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. So, what's really going on behind that goofy — and sometimes frighteningly angry — big-screen persona?

He was fired from SNL, but he got a fax machine

Adam Sandler was on television screens during a golden age for long-time mainstay Saturday Night Live. He was so popular it seemed likely that he had a job for as long as he wanted it. And yet, in 1995, both he and Chris Farley were given the boot. Just what happened has been up for debate for a long time, and in 2014 he sat down with The Daily Beast to say at least a bit about it.

"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."

What happened to Sandler and Farley was by no means unusual, and they weren't the only ones to find themselves with a suddenly broken contract. The Chicago Tribune took a look at everyone that broke from SNL under less-than-perfect circumstances, and it was a long list that included Sarah Silverman, Norm MacDonald, and Chris Parnell. While Sandler might just be another name in a long list, he did tell Conan O'Brien that he got his payback. Appearing on O'Brien's fledgling show meant returning to NBC, and Sandler didn't just accept with no conditions. Before he'd make his return, he insisted that the network buy him a fax machine — and they did.

If you're ever hoping that he might return to host SNL one of these days, it's unlikely. That's at least what he told ScreenCrush in 2015, saying, "It was great to be back [for the anniversary special], I loved it. I would love to do an anniversary every year. [...] I'm not sure I can sit there for six days and do the show. I like watching it."

He doesn't read the bad reviews, but he hears about them

If there's one thing you can say about Adam Sandler's movies, it's that they at least semi-consistently get a lot of hate. Take Pixels, his 2015 tribute to 1980s gaming. Las Vegas Weekly gave us their thoughts on it, first praising the short that it was based on, then saying, "Sadly, they've turned it into an Adam Sandler film, albeit one slightly less lazy and obnoxious than his other recent efforts. Of course, 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 addressed the relentless bad reviews when he talked to The Daily Beast, too, and when he did, it was with a shrug. "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."

He's incredibly media-shy

While Sandler has spoken a bit about how he feels about the critics, he hasn't really said much about his lack of regular 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 interviews — especially with 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 Crimson 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 not a small amount of confusion, especially considering The Ridiculous 6, perhaps the most well-known of Sandler's first four Netflix films, didn't just get a shocking 0 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but it was the subject of a huge controversy over its 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 they were writing, his 30-odd movies had raked in $3.9 billion.

That dodgeball scene from Billy Madison was real, and there are no regrets

When you think of 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 it, but you still laugh — and that's why Sandler is as popular as he is.

In March 2017, he 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 (via Entertainment Weekly). "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 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," he added.

He does have anger management issues

While some actors might go out of their way to avoid being typecast in a certain role, Sandler seems to actively pursue a certain kind of character. He's the guy you can relate to, but his characters invariably seem 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 characters' anger issues and his real-life persona, Sandler admitted that there is.

"In real life, I do have a bit of that problem," he told them. "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."

He's had his share of fights, too; but according to what he told Howard Stern in 2015, that hasn't happened in a while. The last fight he could remember being in was when he was 18, and leaving a Bar Mitzvah. He was walking with a friend when two random guys started calling them names. "The next thing you know, this guy is in my face," Sandler recalled. "He punches me in the face on 9th Street, he punches me square in the face and grabs the chain on my neck." Things really went sideways when one of the guys pulled out a carpet cutter and slashed up Sandler's friend's face, and when asked if he'd learned anything from the encounter, he said, 'Just let 'em go.'"

His falling-out with Sony was revealed in the email leaks

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

Fingers were pointed at his most recent movies' poor showing at the box offices, but the emails revealed that there was definitely something else going on at Sony. Gawker found just one that was a compilation of the biggest complaints of employees, and that included a lament that "we continue to be saddled with the mundane, formulaic Adam Sandler films. Let's raise the bar a little [...]."

There were behind-the-scenes conflicts, too, and other emails found by The Daily Beast confirmed that all was not well in the world of those that Sandler worked with. There were complaints about some unspecified instances on the set of Hotel Transylvania 2, and talk of a major confrontation between Sandler and Sony execs. Sandler had been pitching an idea for adapting the children's board game Candyland into a film, and things got heated when he demanded an immediate approval for the $200 million project. According to the emails, there were money disputes over Hotel Transylvania 2, as well, leading top Sony execs to call him some pretty nasty names that may have ultimately indicated they were happy to see him go.

