In the Netflix film “Hustle,” Adam Sandler plays Stanley Sugerman, a big-league basketball scout who roams the Earth looking for the next great pro ball player. He finds one in Spain, but getting him into the NBA turns out to be a brutal uphill climb.
“It seems like you’re drawn to these characters who are unlucky, you could say losers,” said correspondent Tracy Smith. “What do you think that is?”
“Oh man, I always liked them growing up,” said Sandler. “I liked pulling for somebody who needed something. I relate to all different types of people, but I enjoy playing these guys who are struggling. I like that.”
Why? “I guess I admire somebody who doesn’t give up.”
Many of the players in “Hustle,” including the star, Juancho Hernangomez, are actual NBA ballers, so it all feels intense and real. In other words, it’s not your father’s Adam Sandler movie. In more than 30 feature films (including “The Waterboy,” “Happy Gilmore,” “Billy Madison” and “Big Daddy”), he’s built a career as the comic man-child.
“Hustle” has been met with critical acclaim. “You already are nominated for a bunch of awards,” said Smith. “There’s Oscar buzz. Do you try to tune that out?”
“I’m not expectin’ it,” Sandler replied. “I don’t sit and watch my performance and go, ‘I’m riveting, man. How the hell did I do that?’ I’m proud of it. And if any of that stuff happens, that would be great. If it doesn’t happen, still everything’s been pretty damn good.”
To watch a trailer for the film “Hustle” click on the video player below:
The funny stuff may come naturally, but Sandler’s background is a bit more serious. He studied at the Lee Strasburg Studios at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. “I think I got there when I was 17,” he said. “I started doing stand-up. So, I would do school, serious stuff in the day.” And at night, he’d work the New York comedy clubs.
In 1990, at age 24, he hired on at “Saturday Night Live,” and by ’94 was a standout with bits like the “Hanukkah Song”:
Put on your yarmulke
Here comes Hanukkah
So much funukkah
To celebrate Hanukkah
Hanukkah is the “festival of lights”
Instead of one day of presents, we have eight crazy nights
He was especially close to castmate Chris Farley, on- and off-screen. Smith asked, “Were you bonded from the moment you met?”
“Yeah, yeah. For sure. Everybody was with Farley. Anybody who knew him felt a massive love and connection with him. Me and Farley, Spade and Rock, we shared an office together. So, we were with each other pretty much all the time, and loved him.”
Farley died in 1997, but Sandler sings a tribute to his friend at every one of his shows.
The first time I saw him
He was sweeter than s***
Plaid jacket and belt too tight
He wasn’t even doing a bit
Then he cartwheeled around the room
And slow-danced with the cleaning lady
He was a one man party
You know who I’m talking about:
I’m talking about my friend Chris Farley
Sandler said, “I remember the first night we played it. I finished the first verse, and then I said, ‘Talkin’ about my friend Chris Farley,’ and the place erupted! And you don’t expect that.”
Music has long been a big part of Sandler’s act, on stage or screen. In 1998’s “The Wedding Singer,” the song “Grow Old With You” was directed at Drew Barrymore. But the real love of his life is another actor, one who co-starred with Adam as the “Great Looking Flight Attendant” in his 2019 movie “Murder Mystery.” Jackie and Adam Sandler were married in 2003, and he closes his stage show with a song that now belongs to her:
I met you 20 years ago
And we talked all night
You drank me under the table
Yeah, it was love at first sight
I knew right then and there
I’d grow old with you
Smith asked, “When you first played that for Jackie, what was it like?”
“Man. I think I played it for her at a show, and she loved it. And it was sweet, real. And I love her, and I want her to know that, everywhere I go.”
“In your life, how key is having that support, Jackie’s support?”
“Oh, when she don’t support me, if something’s off? I’m off.”
And at 56, Sandler is definitely on these days, touring and, it seems, more popular than ever.
In fact, he’s been compared to a fine wine, getting better with each passing year. And so, why not grace the cover of AARP Magazine? “They asked me to be on the cover, and, what, am I gonna say ‘No’ to these guys? They were nice people.”
Smith asked, “How does that feel?”
“Feels nice that my mother’s friends can talk to me about something!” he laughed.
“So, where are you now? Are you happy?”
“Solid, solid,” Sandler said. “That’s at this minute, I’m solid. I can’t say that whole day is gonna be that way. At 9:00 this morning I remember being a little nuts, a little off. Then came 10 o’clock, I was getting my makeup on for you. and that drives me crazy, anybody touching my face.
“Then I saw Bagel, the dog; that felt good. I was nervous she was gonna bite another dog or a kid or something, so I got tense for a second. But then when I sat down with you, all feels good – ’cause we’re talkin’ about me! That feels just fine!”
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Story produced by John D’Amelio. Editor: Lauren Barnello.