Interview: Adam Sandler on his new comedy Jack And Jill
Adam Sandler embraces his female side in new comedy Jack And Jill. Hollywood's funny man chats to Susan Griffin about donning drag and brushing off Al Pacino's advances
If you're after some light relief, Adam Sandler's latest comedy should fit the bill.
In Jack And Jill, Sandler plays both titular twins who reunite once a year for Thanksgiving when Jack finds himself enduring - rather than enjoying - his sister's company.
"Jill's very lonely. Their mum passed away and she used to live with her, so she's out in the Bronx all alone," says 45-year-old Sandler in a slightly nasal Brooklyn accent.
"They're twins, so Jill has a strong bond with Jack, but for some reason he wanted to break free. He now has a successful life as an ad executive out in California and is married to a lovely lady who takes good care of him and the children, and he's happy."
As is tradition, Jack and Jill get off on the wrong foot, and Jack tries to make amends by asking his sister to stay so he can show her everything LA has to offer. This includes a Lakers basketball game where they come across Al Pacino, the very man Jack's client is demanding appears in a Dunkin' Donuts advert. But when he approaches Pacino, the actor's more interested in getting to know his wacky sister.
"I remember he was so excited. He said: 'I get to work with 'the' Adam Sandler?"' jokes the actor, when discussing Pacino's reaction to starring in the film.
The Godfather actor plays a heightened version of himself, a man who, having played one too many roles, is starting to confuse reality with the parts he's playing.
"We wrote the part for him but never thought he'd do it. He read the script and laughed," says Sandler, dressed casually in grey combats and a blue and white checked shirt.
"He did ask, 'So who's playing Jill?' and I said, 'Oh, don't worry, we've got a hot one for you'," he laughs.
"Jill's a big girl, and fearless. She doesn't try and look gorgeous all the time, which made it easier," says Sandler on bringing his female alter-ego to life.
In fact, it wasn't too difficult to embrace his inner woman, he insists.
"That's when I got my biggest laughs growing up. I'd do John Wayne and a couple of other old-timers pretty well when I was a kid, but then I'd put the babushka [scarf] on my head and come in as my grandmother - and that always brought the house down."
As the film's co-writer, Sandler admits he was inspired by various family members.
"It's just a mixture of all the Sandler family, and hopefully when they see the movie, they'll all stop talking to me," he deadpans.
"Nah, I don't really mock anybody. Mostly because I love them but also, a lot of them would hit me," he says.
"My sisters are stronger and my brother's bigger than me. And even though my father's not here anymore, I have a fear of his ghost coming back and beating the hell out of me."
His female incarnation doesn't resemble his mother, he adds.
"No, my mother's a good looking, short redhead," he exclaims.
Just like Jack, Sandler admits to feeling a little tetchy ahead of family get-togethers: "I get nervous. I'm like, 'Oh, my God, here it comes'. When they get here, it's usually great, and if it gets out of control, it's a good story to talk about after they leave."
Sandler was only 17 when he decided to give stand-up a go and spontaneously took to the stage at a Boston comedy night. From that moment, he was hooked and regularly performed in comedy clubs throughout the state while studying Fine Arts at New York University.
He was spotted by stand-up comedian Dennis Miller, who recommended him to the producer of Saturday Night Live and he was soon regularly writing and performing for the show. Then, in 1995, he left to concentrate on a movie career.
In total, his films have grossed more than three billion dollars worldwide and he co-owns Happy Madison Productions, now a mini self-contained studio that oversees all aspects of production on films, including Jack And Jill.
It's little wonder Sandler enjoys whatever downtime he has with his family.
"Because you're close and they know you best, you're allowed to be yourself in front of them," says Sandler.
"That's maybe why you fight a lot, because you allow yourself to. With friends and people who aren't as close to you, you have your guard up - you don't want them to know you can lose it."
He recently shot the movie Donny's Boy in Massachusetts, close to his hometown Manchester, New Hampshire, where his family moved when he was five years old.
"It's where I grew up, so my family kept coming by - it was great," he says.
"I want my kids [Sadie, 5, and Sunny, 3, with his wife Jackie] to get to know my family as well as they can."
In Jack And Jill, Jack's wife is played by Mrs Tom Cruise, the former Dawson's Creek actress Katie Holmes.
"I was looking for someone who could tolerate her husband losing his mind on occasion and still maintain a pleasant household," explains Sandler. "I've met Katie before and felt she would do a great job at that."
The two couples double dated a few times, he says, and recalls one particular dinner: "We were getting ready to shoot the film and Tom said, 'It's weird that my wife's going to be your wife in the movie, it's bizarre'," remembers Sandler.
"I said, 'This is a PG movie, don't worry, nothing's going to happen. In fact, anything I do with your wife in the movie, you can do with my wife in real life'.
"And so, every morning I'd go to the set and hear my wife say, 'Please do a love scene'."
Sandler may be one of Hollywood's highest earners, but you sense the awards and acclaim aren't driving forces in his life.
"To be honest with you, when I got into this, I never thought about reviews. I never thought about what people would say about me. I was just a young guy who was excited to become a comedian and actor," he says.
"I wasn't growing up thinking, 'One day I'll get an Oscar and make a speech'. I just want to do the best work I can."
EXTRA TIME - ADAM SANDLER
:: Adam Sandler was born on September 9, 1966, in Brooklyn, New York.
:: He had a recurring role in The Cosby Show as family friend Smitty.
:: It's tradition for Sandler to include his family members in small cameos in the film, and you can see his two daughters jumping up and down in Jack And Jill.
:: His comedy albums on Warner Bros Records have gone multi-platinum and collectively sold more than six million copies to date.
:: He was voted 41st in the Forbes Celebrity 100 list of the world's most powerful celebrities last year.
Jack And Jill is released in cinemas on Friday, February 3