punch-drunk love

Adam Sandler is a beloved figure, even when he pumps out kind-of-awful movies. But he balances those types of films out with the occasional turn in a genuinely good movie – like the recent Uncut Gems, or in Paul Thomas Anderson‘s fantastic Punch-Drunk Love. Anderson’s film is the gold standard for “good Adam Sandler performances,” but according to the Sandman himself, he was very nervous about taking the role. In a recent interview, Sandler revealed that after watching Anderson’s Magnolia, he grew worried that he was going to “ruin” Punch-Drunk Love.

Adam Sandler is not exactly known for his dramatic work, but in 2002 he earned some of the best reviews of his entire career when he appeared in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love. To be clear, Punch-Drunk Love is a comedy – but it’s a dark comedy, and not at all like the type of comedies Sandler usually makes. It was a somewhat risky idea, but it paid off in the end.

However, it took some convincing. During a recent interview on the SmartLess podcast (via Collider), Sandler recounted how he ended up in the film. Tom Cruise plays a supporting role in this story, as Cruise – having just worked with Anderson on Magnolia – is the one who first told Sandler that Anderson wanted to make a movie with him. As Sandler tells it, he met Cruise when Cruise’s then-wife Nicole Kidman was hosting Saturday Night Live. Later, Cruise called Sandler up and, as Sandler tells it, said: “I’m doing a movie with my friend Paul, and he’s interested in doing a movie with you. Can I put him on the phone?”

Paul was, of course, Paul Thomas Anderson. “Paul was very nice, and he says, ‘Hey, I loved Billy Madison,'” Sandler said. “And I was like, ‘Okay, thanks,’ but I didn’t know who he was.” At that point, Anderson asked if it was okay if he wrote a movie for Sandler. Sandler eventually agreed. However, he was still unfamiliar with Anderson’s work. And then Magnolia came out. Here’s what happened next, according to Sandler:

“But then, honest to God, it was like 11 in the morning, and I had nothing to do, and Magnolia just came out, and I said, ‘I think this is that kid’s movie. I’m going to go see that.’ It was sold out, and I was in the front row, and I was looking up at it, and I was fucking terrified, and I was going, ‘Oh this guy is fucking better than me. I don’t want to be in this. I’m going to ruin his movie! Holy shit!'”

Sandler immediately called up Anderson and told him he couldn’t do the movie, but Anderson drove over to Sandler’s house and walked him through the script, and won Sandler over. “I always said I could do this, but this was too much. But he talked me through it, and he made me comfortable,” said the Sandman. And the rest is history.

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