He had a long-standing feud with Howard Stern

Celebrity feuds are often the stuff of headlines and gossip, but the one between Howard Stern and Adam Sandler was so low-key that they didn't even know how it started. 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… I guess that's the reason, but, am I the only one criticizing content in his movies?" 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, much deeper than that. Further, things had finally come to a head when the two were sharing a flight, and Stern noticed the comedian was going out of his way to avoid him. US Magazine shared Stern's moment of realization.

"When I was at NYU freshman year, I loved you," Sandler told the shock jock. "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.

His chemistry with Drew Barrymore is 100 percent real

When The Telegraph took a shot at explaining just why Adam Sandler had been successful in the first place, one of the things they looked to was his departure from straight-up, 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, it allowed him to prove 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, Barrymore replied, "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, [The Wedding Singer, 50 First Dates] 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 the interviews the pair did 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.

His 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." Their main issue was with not only the location in 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, Mexico, and to Hawaii twice.

He's 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. Even though Time says they say they haven't spoke in years, things went sideways very, very quickly, 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, 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 reports, 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 he actually a Republican?

In 2012, Fox News ran a story that suggested Republicans in Hollywood were getting more and more comfortable about voicing their political views in public. Lindsay Lohan and Stacy Dash were the latest additions to a public, right-leaning group that included names like Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jessica Simpson, Clint Eastwood, and Adam Sandler.

While Sandler is known to lean toward the right, it doesn't seen to be the case at all that he's willing to speak up and be heard, at least when it comes to politics. But in 2016, The Wall Street Journal did an extraordinarily interesting survey amid the insanity that was the presidential election. They took data from Facebook and tracked "likes" backwards from both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to see what else their supporters were liking to try to paint a picture of just what sort of people each candidate appealed to. In addition to movies (Harry Potter for Clinton supporters, and God's Not Dead for Trump supporters) and television shows (The Rachel Maddow Show for Clinton, Duck Dynasty for Trump), they also looked at where things fell as far as favorite actors and directors. While George Takei and Jada Pinkett Smith were on top for Clinton supporters, the favorites of Trump supporters were John Wayne, Kirk Cameron, and with an overwhelming majority of states across the north, midwest, and south was Adam Sandler.

WSJ noted that Sandler had been outspoken about his political beliefs in the past, and that he had even performed at the Republican National Convention in 2004. When they reached out to him, one of his official spokespeople only said that he didn't talk about politics any more, but the message was clear: the people who love him, also love Donald Trump.

He's pro-Israel

Sandler might not be talking about politics much, but he does occasionally speak up about religion. It's no secret that "The Chanukah Song" was what helped to elevate him to the national spotlight during his early days at SNL (and made the pages of Rolling Stone when he revisited the song in 2015, with help from Seth Rogen, Geddy Lee of Rush, Drake, and Subway's ill-fated Jared). Mondoweiss picked up on a piece of Sandler's interview with Howard Stern where he took a moment to talk about his feelings on one of the world's long-standing, hot-button topics: the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

"I like when you get upset about Israel, and I get nervous about Israel, too," he told Stern. "That's from my house. My father and mother — very pro-Israel." They went on to talk about Roger Waters and his shout-out to fellow musicians and performers that he wanted to boycott Israel, with Sandler saying, "[...] I'm disgusted that they single out Israel," amid a curse-laden rant directly toward the boycott. Not only does Sandler say he's a staunch defender of Israel, he's also done ads for a telephone company there.

Oddly, there are some signs that Israel doesn't feel the same about him. In 2011, +972 reported that one of their top bloggers, Ido Kenan, had gotten a picture that they said took a step back into the Middle Ages. It was an advertisement for Sandler's Jack and Jill, and the image of him as Jill had been blacked out with spray paint. Women are typically not allowed to be shown in such a way in orthodox areas, and the blogger suggested that it was an orthodox graffiti artist that chose to make his point very, very clear by defacing the ad.