The untold truth of Adam Sandler

Love him or hate him, there's no denying that Adam Sandler has had a considerable impact on the shape of comedy today. You know him from his early days on Saturday Night Live, his oft-repeated songs, and movies that have had up-and-down responses from critics and audiences alike.

While the press has given him a rough time for his raunchy comedies, Sandler simply marches to the beat of his own drum. "We'll be OK. I believe in my stuff," he told the Press Association (via Metro). "That's important to me and my friends and the people I make the movies for. I like them, that's the good news." As it turns out, he's a fun guy to work with too. As Ken Miyamoto, produced screenwriter and former Sony Pictures script reader told users on Quora "He's an amazing guy. He carries no movie star bravado," his former coworker gushed, listing off various instances of the actor's kindness. "For a guy that can command $20 million per picture and has been doing so since the '90s, he's one of the most down-to-earth individuals in that position that I've ever come across."

So, what's really going on behind that goofy and nonchalant big-screen persona that shies away from the press? Here is the untold story of Adam Sandler.

Adam Sandler was fired from SNL, but he got his payback

Adam Sandler was on television screens during a golden age for long-time mainstay Saturday Night Live, becoming one of the show's breakout stars. And yet, in 1995, both he and Chris Farley were given the boot. As of this writing, it's still unclear as to why the show terminated two of its biggest stars, but in 2014, Sandler opened up about it — a little bit  — to the Daily Beast.

"Yes, we were [fired]," he confirmed. "We kind of quit at the same time as being fired. It was the end of the run for us. The fact that me and him got fired? Who knows. We were on it for a few years, had our run, and everything happens for a reason. We kind of understood because we did our thing. It hurt a lot at the time because we were young and didn't know where we were going, but it all worked out."

Sandler and Farley weren't the only ones presented with a suddenly broken contract, as the Chicago Tribune once revealed in a profile of every cast member axed from SNL under less-than-perfect circumstances. However, Sandler did get his payback — kinda — when he appeared on Conan O'Brien's then-fledgling show shortly after his SNL exit. That meant returning to NBC, and Sandler didn't just accept with no conditions. He insisted that the network buy him … wait for it … a fax machine, which they did.

Bad reviews really don't bother Adam Sandler

One through line of Adam Sandler's career is bad reviews, like the time Las Vegas Weekly destroyed his 2015 tribute to 1980s gaming, Pixels. "Calling Pixels one of Sandler's better movies is like calling a particular strain of Ebola somewhat less horrifically painful; either way, it's not pleasant." Ouch! Words like that have got to hurt, no matter how thick a person's skin is. Everyone knows the entertainment business can be rough, but how do you reconcile yourself when it's that harsh?

"I know what they're writing about me," Sandler told The Independent in 2013. "I could almost write the piece for them by now. But then I remember that I didn't get into movies to please the critics. I got into it to make people laugh and have fun with my friends." He also addressed the relentless bad reviews when he talked to the Daily Beast, but he mostly shrugged them off. "I don't really read 'em. I hear about 'em, and have friend who called me up and told me how much they hated my last thing [Blended], and every move I make I hear how they don't like it. [...] You know, I wish they would calm down a little bit."

Why is Adam Sandler so media-shy?

While Adam Sandler has spoken a bit about how he feels about the critics, he hasn't really said much about reluctance to grant interviews. Most actors find filming their project is only part of the job and the promotional tour is the other part, but Sandler is notorious for dodging the press. According to ScreenCrush, who did get a sit-down, on-screen chat with him, they quoted him as saying, "I used to be misquoted all the time," as the reason he swore off talking to print media.

Sandler spoke to The Harvard Crimson in 2000, and even then, he gave a sneak peek into something that has to do with his aversion to conversations with the media. When the outlet asked him how he felt about all the negative reviews he was getting even then, his answer involved just how two-faced he thought the critics were.

"The worst part about all of it — as a guy who gets a lot of s**t 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.'"

