Adam Sandler speaks Spanglish!
Whenever a comedian takes on a serious role, the media speculates, "Is this the end of his funny period? Is he Mr. Serious now?" But Robin Williams still makes comedies, Jim Carrey still makes comedies and Tom Hanks even still makes comedies. So, Adam Sandler will continue making straight goofball comedies despite finding success in James L. Brooks' dramatic comedy (or comedic drama) Spanglish.
"I'm not looking to get away from anything," Sandler said. "I like what I've done. I like what I get to do and I enjoy working with my friends. I loved those movies but this is incredible. Jim Brooks, when I met him a long time ago, a quick ‘hello' kind of thing, I loved his movies, every one he's done. So the fact that he wrote a movie and he wanted me to be in it, I was extremely excited but, in my head I didn't say, ‘Oh, I'm going to run away from my other stuff.' I was just like, ‘Yeah, I'd like to do that too'.
Sandler plays John Clasky, a successful chef with some problems at home. His neurotic wife is make their kids crazy, creating situations when there could be peace, and he's trying to make everyone happy. For a character who internalizes his feelings, rather than exploding in a comic frenzy, Sandler relied on his director.
"Jim coached me through every scene and told me what he wanted. If I would be internalizing, that was in the writing and directing but I think the character just wants his family to make it and he wants everybody to live in a house where you're not walking on eggshells and to lose it and snap and make people uncomfortable in the house would only add to that so I think he was just using his brain."
Brooks wrote the film with Sandler in mind. A long time fan, he had offered Sandler a role once before in I'll Do Anything, but it conflicted with Saturday Night Live. Now the schedules finally worked. "I always liked his work," Brooks said. "I always liked all of the regular-guy stuff about him, and his comedy, his stand-up and stuff like that tends to be daring, just really inventive. And then I saw Punch-Drunk Love and I called him the next day. I really was aware of his work, and I value comedy. I value somebody who can be funny, I really do."
With a string of box office smashes, Sandler has found a groove. But seeing Spanglish with an audience, he had a great appreciation for a different type of movie. "I don't know any formulas but I do know that I watch this movie, I gotta say, I had no idea the audience was going to laugh as much as they did," Sandler said. "I read the script and I laughed, but I didn't know it was this funny and I didn't know it was going to be an experience for an audience to be kind of a roller coaster, laughing and emotional so I can't tell you what works and doesn't work, but I do know it was nice to see a crowd of people having an experience like that."
Looking ahead, Sandler feels he will be able to apply some of Brooks' lessons to his own movies. "I did learn on this movie, the most I've ever learned about making a movie from Jim. I always thought I worked hard and my friends worked hard but I've never seen anybody like Jim go from start to finish. Before we started shooting, it was the most amount of work I ever did in pre-production and just establishing relationships and rehearsing and just becoming comfortable with each other. Jim's process is start to finish the most concentrated experience I've ever seen. He never stops, he never gives up or gave up. I've never seen anybody with that much discipline so I learned that I'm not a hard-working as I thought I was. In this movie, it was written so well and directed so well that I just hate to say it, but I did what the man told me to do. So I learned from it and how I'm going to apply it to my own movies, I guess I'll try even harder. That's what I'll take from it."
To play a chef, Sandler also learned how to cook. "I got to study with Thomas Keller who we all love as a guy. He's one of the nicest guys ever and Jim had a relationship with Thomas. What happened, you ate up there at [his restaurant] the French Laundry. In the script it said, ‘He will make a sandwich that everyone in the audience would want to eat at home' or something like that, and I gotta tell you, just from the commercials, I have been walking down the street and had people say, ‘Make me that sandwich, man!' But Thomas Keller really did go so out of his way. I got to work in his kitchen at the French laundry and his whole staff taught me and gave me their time. Most of all I needed confidence, And the more I worked, at home we practiced over and over making that BLT and making a bunch of other stuff, that in my life before this movie, I must say I'd probably never even eaten."
Sandler does not make the distinction between his dramatic and comedic performances. "As a comedian in this movie, I just tried to play the role. I didn't think about I'm a comedian being an actor. I just thought about I'm a guy getting to say lines in a movie that are pretty incredible."
Award recognition is not on his mind either. "I don't think about that. That wasn't the reason I [got into acting.] I wasn't a kid growing up thinking, ‘One day I'll get an Oscar and make a speech'. That wasn't on my mind. I want to just do the best work I can do and that's what I try to do."
That said, Spanglish may have one of Sandler's funniest movie scenes. In a love scene with Tea Leoni, Sandler gets beaten up by the wild fitness guru character.
"I was hurting! My chest. That was a lot of takes. The camera kept rolling and Tea kept whacking [my chest]. It did hurt my chest. At the end, it was like take six. Put it this way, my make-up girl would have to run in between takes and put flesh color back on my chest."
Spanglish opens Friday, December 17.
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