The actor discusses making the film, Roger Ebert, his indy directing debut Big Stan and being huge in Mexico

Having played a bevy of comic roles throughout his career, Rob Schneider has carved out an interesting screen persona for himself. Whether it's Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, The Animal, or a character like Ula in 50 First Dates, one can always be sure to not know what they are going to get from a Rob Schneider movie or performance.

Which is what makes his turn as Gus in the The Benchwarmers so interesting. Schneider actually plays it straight in this film. Well, as straight as someone like Rob Schneider can in a Happy Madison Production. Still, despite it's many jokes (whether they be at the expense of other people or of the farting variety), The Benchwarmers tale of three friends (Jon Heder and David Spade co-star) entering a little league baseball tournament certainly has it's heart in the right place.

So we hear you're an athlete man? A natural born athlete?

Rob Schneider: I wouldn't say natural born, I would say trained for three months before the movie. You didn't see the ones that I didn't hit well.

What's it like playing a nice, normal guy? There weren't any penises in the film...

Rob Schneider: I wanted to have one or two. Adam wanted me to just play myself, "Come on, no one's ever seen that." I have a tendency to want to be goofy, and I realized early on I'm kind of playing him. He had this idea when we were on Saturday Night Live. I think for me, him and maybe even Farley... then we were in Hawaii, at a restaurant waiting for a table, believe it or not...

You were waiting for a table.

Rob Schneider: I was waiting for a table. Waiting to sit at his table. We kind of looked at each other, and we both love baseball, I'm pretty limber... and he said, "You know we gotta do this movie." And then we come back and he wanted me to do it.

The subject matter in this film has got to be handled sensitively. Where is the line that keeps grown men beating kids funny?

Rob Schneider: You know, I never knew the line, I'll be honest with you. Adam would come up to me and say, "Listen, [in that next take] throw that kid to the ground." Sean Salisbury's the kid and he's like, "Yeah, do it!" I'm like, "Okay." So Adam says, "You gotta really throw him to the ground." I threw him to the ground, they're like, "Alright, we got it." I felt terrible.

You know what, there is a fine line there and that's kinda the thing about it, where I was concerned originally doing the script. I said, "Yeah, it works if they're really selfish, mean spirited kids and they come around at the end." That kinda works. You're right though, there is that concern. Also, when I was throwing the balls at these little kids, "The poor kids you're throwing the ball at!" They're about my size so after awhile, I was alright. Let them take it, but I didn't hit them, I was pretty careful.

The challenge for you is finding comedy that works...

Rob Schneider: You know, I often just trust my instincts. I felt this was a funny idea. David Spade, something about him in this movie, he was more himself than in any movie. I'm more myself in this movie. Jon Heder? I don't know who he is. He's not Napoleon Dynamite in this. He's kinda like a simple, fun guy. Everybody was relaxed. As soon as Spade put the wig on he was really comfortable. Like, Jon Lovitz is funny so... it was a comfort level and everybody kind of knew and felt comfortable with each other. You don't always have that, so that felt good. And David came up with a lot of funny stuff in every scene and he's the funniest guy you've ever met.

This movie is very pro-little people. Was that important to you?

Rob Schneider: Well, yeah, I'm not the biggest guy. I got to play opposite major leaguers... who are huge, huge guys. I never consider myself small because... the Filipino side of my family they're all...

Small.

Rob Schneider: Well, midgets, frankly! I had, maybe self denial, but I never felt small. Until I was a senior in high school, my two best friends and I were doing some senior review, and somebody took a photo of us... and they're both like 6'4 and I was in the middle. I look like a goalpost. (Laughs) I am that small. It never bothered me. It's like, I worked with Danny DeVito when he hosted Saturday Night Live, and that's the biggest small person you've ever seen. He doesn't carry himself that way at all. He doesn't have a chip on his shoulder about it. He doesn't even think about it. He's such a great guy.

You mentioned your friend Roger Ebert awhile ago...?

Rob Schneider: He's got it in for me. You know why? Because I went out publicly and said stuff about him. When he was on Howard Stern I called up and I said, "You're just mad at me because girls liked funny guys in high school, and you weren't funny and you probably didn't get laid until you were thirty." And he admitted it, "Well, it was 1960 the morals were different." I said, "Morals had nothing to do with it, man!"

I wrote something to Howard, basically what I just said and Howard read it on the air. So he's got a thing about me. His last review of my movie was just emotional. I mean, the woman who is the editor for his newspaper, is friends, used to go out with one of my best friends in Chicago said, "Oh yeah, it was just an emotional reaction." And I take pride in that, I love it. No one attacks him and I took an ad out about some other morons, who attacked the movie before it even came out. It's like, comedies don't get Oscar blah, blah, blah...

My reviewers, the ones I care about, are the ones that have to go and get a babysitter on a Friday night. And it's their one night of the month, they're gonna go out and they want to have a good time. They have to spend $100 to get the babysitter. Maybe they're gonna go eat? They've gotta buy some crappy popcorn. They gotta park really far away. They've gotta get in line, they're gonna get a seat. When the lights come down, give them a good show. That's the real reviewer in my book.

Do you take it personally when you get a Razzie Award?

Rob Schneider: Oh, no, I don't. I went on the Tonight Show and talked about it. Jay and I had some fun with it. He's like, "Well, who calls you when you get nominated for Worst Actor?" I'm like, "Steven Seagal. Stallone calls him."

Where you tempted to go? I know that Halle Berry accepted hers.