His movies have done better than you think

In March 2017, Netflix announced that they were signing Sandler to another contract for another four movies. It was met with significant confusion, considering The Ridiculous 6, perhaps the most well-known of Sandler's first four Netflix films, which didn't just get a shocking 0 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but it also was the subject of a huge controversy over its alleged treatment of Native Americans. That led to a massive walk-out by actors, cast, and crew, so when Netflix said they were bringing him back, it left people scratching their heads.

According to Netflix, though, Sandler's films are some of the most popularly-viewed movies across the US and 50 other territories across the world (via Business Insider). They also note that when his movies do hit theaters, the successes have done so well that they make up for the failures. At the time of that profile, his 30-odd movies had raked in $3.9 billion. 

What's up with Adam Sandler's usual film posse?

Have you ever noticed how Adam Sandler casts the same group of guys in almost all his movies? As Variety so succinctly put it, "there's something invariably Clinton era about the Sandler posse, and not just because it includes Vanilla Ice. There's also Rob Schneider, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Norm MacDonald, Kevin James, etc. It gives the impression that he's making the same movie over and over again." Ouch! 

The actor doesn't really help his cause either by trying to defend himself to his critics. Instead, he cracks jokes about his movie-making process. "I sit in my room, and think up an idea. Then I call up all my friends and they say: 'That's awesome! You are the best,'" he quipped to the Independent. "No, what really happens is that a group of us come up with an idea and work on it. We just riff around, make jokes, try and make each other laugh."

There have been theories online that there's a reason behind his madness, however. Youtuber Shawn Kohne even pointed out that there is a possibility all of Sandler's movies are related — meaning there's a reason why some characters keep reappearing. We don't know about you, but we're hoping for at least another on-camera reunion with Drew Barrymore –especially considering she told People she wants "to make movies with him forever." Aww! 

Adam Sandler's critically acclaimed projects are few and far between

Adam Sandler isn't always the dimwitted Canteen Boy from his SNL sketches. He can, perhaps surprisingly, carry more serious roles with ease, too. When 2002's Punch-Drunk Love (above) came out, it was met with critical acclaim. As John Powers of LA Weekly put it, "Punch-Drunk Love obeys the archetypal structure of a Sandler comedy, in which an apparent loser triumphs over all obstacles … Amping up the opposed sides of Sandler's screen image, the adolescent troublemaker and the love-struck sweetie, he lays bare the anger, terror, yearning and loneliness hidden beneath his trademark gleeful mayhem and romantic goofiness."

So, if roles like this are met with such praise, why doesn't Sandler pursue more of them? As it turns out, his core fanbase disagrees. Although Punch-Drunk-Love is viewed as a cult classic now, at the time of its release it, unfortunately, fared horribly. With the price adjusted for inflation, the flick earned a mere $25.44 million at the domestic box office — making it one of the worst Sandler movies financially.

Could this be the reason why Sandler has stuck to slapstick — because it's what makes him money? At the end of the day, it's just what he likes to do. Speaking to Blackfilm, the actor explained, " I'm not looking to get away from anything. I like what I've done, I like what I get to do … and I love those movies."

His American audience may be waning, but he's Netflix's international star

There's no denying that streaming services have become giants in the movie industry. Netflix alone makes its own fair share of flicks — yet unfortunately, critics don't like a majority of them. Perhaps it has something to do with cinematic purists refusing to change with the times? 

Steven Spielberg, for example, took what Variety called a "veiled shot" at streaming companies while accepting the Filmmaker Award at the Cinema Audio Society's CAS Awards. "I hope all of us really continue to believe that the greatest contributions we can make as filmmakers is to give audiences the motion picture theatrical experience," the director said.

Nevertheless, while some A-listers are afraid to cash in on the streaming boom, Adam Sandler is certainly benefiting. The actor signed a four-movie deal with Netflix in 2014,  and yet another in 2017 — even after the critical flop, The Ridiculous 6. So, why would Netflix want to keep working with someone after such a panned film? As Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, told press at the UBS Media Conference (via Wired), the company, like Sandler, isn't concerned with the critics. "He is one of the most bankable, dependable stars on Netflix around the world," Sarandos explained. "He's hugely popular and just emerging in Latin America … We are looking at him as if he is a global superstar."

