Born on Sept. 9, 1966, Adam Sandler spent the first six years of his life in Brooklyn, NY, where his mother Judy was a nursery school teacher and his father Stanley was an electrical engineer. The family relocated to a quieter life in Manchester, NH, where budding class clown and musician Sandler found inspiration in classic rock and repeated viewings of the comedy classic "Caddyshack" (1980). Between playing basketball, helming a cover band, and outings to comedy clubs in nearby Boston, MA, Sandler managed to maintain a decent enough grade point average to gain acceptance into New York University. He moved to New York City and worked towards a drama degree while performing at comedy clubs and auditioning for TV roles. His career was off to a start with recurring roles on "The Cosby Show" (NBC, 1984-1992) and MTV's irreverent game show "Remote Control" (MTV, 1987-1990), where he introduced his talent for creating memorable comedic characters.
The aspiring comedian left New York for Los Angeles but he did not stay long, as a stand-up set at the famed Improv caught the eye of "Saturday Night Live" alumni Dennis Miller who immediately got "SNL" producer Lorne Michaels on his speed dial. A suitably impressed Michaels hired Sandler as a writer for the series in 1990. Within a year, his cast of off-center dunces like Iraqi Pete, Canteen Boy and Cajun Man made appearances on the show's Weekend Update segment but none caught fire so quickly as Opera Man - a bewigged and caped tenor singing in satirical, often moronic non sequiturs. Sandler was promoted to repertory player in 1991 and gained even more popularity with his parody songs including "Lunchlady Land" and "The Thanksgiving Song," which appeared on his double platinum-selling 1993 debut comedy album They're All Gonna Laugh at You. Entering into the film arena, Sandler had a supporting role in Bobcat Goldthwait's uneven cult comedy Shakes the Clown (1992) before co-starring in another fringe favorite, Airheads (1994), where he was spot-on as a member of a heavy metal band who inadvertently hijacks a radio station to secure airplay for their self-produced demo.
By the time Sandler finished out the year in the ensemble of Nora Ephron's holiday downer Mixed Nuts (1994), his film career had squeezed out his TV career and he bid "SNL" - as well as good buddies and office mates David Spade, Chris Rock and Chris Farley - farewell. The era of the "Adam Sandler movie" was born, and Sandler began creating, writing and starring in a string of vehicles that hinged on variations of the "dimwitted protagonist navigates an absurd premise" storyline. The first such offering was Billy Madison (1995), in which Sandler, the scion of a wealthy family, tries to prove that he is worthy of taking over the family business by attending grades 1-12. Critically panned but a huge commercial success among the crucial male teen audience, Sandler followed up with the similarly structured golfing comedy Happy Gilmore (1996), which took in more than $40 million. Bulletproof (1996), which teamed him with Damon Wayans, opened at number one, and the same year Sandler released another double platinum selling album, What the Hell Happened to Me? which contained the new holiday classic, "The Chanukah Song." The only blot on his happiness came when he lost in quick succession two of his "SNL" contemporaries - first, good buddy Chris Farley to a drug overdose in December 1997, followed five months later with the domestic murder the castmember Sandler had most looked up to, Phil Hartman, in May 1998.
Continuing his cinematic hot streak, The Wedding Singer (1998) marked the mullet-sporting Sandler's entry into the formulaic romantic comedy, grossing $80 million and bringing women into the ranks of a previously male fan base, thanks to a charming romantic storyline with Drew Barrymore. To the chagrin of many comedy purists, Sandler further milked the "hapless outsider" genre, starring the same year in The Waterboy (1998), with its $39 million opening weekend flying in the face of conventional wisdom that moviegoers prefer more serious fare in the fall. His formula for success now firmly established, Sandler founded Happy Madison productions and began planning to put to work fellow "SNL" alumnus and friends in big screen comedies. The first feature under the Happy Madison banner was buddy Rob Schneider's 1999 brain child "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" which was certainly in keeping with Sandler's track record and genre. Sandler was back in front of the camera in Big Daddy (1999), playing a slacker who adopts a boy to win back his girlfriend. The film had more heart than his usual outings, and while it was not as overwhelmingly successful, it did register as another solid hit for the actor-turned-producer. He took on his first starring and producing role with the cringe-worthy comedy "Little Nicky" in 2000 and earned his first Grammy nomination for his 1999 comedy album Stan and Judy's Kid, before producing David Spade's Joe Dirt (2001) and Schneider's The Animal (2001).