Rob Schneider: I was thinking about it. I told my brother, who works with me, I said, "If I can get there, I will...," but I just had these karate lessons that I'm doing now. With the guy who taught Bruce Lee how to do nunchucks, is teaching me how to do soap on a rope for my next movie, Big Stan. Which I'm directing.

I'm in good company, though. I was nominated along with Tom Cruise, Adam Sandler, The Rock, those are all pretty good company. That's another thing I said, "Well, you know, anybody can be in a lousy movie, but to be in the worst movie of the year, so many things have to fall in your favor. You have to have a script that's terrible. You have to have a director that's awful. Some lousy actors. Still, it could just be a miserable movie. I remember halfway through this movie thinking, 'If we keep this up, we might have a complete piece of crap on our hands.'"

Where were the Deuce fans this summer?

Rob Schneider: You know what? I don't know. It was just one of those things where I think it was too much advertising, and like, it was too dumbed down. I also think too much was cut out of it. After awhile the story, it just became jokes and some of the story was taken out. Like, "Just get to the jokes!" It's nice, the next couple of films I'm gonna do are not going to be studio pictures. Which is really nice because I'm just gonna edit it and do exactly what I want with it. I felt like they cut out too much.

This is the one you're directing?

Rob Schneider: The one I'm directing is not a studio picture. We don't even have domestic distribution for it and I don't want it. It's called Big Stan. It's written by Josh Lieb, he's one of the last good years from the Harvard Lampoon. 1993, 1994, I mean I used to keep track of these guys coming out of school. Really, I don't know of any good guys that have come out of there since then. All of the Harvard Lampoon guys were Saturday Night Live and most of them write for The Simpsons, now. They're great writers.

This guy Josh Lieb is a great writer and he wrote this crazy movie about this guys who's an a**hole. Kind of a Charles Grodin piece. You know like The Heartbreak Kid? We don't have those anymore. Where you have an unlikeable character? He's a guy who's an a**hole. Kind of taking advantage of people and he finds out he's gonna go to jail and he's worried. He's a little guy and worried about what's happen to him when he goes in there.

So he goes to this guy at this biker bar and he says, "What's gonna happen to me? Would you kick my ass?" The guy says, "I'd probably rape you." It's a rated R piece. So he hires the Master to make him a killer. This guy David Carradine is playing him.

Are you gonna direct Hard R, also?

Rob Schneider: Yeah well, I'm gonna direct part of it. That's a sketch movie that I'm gonna do which is fun, but there's a Hard R film series of movies I'm gonna start to make. That's the first one, a sketch movie kind of like Groove Tube. Bill Murray wants to be involved. I'm gonna try and get the Wayans Bros. to do it. Matt Selman's gonna help me write it.

Who's been cast so far in Big Stan?

Rob Schneider: Emmet Walsh, David Carradine, Scott Wilson, Melanie Lynskey and Henry Gibson as my cellmate. Honestly, it's the best script I've ever had. I'm really excited about it.

Are you in Click?

Rob Schneider:Yeah, I've got a cameo. I gotta be in there. Adam was like, "We gotta spend at least one day together doing the movie." And that was fun. Click's excellent by the way. It's like, I hate to say it's like It's a Wonderful Life, but it has that quality to it. And Adam is... it just kind of sneaks up on you and hits you over the head. It's his best work.

When you did European Gigalo you said how liberating it was to do an R rated movie? Yet, The Benchwarmers is PG-13. Did you feel any restrictions on this project?

Rob Schneider: You know it's funny, it's not like we're aiming for kids but Adam Sandler has that teenage boy, angst, id down. He really does. One of our favorite movies when we were kids was Caddyshack. This one seems to me like a Caddyshackish movie. It's got more jokes per minute than any of Adam's other movies. He was really hands on. I don't mind... also I do think some things should not be for thirteen year olds. So this is okay for them.

To me the most important thing is to not be mean spirited or to be anti-gay, or to offend some children who are trying to figure out what their lives are about.

So you'll be anti-gay in your next film?

Rob Schneider: You know what? It's funny but that's not anti-gay, either. Stan actually bans rape in the prison after he kicks ass. Hopefully you guys get a chance to see that, it's gonna be a small movie...

Is it going to be in festivals? How are you gonna launch it?

Rob Schneider: I don't know. I have no idea. I mean, internationally is how we raised the money for it, because my movies at this point are now making more money outside the country than in.

Where are you biggest?

Rob Schneider: Mexico. Mexico is my biggest territory. That's what they told me. I was just there last week, literally, because I'm trying to produce a television series down there. I couldn't even get through the airport there. They said, "Robert, you know, in America you're Rob Schneider but here you're Brad Pitt." They're really nice, so I'm trying to do more stuff down there.

Are Jon and David that bad at baseball or were they holding back?

Rob Schneider: You know Jon's a pretty decent athlete. He's just lacking desire, ability and talent. He's actually pretty good. He had a broken leg and he was hitting the ball well... he's an athlete He's young enough to recover. David's pretty decent. He's competitive. You know, to make it in this business there's gotta be a competitive edge you have and he does have that.

Do you have a large Filipino contingent?

Rob Schneider: Oh yeah, it's crazy. Yeah, it's funny, I went and saw them about six years ago when the first Deuce Bigalow came out, and they came down from the mountains to see me. It took them three days. They're just really the nicest people.

The Benchwarmers opens nationwide on April 7th, 2006 through Columbia Pictures.

Cinemark Movie Club
Evan Jacobs