. After spending the last two years mired in various movie and music projects, Sandler finally has enough time to tour around the country and visit with the audience he cares about most.

Sandler, of course, exploded to fame in the '90s after the successive hits of Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and The Wedding Singer. With the blockbuster performances in The Waterboy and Big Daddy, he confirmed his position as one of the biggest box-office draws in the world. At the same time, his films are clearly critic-proof; Sandler doesn't care what's written about him as long as audiences keeps laughing.

In New York to promote his latest comedy Little Nicky, Sandler not only explains the mechanics and themes that hold his movies together, but also reveals the irresistible charms of his approachable, laid-back personality.

AS: Oh, so you go to Harvard. You know with the whole Harvard thing, it's with you the rest of your life. Everybody I know who's gone there, every time you ask them where you go to school, they have to sheepishly whisper "Harvard." Don't be embarrassed for your brilliance. [Pause.] Now the questions better be good.

THC: One critic called your last album "a cyborg sent on the planet to torture me." You don't get lots of nice reviews for your movies either. Are there any that stand out in your memory as particularly terrible?

AS: I get it good from the critics. I can't really think of any specific ones; I mean I always see the words "sophomoric," "juvenile," "moronic," "useless," "hate," "unwatchable." I can't think of a quote I laughed at, though. The worst part about all of it-as a guy who gets a lot of shit from critics-is like, one time I was in a room with a person who kept going on and on about how much he loved the movie and he's just going nuts and looking me in the eye. That night, I see him on TV saying "This movie is useless." And I'm like, "Dude! That's the guy who was nice to me."

You know, like this morning, I read Variety and The Hollywood Reporter and they gave us two good reviews for Little Nicky. But then I was like, "I don't care." I've only gotten bad reviews from them-I'm not gonna be like, "Ooooh. I finally got 'em." I'm more like, "Fuck you. I don't give a fuck." In the beginning I did, when I did Billy Madison, but now I realize I didn't get into this business to have a critic like me. I got into it to get people to laugh. As a kid, I went to the movies to laugh my ass off, to hang out with my friends, to go on a date.

THC: You tend to play nice guys with anger management issues. They've been getting more and more gentle over the years, but it's a recurring theme up to and including this movie. Is it related to your real life temperament?

AS: In real life, I do have a bit of that problem. But over the years, I've been getting better I think. I like playing characters who get insulted a lot and who lose their temper because of it or can't think of a snappy comeback. But you're right-I do like snapping and yelling, it's part of my comedy. Sometimes when I'd snap in my house growing up, it would make my dad laugh. Or sometimes, he'd smack me.

THC: Did making this movie raise any spiritual issues in your own life?

AS: It made me not want to go to hell more. I've never thought about hell that much. I choose to ignore hell in my life. When I was a little kid I asked my Dad "Am I going to go to hell?" because I'd heard about hell. And he said "No, no. You'll be alright." So I asked "What do you gotta do to get into hell? And he said, "Nothing you're gonna do will get you into hell." And so I got to ignore it. And then we started shooting the film and I thought, "Maybe my Father was lying." Because there are several things I've done that are borderline, that could get me there. And so it made me realize that I better stop doing those things. I don't want to repeat those things. I like heaven. I know my Grandma's up there, and it will be nice to see her. And Chubbs.

THC: How do you collaborate on your writing process? Is it the same for every movie that you write?

AS: Okay, good question. Well, so far, I've thought of the idea for every movie. Me, Adam Sandler. I'm in my room, I think of it, and I say "Well, this is fucking gold." And so then I call my friends up and tell them the idea. And they say, "Yeah, Sandler, you're unbelievable. How'd you think of that? You're the funniest." They say things like that. Like, "I'm so psyched that I get to hang out with you. You're cool, you're charming, you're funny as shit." And then we get to the process, you know. But throughout the process they continue going, "Fuckin' A, man."

Ok, no. Actually, what we do is we sit in a room and try to beat out an outline for the movie. Say, you know, we come up with a story line. Actually, on this movie, me and Hurleyhee were writing and Covert was helping and Jack, our producer. And we didn't have a flow going, and we called this guy Steve Brill up, and he actually rejuvinated us and got us a good story line. And we all jamed together on that. It's just trying to make each other laugh. Trying to have the script make some sense, the story make some sense, and make srue we get enough laughs.

THC: It's not exactly a message movie though, is it.