A 2002 remake of Frank Capra's classic rags-to-riches tale Mr. Deeds (2002) found Sandler reining in the absurdity somewhat, but still watched the film earn over $125 million dollars in ticket sales. However his core audience did not turn up for his next outing, Paul Thomas Anderson's critically acclaimed Punch-Drunk Love (2002), which premiered at Cannes and took home The Golden Palm Award. Tackling a more mature role in the dramatic comedy created expressly for him by writer-director Anderson, Sandler successfully built upon his harmless sad-sack persona and added darker edges to create a much more true-to-life and sympathetic character, proving again that some of the best dramatic actors are comics. The new dimension impressed art house moviegoers, who turned up in droves as followers of the director, rather than the film's blockbuster star - someone who many walked in expecting to hate. Most walked away duly impressed, as did critics who had lambasted Sandler for the best five years.
The era of the broad, teen-oriented "Adam Sandler movie" steadily retreated into the distance, with Sandler joining Jack Nicholson to portray patient and therapist in the clever David Dorfman comedy Anger Management (2003) with Sandler's uptight, rage-repressed everyman serving as the perfect foil for Nicholson's wild-eyed, unshaven and slightly psycho psychotherapist. He reunited with Barrymore for 50 First Dates (2004), a typically thin romantic comedy that cast Sandler as a man who falls in love with a woman whose lack of a short-term memory forces him to woo her anew every day. The actor was better served in writer-director James L. Brooks' Spanglish (2004), playing a chef grappling with an out-of-control wife (Tea Leoni) and the emotional damage she inflicts on their daughter, even as he is attracted to the beautiful and sensitive maid who does not speak a lick of English (Paz Vega). The film's serio-comic tone did not work for everyone, but Roger Ebert summed up the opinion of most critics when he said that he liked Adam Sandler most when he was not in typical "Adam Sandler movies."
A remake of the prison football comedy The Longest Yard (2005) - with Sandler in the Burt Reynolds role of a jailed NFL quarterback leading a team of inmates against their guards - was a half-step backward, and though it lacked much of the original's charm and edge, it proved popular at the box office. In Click (2006), he was back to playing a misunderstood everyman who stumbles onto a device that allows him to rewind, fast-forward and pause his life at will. Critics were fairly merciless about the film's debt to "It's a Wonderful Life" and other superior explorations of the film's theme, but audiences flocked to the tune of over $200 million dollars. Taking another sojourn into the dramatic arena, Sandler played a dentist coping with the loss of his family on September 11th in Reign Over Me (2007). Again critics and audiences disagreed, and the well-received film made a paltry box office showing - audiences wanted the silly, senseless Sandler; the same Sandler who had beaten Bob Barker with a golf club and declared "The price is wrong, bitch!" Sandler made a financial rebound to somewhat familiar territory with "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" (2007), starring as a heterosexual firefighter who feigns marriage with another fireman (Kevin James) to qualify for the department's domestic partner benefits.
In 2008, Sandler joined forces with Judd Apatow for "You Don't Mess With the Zohan," an unlikely pairing that brought the mastermind behind real-life based comedies like "40-Year-Old Virgin" (2005) into Sandler's preposterous premise land. This time, Sandler starred as an Israeli intelligence officer who fakes his own death to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a hairstylist in New York City. The film was not as strongly received as Sandler's Disney family film, Bedtime Stories (2008), but Apatow signed him on for a starring role as a possibly-dying stand-up comedian for Funny People (2009). Although the script gave Sandler one of his most demanding acting roles up to that point, the film itself did mediocre box office compared to Apatow's previous smashes. Embracing all the sides of his career, Sandler moved on to the good-natured Grown Ups (2010), reuniting with old "SNL" pals David Spade, Chris Rock and Rob Schneider, as well as "Chuck and Larry" co-star Kevin James, about a group of friends gathering together to reminisce after the death of their childhood basketball coach. The film seemed to capture the tone of Sandler and company's lives off camera as well - nostalgic for the earlier days, but looking towards the future with optimism.
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