What is it about The Wedding Singer and The Waterboy that has turned ADAM SANDLER from a nobody into a $20 million-a-movie box office certainty? Hollywood's latest comedy sensation explains how he shot to the top.
Words: Bruno Lester/IFA & Miles Fielder
HE DOESN'T HAVE ARNIE'S MUSCLES OR TOM'S winning smile. Brad beats him hands down in the looks department and Jim wipes the floor with him where comic ability is concerned. So how come Adam Sandler is currently commanding $20 million per movie‘.’ The answer is simply that box office bucks matter more in Hollywood than critical acclaim.
Sandler got where he is today because he has starred in. back to back. three films that shrugged off lowly expectations to become nine-figure hits. First. however. came Billy Madison and Happy (ii/mare. both panned by critics but popular enough for Sandler to break away from his TV and live stand-up roots and enter into the hearts of a sizeable cinema audience. Bulletpmuf— his I996 action— comedy with Damon Wayans and James (‘aan — couldn‘t
the fifth one I would say. “Hey. nice hair!" or something like that. and somebody would go. “Hey. shut up.” That was definitely the place where l was funny.‘
Much of the material for Billy Madison was drawn from these schooldays. as was The Wedding Singer: ‘I sang Ringo Starr‘s version of "You‘re Sixteen" in a white tux at my sister Elizabeth‘s wedding.~ remembers Sandler. ‘l was like eleven or twelve. Then I sang “Yesterday”. and they
just started booing me. and they said I started to steal the
focus of the wedding.‘
Having played in high school rock bands with forgettable names like Storm. Spectrum and Final Warning. Sandler soon changed the direction of his performing career. ‘I went with my brother to an open mic night the summer between high school and college. and he
pointed at the stage
'The only one who minded me being an entertainer was Grandma. and my nan. be
She'd ask me, "Why can't you be a funny doctor"?' Adam Sandler
even secure a UK release; but then came sleeper hit The ll'edding Singer. His luckless. love-troubled crooner won over Drew Barrymore and pushed the film‘s takings over the Sl()() million mark worldwide. The follow-ups ~ The Waterboy and Big Daddy — both topped Slbl) million in America alone. Now he‘s expected to pick up a $20 million paycheck for his next project. rumoured to be Little Nicky. in which he takes over the family-run business from Dustin Hoffman — but it just so happens that Dad’s the Devil.
For a performer who has admitted to not being able to
remember his lines — he recently revealed that. on the set of
Big Daddy. they were whispered to him — does it feel surreal to be earning so much money'.’ ‘I don't really have time to sit around and think about it.‘ says Sandler. ()kay. what does he spend his money on. then‘.’ ‘1 don‘t have much time to spend it. l bought my parents some stuff. That feels kind of good to be able to do that. But I don‘t spend money on myself. I don‘t like myself enough yet.‘
Even if we can put Sandler‘s inordinately large income down to Hollywood economics. the man himself remains an enigma. Just where does cinema's latest hot property come from‘.’ Adam Sandler was born in Brooklyn. New York in I966. the youngest of four ‘in a loud. Jewish family". When he was six. the family moved to Manchester. New Hampshire. where his parents still live.
‘Mom loved me and didn't want me to get hurt.‘ recalls Sandler of his childhood. 'My mom was pretty cool. I would say that I‘d be home around two in the morning. and my mom would just say. “Alright. just wake me when you get there.“ That was the only rule.‘ And dad‘.’ ‘He didn‘t like me making a spectacle of myself. When I was growing up. I was trying to be funny and it bugged him sometimes. I talked too much. and yelled too much. You wouldn‘t have wanted to hang out with me as a kid.‘
The early comedy routines extended to school. ‘I loved being funny in class.‘ Sandler admits. ‘But the funniest stuff I did was at movie theatres. screaming at the screen and making the whole theatre laugh. I'd always say. like. ﬁve jokes. and there would be four power laughs. And then
funny"! I was bad. Didn't know what to say. But I was seventeen and got addicted to it right away. My parents always thought I’d be an entertainer. ()ne of the first impressions I did was my dad‘s sneeze. It used to make my mum laugh. He goes "Ayeeeestra!" It sounds like a Hebrew word. The only one who minded me being an entertainer was Grandma. She‘d ask me. "Why can‘t you be a funny doctor"?'
Although Sandler‘s brand of comedy errs on the gentle side — 'I don‘t want to hurt anybody". he says - he‘s renowned for the many loud and despised characters he played on Saturday Night Live. including Cajun Man. ()pera Man and Canteen Boy. He started as writer on the show in 1990. but found that his sketches were too eccentric for the other performers — and so he was invited in front of the cameras himself.
TV fame back then was nothing to the position he finds himself in now as a movie star. It still surprises him. for instance. to. ‘read articles about myself where I sound halfway normal‘. Sandler has also been credited with ‘babe magnet‘ status. to which his figured-out reply is: ‘Girls know they are smarter than me. better looking than me and that I‘ll say. "Please. what can I do for you"? I‘m just a brother.‘ And real-life big daddy status? ‘I got a girl. It‘s nice. I'm soft. I‘d like to get married and have a kid one day. It would be nice to feel smarter than somebody. Every day. I could walk into a room and say. "You. baby. can‘t even speak. and I can".'
Big Daddy opens on Fri 1 Oct. See review, page 29.
23 Step-7 Oct 1999 THE “ST 21