November 9, 2000

Hot as Hell

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Adam Sandler has a knack for playing characters with anger management problems, immature, Peter Pan mentalities, and dysfunctional families. These constants, that are prominent in Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy, and Big Daddy, are crucial components in Sandler’s formula for successful comedies. That is, slightly demented but nevertheless lovable guy has a problem that is no fault of his own, then, with the help of some friends, he solves that problem, and, finally, everyone lives happily ever after (usually getting stoned and falling in love at some point along the way).

His latest movie, Little Nicky, which will arrive in theaters tomorrow, is no exception to Sandler’s rules.

Last Monday, Daze had the opportunity to preview Little Nicky (see below for film summary) and talk with some of the film’s stars, including Sandler, who portrays Nicky; Rhys Ifans (Knotting Hill), who plays Nicky’s Brother Adrian; Allen Covert (Big Daddy), one of the film’s producers who also plays Todd, Nicky’s ambiguously gay roommate in New York City; Robert Smigel (Saturday Night Live writer), who is the voice of Beefy the Bulldog; and Steve Brill, the film’s director. They told us about what went on behind the scenes, about the film itself, and why Sandler’s characters may not be that far from reality.

This movie is the result of the collaboration of the writing talents of Sandler, Brill, and Tim Herlihy. According to our interview, Smigel contributed to the content of the movie, as well. It would seem that, with this many writers, things could get difficult. But Sandler disagrees.

Sandler says that he just thinks of an idea, and then everyone else says, “Well this is fucking gold. You’re the funniest Sandler.”

But, on a more serious note, Brill said that this movie was much more challenging than most other movies he’s created. Here, filmmakers needed to create an entire world of science fiction and incorporate special effects, which is something he has never had to consider to this extent. In this film’s world, he said, it is much more difficult to determine cause and effect relationships than when dealing with a film based in reality. He wanted to create a world that is “scary but not overwhelmingly insane.” Apparently, the special effects were particularly difficult because the bulldog used in the film would often run away.

Then came casting. Many of the parts were written with specific actors in mind, including Harvey Keitel (Satan), Rodney Dangerfield (Satan’s dad, Lucifer), Quentin Tarantino, Jon Lovitz, Henry Winkler, and Ozzy Ozborn. Ifans told of how he joined Sandler’s crew. “I was out there working on another script. I thought [Little Nicky] was fucking hilarious.” Then, when he met with Sandler and they both “stunk of the same stink” from going out the night before, he knew it was a great match.

Covert had a better recollection of the encounter. He said that Ifan’s exact words were, “Any movie with a talking dog is okay with me.”

In this, as in any Sandler movie, there was no drought of SNL players. Kevin Nealon, Dana Carvey, David Spade, Ellen Cleghorn, and Michael McKean (and of course Smigel and Sandler himself) all appeared in the film. Rob Sneider’s “You can do it!” character makes a comeback, this time shouting, “You can do it Ozzy! Bite his freaking head off!”

It is evident that Sandler is a man who is very loyal to his friends. He seemed very close to the Nicky entourage that was present on Monday, as they shared inside jokes and finished each others’ sentences. A more concrete example is Sandler’s production company, Happy Madison, with which he produces his friends’ movies. He has already produced his own movies as well as a Rob Snieder movie, and is planning to do the same for a Dana Carvey movie that is in the works.

After viewing Little Nicky, it is also apparent that Sandler’s comedic principles paid off. From Satan’s 4 o’clock appointment to shove a large pineapple up Hitler’s wrong end to Sandler’s impairments from being hit in the head with a shovel by one of his brothers, this movie is certain to make audiences laugh, and have a particular appeal for college students.

In one scene, Sandler meets his mother (Reese Witherspoon), and finds that heaven is filled with birthday cake buildings and lots of sorority girl-like angels (one of whom is Sandler’s cousin Jana).

Brill noted that instead of having a motherly-type like Susan Sarandon play Nicky’s mom, they thought that it would be funnier to have Keitel fooling around with a younger girl. Witherspoon tells Sandler that the handsome couple met at a “heaven-hell mixer,” but that the long distance relationship was too difficult to maintain. One line that they edited out, Brill said, has Witherspoon whispering to Sandler that “These girls aren’t really my friends. We just let them use the balcony.” However, they decided that it made her sound too snotty.

Spirituality, one of the movie’s main themes, had an impact on Sandler. Hell and heaven are not often subjects to be taken lightly, and dealing with a subject of a spiritual nature such as this certainly had its effects on Sandler. “Well, it made me not want to go to hell more,” he said. He’s a little worried because he’s done a lot of “stuff” that he considers to be borderline. What that stuff is, however, he chose not to divulge. But, he added, he wants to go to heaven so he can see his Grandma and “chubs” [SNL alum Chris Farley].

But Sandler is planning to get serious, to some extent, in the near future. There is a strong possibility that he will star in Paul Thomas Anderson’s (Magnolia, Boogie Nights) next film. This movie will be a comedy, but will be more weighty than Sandler’s filmographic resum