That dodgeball scene from Billy Madison was real

When you think of Adam Sandler's movies, there's a few scenes that jump out first. Aside from a fist fight with Bob Barker, Billy Madison's dodgeball game is definitely one of those scenes. You might feel bad for laughing at little kids getting pegged with a hard rubber ball thrown by a grown man, but you still laugh — and that's why Sandler is as popular as he is.

In March 2017, Sandler stopped by to chat with Conan O'Brien and the subject of that famous scene came up. He admitted that not only were those real dodgeballs, and real kids getting hit very, very hard with them, but that he also made at least one of them cry.

"It was our first movie that… we had some control of," he said. "There's a dodgeball scene, and I'm hitting all these first graders really hard with a dodgeball… I hit some kid pretty hard, and he gets upset and he starts crying." Sandler also says that he thought it was all pretty hilarious, but the parents absolutely didn't feel the same way. Sandler explained that it was in script, and they aptly pointed out that the six-year-olds couldn't read yet. "But, those kids grew up and guess who they are today? Uh… I don't know," Sandler quipped.

Is Adam Sandler funny enough for a younger generation?

With Adam Sandler's once-teenage fanbase now grown up, does Gen Z understand his particular brand of humor?

The Grown Ups actor hilariously gave Ellen DeGeneres some candid information about his daughters watching his flicks. "It's funny. Some [of my movies] are OK, some are PG-13 ish. … I'll put them on because they beg to see them. They're like, 'Please, it's not fair. Let me watch your movies. Those people always yell things at you on the street, and I don't know what the heck they're talking about.' So I show them the movies. They demand this." He then goes on, "And every time, I'd say about 20 minutes in, and then I see them tuning out, and I hear them — they're nervous to say it — but they're like, 'Can we watch something else?'"

Sandler knows his brand of comedy may not resonate with a younger generation, and even returning to his stomping grounds of Saturday Night Live was met with some hesitation for years. As the actor revealed to The Week, he "[doubted] aloud whether he could keep up with newer, younger cast members." He finally did return in May of 2019 and proved his self-deprecating humor did, in fact, still work. Poking fun of the fact that he was fired from SNL so many years ago, it was a nostalgic return for many of his fans.

Some people think Adam Sandler is sexist

Some of the jokes in Adam Sandler's flicks that were once deemed funny don't exactly hold up, especially in lieu of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and Hollywood's tolerance for sexist behavior. In fact, a common trope in Sandler's movies is that the oddball character always ends up with a woman way out of his league.

Some people find the entire shtick a bit overdone, and it was actress Rose McGowan who totally put the Wedding Singer actor on full blast on Twitter in 2015. Posting a casting call note she received from Sandler's company along with the script for her audition, it read, "Wardrobe Note: Black (or dark) form-fitting tank that shows off cleavage (push up bras encouraged). And form-fitting leggings or jeans. Nothing white." Though it's unclear if this is specifically tied to her Sandler tweet, a few days later, McGowan informed her followers that she "just got fired by [her] wussy acting agent" for calling out "bulls**t in Hollywood." Uh-oh. 

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, the McGowan later clarified that we wasn't "trying to vilify Adam Sandler," and that in reality, she was "offended by the stupidity [of the note] more than anything. … the fact that went through so many people's hands and nobody red flagged it." Granted, we have no clue how involved Sandler is with casting notes (probably not much), but McGowan raises a valid question about the kind of culture being fostered in his productions.  

Adam Sandler does have anger management issues

Typecasting is an issue for virtually any actor, but Adam Sandler seems to actively pursue it. He almost always plays relatable characters who happen to have a mean streak that might be played for laughs on the screen, but would be incredibly uncomfortable in real life. When The Harvard Crimson asked Sandler if there was a connection between his real personality and his characters' anger issues, Sandler had a surprising answer.

"In real life, I do have a bit of that problem," he said. "But over the years, I've been getting better, I think. [...] 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."

