In That’s My Boy, Adam Sandler is the father from hell. He’s obnoxious, irresponsible and immature but with good reason. When his character Donny was a teenager, he had an affair with his math teacher Ms. McGarricle (Eva Amurri Martino). Their union spawned a son, Todd (Andy Samberg), who grew up to despise his family — specifically his dad. Earlier this month, ScreenCrave attended the That’s My Boy press conference, where Sandler discussed dysfunctional relationships, his love of R-rated comedy and old ladies.
Adam Sandler has found success in both R-rated and family films. But it’s been three years since he’s delved into the raunchy material that made him a household name. So what’s so great about returning to the dark side?
Adam Sandler: It was fun to speak the way I speak in my bathroom. I grew up cursing a lot and it felt natural. And then my parents yelled at me and told me to stop and they weren’t enjoying my albums. They weren’t enjoying a lot of things I did with my life. Then my father passed away and he’s not here to yell at me anymore. So my mother — I bully her — I say, ‘Here comes some more dirtiness. Sit and enjoy it.’ And that’s what we did.
Despite the freedom that comes with R-rated films, the family-friendly genre’s where the money’s is. Being able to appeal to a broader audience has paid off for the actor in more ways than one. But he claims it was easy to go back to the hardcore stuff.
Adam Sandler: It [That's My Boy] was just a funny script and I liked the idea. I liked the idea of hanging out with these guys. Samberg actually called me up and told me he liked it and that got me excited. And that’s it. I’ve done some stuff in the past few years where I cursed a bit and it felt good.
That’s My Boy seems like a match made in movie heaven for Sandler and Samberg. In reality, the actors have a lot in common. Why wouldn’t they star in a film where their characters are related?
Adam Sandler: We knew each other the last few years. And our names are similar and our looks are a little bit similar. The Judaism is quite similar.
Sandler was easily smitten with his co-star. He likens Samberg to a younger, better version of himself.
Adam Sandler: He’s kind of similar to me but a little better, a little smarter. And a little better looking. Like he’s got all good angles. I can fake being good-looking if I’m looking dead at you. But when I move left or right it’s like, ‘What the fuck is that?’ Andy can turn his head and you’re still like ‘Alright, I like that.’ But he’s just a hard worker. [Great] comedy chops. Him and [Will] Forte are similar to the way me and my buddies were back in the day where it’s all about being funny. And all about coming up with stuff that you feel is fresh and that makes you laugh. He gave me good stuff in the movie. He gave me good lines to say. I would finish a take and Andy would say ‘What about if you say…’ You know that’s not a common thing in my life where a co-star is looking out for me and saying ‘Try this joke.’ He was sitting in his trailer — and Will too — writing jokes for me. And it was good. It was beautiful.
In terms of production, Sandler is known for working with the same directors and writers. For example, Dennis Dugan has helmed Happy Gilmore, Grown Ups, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Big Daddy. But for I Hate You Dad, he tapped relative newcomer Sean Anders, best known for the 2008 comedy, Sex Drive.
Adam Sandler: I saw Sex Drive one night on television. And we had a plane ride, like me and my 10 friends. We were going somewhere. And one by one I was going, ‘You gotta watch this Sex Drive movie.” And they were all plugging in their headphones and watching. Everybody loved it. I was like ‘I better meet with those guys.’ They’re pretty great. And then when it came to doing this, my usual guys who I work with… we were all kind of busy. We were all just filled up. The plate was full. So no one could jump on this and then I said, ‘Let me have a meeting the guy from Sex Drive.’ And that’s kind of how it happened.
Anders turned out to be a perfect fit for Sandler. Not only is he a director, but he’s also a comedy writer. He could easily improvise with the cast, which was filled with comedy veterans.
Adam Sandler: He’s just an animal, him and his partner John. They just write. You just give a thought and they go. It was literally that quick. The next day or two days later they had another 20 pages that they were rewriting and writing. Just great guys. Great instincts. Similar tastes in what we think is funny in rated R-ville. I don’t know if we have a similar PG-13 taste. Rated R we just had a great time. I think Sean just connected with the movie, like I connected.
So where did the inspiration for deadbeat dad Donny Berger come from?
Adam Sandler: I knew guys like Donny Berger. And I really love playing the guy. Actually my friend Nick Swardson, who’s in the movie, on like every couple weeks when I see him he just goes, ‘Boy, I wish you were Donny.’
Donny has a very distinct look and persona. He has a heavy New England accent, his fashion’s inspired by ’80s hair metal, and he’s got a mullet.
Adam Sandler: That was a last day choice. The hair do. The voice, I grew up with that voice. I’m from New England and I heard that voice on many many drunk people. I got beat up by that voice many times. [imitates voice] ‘You little fucking hot shot.’ I enjoyed being that guy. The hair helped me not look so much like Adam Sandler cursing. It was nice to be the wigged up Adam Sandler cursing.
In the beginning of the film, Donny is portrayed by a young actor called Justin Weaver. Like Samberg, he’s a near spitting image of Sandler. He had to pull off a few risque scenes that involved future babymama Ms. McGarricle. But Sandler claims Weaver had no qualms about the dialogue or action that took place.
Adam Sandler: I think if you read the script. You go from there. You read that script the kid’s part calls for him chopping somebody’s head off or something that’s what he’s going to do. That’s what this movie called for. A kid who is growing up in a home that got in a situation that has happened before. We built a comedy around it, but we know it’s a serious situation. And he said his lines. He came up with some good ones on his own. That’s kind of what happens.
That’s My Boy has the rare distinction of having a famous mother-daughter team play the same character. When it came to casting Donny’s seductive teacher, they went with Eva Amurri Martino and her real-life mother Susan Sarandon.
Adam Sandler: That was Heather Parry [the film's producer]. Her idea was to say that whoever plays the teacher it should be a mother-daughter team. Instead of doing the makeup of 30 years later and putting a lot of makeup on an actress, it would be fun to get a pair and those two were great. They said yes and [are] pretty damn funny in the movie — both of them.
Over the course of Sandler’s career we’ve noticed a serious trend. He loves sexualizing older women in his movies [including That's My Boy]. What is it about romancing the senior set that appeals to the actor?
Adam Sandler: I’m comfortable with it. I’ve always liked older ladies. I don’t know. They seem to be nice. They’ve seen it all. They’ve seen every penis size. They’ve seen some giants and they’ve seen some that don’t cause too much pain. And they’re nice about it and they find a way to compliment it no matter what. So I always like older ladies for that reason.
That’s My Boy opens in theaters everywhere June 15.