We’ve seen Adam Sandler go serious before. He played a traumatized 9/11 widower in Reign Over Me and a troubled lover in Punch Drunk Love. Even Click had serious parts. Funny People really merges the comedy and drama. Sandler plays George Simmons, a comedian who finds out he has a rare blood disease. Trying to deal with his impending death, he lashes out at audiences in standup clubs. Along the way, we get to see the fake movies that made George famous, like Merman and Re-Do.
Crave Online: Was there a conscious decision to use your own persona?
Adam Sandler: You know, I just gave into what Apatow wanted. I didn’t think about it. If he told me to bring something from my real life, I did. This guy that I play, he’s leading a different life than I live but there are some things that hit close to home.
Crave Online: How do you identify with the character and the theme of mortality and legacy?
Adam Sandler: If I God forbid got sick like this guy, I don’t think I’d handle it the same way but I did identify or I did realize that this was a way to go. For a guy in this situation who’s insanely famous, been around a long time, doesn’t have any close friends and finds himself in a very heavy situation and doesn’t have anyone to talk to. In my real life, I have a lot of people to talk to so I’m not going to have to go through this but I know guys, I do know people like that who might have to go through it like this. It’s lonely but they find a way to be funny about it.
Crave Online: Did you and Judd ever compete for parts like the roommates in the movie?
Adam Sandler: At this time, he said he didn’t even want to be on camera anymore. Judd was slowly starting to say, “Maybe I just want to be a writer or something like that.” I didn’t even know what he was talking about. I was like, what’s a writer? Then we auditioned for Jim Henson and I was so cocky, I was like, “Oh, I can’t wait for that callback.” Then Judd’s like, “Yeah, they called, they were interested in me.”
Crave Online: Did doing standup again remind you of your roots?
Adam Sandler: I’ll tell you what, doing standup when you’re 42 years old is a lot more pressure than it was. When I was in my 20s, I had a goal and that was to become a movie star. I was pretty crazy. I don’t know why I was like that but I would go on stage. If I did great, I was like all right, we’re getting closer to me getting what I need. When I did bad, I would just hit my head and go, “Wow, those people didn’t understand how great I am.” When you’re 42 years old and you go on stage and you say a joke and no one laughs, you’re just like, “Wow, why am I here right now? This is very humiliating.” I was too dumb when I was young to even notice good or bad. And you also think, “Wow, it’s 10:30 at night and my kids are going to wake up at six. I’m going to be tired.” I would tell Judd after every set I would do, this was stuff I haven’t done in a long time. I haven’t talked that filthy in front of people. People recognize me. I’ve been around a long time. I go on stage, these nice people who know me as a certain type of person and then I’m on stage and I’m as filthy as can be. I’m watching, some people are into it, some people are going, “No, don’t ruin it for us.” Then I would drive home and I’d be in my driveway alone and I have my two little kids sleeping and I just felt like the biggest, dirtiest human being. I was mad at Apatow. Why am I doing this movie.
Crave Online: Could you ever imagine feeling bitter towards your audience like George does?
Adam Sandler: In real life, with my audiences I’m very thankful. I understand what the character’s going through like what Judd said. He dedicated his life to them and then all of a sudden he finds himself alone. He’s lashing out. But no, I’m very thankful.
Crave Online: What was challenging about going to dark places where we rarely see you?
Adam Sandler: Let’s see. Certain scenes were heavy and I knew Judd just went through stuff with his mom and I went through stuff with my dad. We saw firsthand what goes on with people who are incredibly sick so I wasn’t excited about diving into that but I knew it had to be done and I just did it.
Crave Online: Because of your relationship, does Judd know buttons to push to get you there?
Adam Sandler: Yeah, he knows everything. He knows a lot about me. Yes, that did help. He knows just stories that only Judd and I know, so he could bring those up and definitely bring me to different places. The only thing in my head I’d have to do is think Apatow will take care of me. I’ve got to let the secret out and just did.
Crave Online: The older you are, has your sense of humor changed?
Adam Sandler: I’ll tell you, going out to dinner with Apatow, when we’re alone, I do laugh like I did back in the day. When I watch movies now, I can’t say I laugh as much as I did when I was 15 and it wasn’t my profession, but I don’t know. Comedy is still my first choice. When a movie’s coming out and it’s a comedy, I tend to go to that movie first and I do laugh and I do break it down, what was good about it, what was original about it. Comedians like seeing other guys do something like, “Oh man, that was great. Oh, he got to that joke before I did.”
Crave Online: Do you still do prank calls?
Adam Sandler: The last time I did it was on the set. Judd had me do a few and I was out of practice. I was so bummed out because I was like, “Man, I was great at these because I was so on my game back in the day.” I did it so many times, when Judd would bring guys over, in the beginning of the movie, the one that’s in the movie still, isn’t it? Stiller and Janeane Garofolo are over and I used to get excited when Judd would bring other guys to come over because I was great at it. I was like, “Okay, everyone, go see the master.” But when Judd asked me to do it during the movie, there was a scene, I don’t know if that’s in the movie, is it? Well, I did. It was me and Seth later and we made about five prank phone calls. I was so mad, I was like, “I should’ve practiced yesterday.
Crave Online: What would you think of doing a Re-Do for real?
Adam Sandler: By the way, swear to god, my mother saw it. Judd has the Re-Do, my head on a baby on the internet. I was at dinner with my mom and I go, “Ma, check this out” on one of the iPhone things. She was looking at it and she goes, “You’re a very cute baby.”
Crave Online: What competition did you feel with the other standup comedians?
Adam Sandler: The best thing about my life now, because I’m not Bob Hope but I’ve been around long enough to be like if I see someone else kill, I don’t get jealous. I’m just like, “That’s good. He’s good. That guy’s good.” But 20 years ago when I saw someone else kill, I’d be like, “Oh god. I gotta figure some sh*t out.”
Crave Online: Would you like another drama?
Adam Sandler: It was a lot of work, this movie, and when I finished it, I loved Apatow and we hugged and I was very relieved to take a break. I don’t know how these other actors go movie to movie and lose their mind in their roles and have a real life. I was happy to jump into my real life and be with my kids and wife and work on that part, but I’m sure if it comes down the road someday, Judd thinks it’s right or someone else thinks it’s right, but I’m not at night thinking, “God, I’ve got to get there again.” I’m happy I got this one.
Crave Online: So what’s next?
Adam Sandler: I’m doing a movie right now with a bunch of my friends, comedians, called Grown Ups.