Sandler had his share of fights, too, as he recounted to Howard Stern in 2015, but he learned to "just let 'em go" after a particularly rough brawl when he was 18. After leaving a Bar Mitzvah, he and a friend got into a scuffle with "two random guys [who] started calling them names." Fists flew and one of the randos ended up slashing Sandler's friend's face. Yikes.  

Does Adam Sandler have a split comedy personality?

There's no denying Adam Sandler has stuck to a shtick that he repeatedly plays in all his flicks. The lazy deadbeat who hasn't ever really grown up has been the same role he's played since his early Saturday Night Live days, and while the comedy scene has evolved, Sandler has seemingly kept up with his own brand of laughs. 

While some critics, like Megan Garber of The Atlantic, believe the actor has "found the limits of satire," others, like Bilge Ebiri of Vulture, think Sandler could be the "most important comedian of his generation." Whatever the case is, Sandler's trademark persona has been around for years. 

As it turns out, viewers have gotten so used to the Big Daddy star's crude wit, that when he does something different, it leaves everyone wondering if he actually has the capacity for versatility. Forbes' review of Sandler's 2018 Netflix standup special, 100% Fresh, noted, "Whether it's money, or a bad habit of working with less-funny friends, or a simple inability to curate, it's tough to tell. Still, he seems deeply human in this new special, and creating the good along with the bad seems deeply human too – it's just that he does both at such extremes that it can be confusing." Confusion aside, what was the verdict on the special? A 90% on Rotten Tomatoes along with a nomination for a Primetime Emmy Award. Adam Sandler, "You can do eeeet!" 

Adam Sandler's fallout with Sony was revealing

In 2014, leaked emails from Sony Pictures sent the entertainment world into upheaval. The leak came just a few months after Adam Sandler signed his first deal with Netflix, and people were still wondering just what had happened to cause the split. After all, Sandler's Happy Madison production company was headquartered on Sony's lot, so speculation was that something major had to have happened to cause the split.

According to emails released by Gawker, it was apparent that some Sony employees weren't the biggest Sandler fans, as one email chain noted, "We continue to be saddled with the mundane, formulaic Adam Sandler films. Let's raise the bar a little [...]."

Then there were behind-the-scenes conflicts, which were revealed in more hacked emails, published by the Daily Beast. Complaints about some unspecified instances on the set of Hotel Transylvania 2, and a major confrontation between Sandler and Sony execs over his desire to adapt the children's board game Candyland, allegedly led to then studio head Amy Pascal branding Sandler and "a**hole." There were money disputes over Hotel Transylvania 2, as well, leading many to believe that Sony execs weren't exactly sad to see him leave for Netflix.

Howard Stern had a long-standing feud with Adam Sandler

The feud between Howard Stern and Adam Sandler was so low-key that they didn't even know how it started. Well, Stern didn't, at least, and when they finally got to talking in 2015, they cleared the air.

E! News reported that in 2012, Stern was on the air talking not only about Sandler, but why he seemed to ignore him all the time. "I know Adam Sandler won't come on the show because I've, in the past, criticized his movies," Stern guessed. He went on to imply that not only was Sandler making the whole thing unnecessarily difficult, but he was also being overly sensitive about the criticism. When Sandler finally sat down and opened up about the feud, Stern — and his listeners — realized that it was an insult and an injury that went much deeper than that. Things finally came to a head when the two shared a flight , and Stern noticed the comedian went out of his way to avoid him.

"When I was at NYU freshman year, I loved you," Sandler told the shock jock (via US Weekly), adding, "That's why it was weird when you used to slam me. It would break my heart because I loved you growing up." He went on to say that he never went out of his way to be friendly with Stern because he knew perfectly well what Stern had been saying about him, and for his part, Stern apologized.

Adam Sandler's chemistry with Drew Barrymore is 100 percent real

When The Telegraph took a shot at explaining just why Adam Sandler's success, one of the things they looked to was his departure from man-boy comedy to The Wedding Singer, where he met his perfect on-screen match in Drew Barrymore. It was the first of his films to break $100 million at the box office, thus proving that he was more than an SNL sketch — and it introduced him to a wider audience.