AS: Good conquers evil. That's a nice message. There are jokes in there that - it depends on how you look at it - but it will be offensive to some. We don't mean to offend anybody. But ultimately if I went to the movie with my neice, who's eight, I'd like to be there with her and tell her about it. I'm sure you're not literally against hearing the word hell. But the jokes and the stuff, and the sexual stuff is goopy. I don't think any man watching this with the sexual content gets an erection. I've seen movies where I've gotten a full-on erection, and I was excited about having the erection. But this movie in particular, besides Neilon's head, I had no erection. The dogs making love was nice, though.

THC: You have such a close bond with your casts and you obviously have lots of actors who consistently appear in your films. Do you just do the casting yourself?

AS: We do it together. We do know with Covert that we like to have him just be uncomfortable for a few days. Not the fact that he was gay, but the fact that he had to shave the top of his head and gain a lot of weight - that was fun, to humiliate him. And he was in _Happy Gilmore_ we made him grow a beard and be dirty. And in _Wedding Singer_ we made him comb his hair different and wear a Michael Jackson jacket. And we had him make out in Big Daddy with our other guy. That was fun for both of them.

THC: How annoying was it to have to speak out of the side of your mouth the whole time in order to get your character's distinctive voice?

AS: It wasn't that challenging. I just did an impression of a kid I knew grewing up who used to talk like that. He was the type of guy who knew lots of rock n' roll facts and used to make up lies when he didn't know something. You know like, (hissing) "I saw Zepplin last week." And we'd be like, "No you didn't." Then he'd be like, "My cousin saw Zepplin last week." And we'd be like, "No he didn't." Then he'd be like, "My cousin has a live Zepplin poster. It looked like all the people were having a fucking good time." So yeah, I just used his weird voice. It wasn't too hard.

THC: Which Adam Sandler movie do you take to a deserted island?

AS: I'd take Billy Madison. It was the first one, it was the one that got my own vision out there. It was my mother's favorite one. You know what, though - I'd like to hang out with Bobby Buscet (the character's name in The Waterboy). I'd let Bobby his head on my lap and sleep.

THC: Quentin Tarantino has been M.I.A. forever. Where in the world did you find him to do a part in the movie?

AS: (laughs) He is a great man, that Tarantino. His movies are great and he's I see an interview with him, I laugh my ass off because he says it with such passion. Every thing he says he believes a 100%. We thought he was funny and we wrote this part and told his agent about it. Quentin came over to my house one morning at like 10am and just hung out with us. We got along and that's that. Now we hang out with Quentin all the time. We flew to Vegas with him - that was the coolest. The best thing I've ever seen was that we stayed out really late one night and hung out with Rodney Dangerfield and the next day we get up at like 1pm - we don't know where Quentin is. And we're walking through the casino and we see Wolfgang Puck's restaurant and there's Quentin, eating his pizza alone, still wearing the same clothes from the night before. Greatest moment ever.

THC: But how does the whole cameo work? Like in the movie, Henry Winkler gets attacked by bees. Do you just go up to Henry Winkler one day and ask him if he wants to get attacked by bees?

AS: Well, you don't tell him that. You lie. (laughs) No, I mean, every time I see the bees covering Henry in the movie, I laugh my ass off. I mean I called Henry up and was like, "This is a thankless part and it sucks but would you like to get covered in bees?" And he's like, "For you, sure." Later, when he had to go through two hours of makeup to get the after-bee-sting swollen effect, I don't think he was so happy with me. But his son was there and his son likes me, so it was all good.

THC: So you're on your tour to interview college students. Any regrets about your own college life?

AS: I wished I relaxed some more - academically, I mean. You know, like when I watch A&E alone, I just soak it in and I can talk about it after. In college, I was like, "Shit, will that be on the test?" But I met my buddies, formed bonds with those guys, and the loyalty is still there.

THC: Actors are always asked about what's challenges them in their craft. But looking at your movies, can you pick out one thing that really forced you to stretch your range?

AS: Big Daddy had a crying scene. In real life, I hadn't cried in fifteen years. When I was a kid, I used to run to a mirror every time I cried - it was fun to look at myself cry. That scene was tough but I think a real tear did come out of my eye. I don't think that'll happen again.

THC: Let's look into the future. Will we ever see Adam Sandler doing drama?

AS: Maybe some day. But I like doing comedies. Still, Paul Thomas Anderson wrote this wonderful movie - and it's totally different from all my stuff - but I think I'm gonna do that. Ultimately, who knows what'll happen. I started doing comedy when I was 17 and I'm still addicted to it.

THC: How long will you stick around in the entertainment industry?

AS: Good question, 'cause I really don't know. I have a girlfriend - and we talk about the future. I mean I wanna have kids one day and we talk about when I'll slow down. There's a lot of things I wan to do. I hope she doesn't dump me. (laughs) I just love what I'm doing right now. Maybe I'll retire when I'm 53 . That's when my dad retired.

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