There's a good reason for that, because listening to Sandler and Barrymore off-set, it's clear that their chemistry is 100 percent real. When Collider asked them about it in anticipation of the release of Blended, their third film together (after 50 First Dates), Barrymore replied, "I would sum it up with respect. … I've always respected him. I love him. He makes us laugh." For his part, Sandler answered, "I love Drew. I've known her a long time. In all three movies, we've had the pleasure of falling in love. With the first two, I faked it. But with this one, I really did."

When ET sat down to talk to them in 2014, they looked back at one of their promotional interviews for The Wedding Singer, 16 years before. Sandler had said that she made him feel safe, and both agreed that the feeling had stood the test of time.

Adam Sandler's script choices are based on location

When The New Yorker reviewed Blended, the headline was, "Adam Sandler's Blended is a Failure for the Ages." The outlet's main issue was with not only the location, Africa, but the painful stereotypes that went along with that. The movie would have had a chance to be something special if it had been set in, they say, a place like the Catskills.

But location is everything in Sandler's movies, and when he went on Jimmy Kimmel Live (via Entertainment Weekly) he confirmed that if people were starting to think that he picked his movies based on where he wanted to go on vacation, they were absolutely right. "[50 First Dates] was written in another place, and then I said, 'Imagine if we did it in Hawaii, how great that movie would be.' And they were like, 'Yes, that's a very artistic idea.' I've been doing it ever since."

In addition to Blended's filming location in South Africa, that mentality has taken him on an extended trip on a cruise ship, to Mexico, and to Hawaii twice.

Adam Sandler has done some non-traditional charity work

Most celebrities have charities they support, whether it be by financial donations, being a spokesperson, or appearing at events. Sandler has gone a bit of a different route with some surprising moves. In 2015, he appeared on Comedy Central's Night of Too Many Stars, which is an annual event that started in 2006 to raise money for autism research and organizations. In this edition, he came face to face with his old nemesis… Bob Barker. The schtick? Even though they supposedly hadn't spoke in years, things went sideways very, very quickly during Sandler's visit to an ailing Barker in the hospital, and the two were right back at where they left off in Happy Gilmore.

He made another off-beat appearance in 2012 at 12-12-12 (shown above), a benefit concert for those that had been impacted by Hurricane Sandy. He took the stage along with big names like Bon Jovi and Roger Waters, Rolling Stone reported, but he wasn't singing an old classic. He was singing his own version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", and his take? "Sandy, screw ya."

Not all Sandler's charity efforts are of the sort that require a NSFW warning, though, and in 2007 he proved that he hadn't forgotten where he came from. He donated $1 million to the Boys and Girls Club in Manchester New Hampshire, and he said it was for all the good memories he had of growing up there (via Pop Sugar).

Is it possible that Adam Sandler could win an Oscar?

Adam Sandler isn't known as an Academy Awards darling. The actor had a brush with success when he was nominated for a Golden Globe for his Punch-Drunk-Love performance, yet ultimately, he didn't win. 

That's why, when the trailer for Uncut Gems came out in September of 2019, fans were totally shook. Directed by Josh and Benny Safdie (the masterminds behind the critically-acclaimed flick, Good Time), the movie stars Sandler and looks darker than anything he's ever done before. As the actor says in the trailer, "I made a crazy risk. A gamble. And it's about to pay off." At the time of this writing, it looks like it absolutely will.

Sites everywhere are touting that the Billy Madison star may actually be nominated for an Oscar — especially after the film's premiere at Toronto's International Film Festival. So, what does the actor have to say about the buzz? "This is a different style of movie," Sandler told ET Canada. As for potentially winning an Oscar? "That's cool … I thought I was getting one for Happy Gilmore and that didn't happen so I won't hold my breath." The Safdie brothers certainly have some love for the comedian, as they said before the film's premiere (via Daily Beast), "We grew up with him." Considering the sudden love for the actor, his fans did, too.