Paul Thomas Anderson may be our generation’s greatest filmmaker, but he is also a human being and, like all human beings with a heart in their chest, he was struck by the power of Adam Sandler’s performance in Billy Madison. In a new episode of the SmartLess podcast, Sandler explains that Punch-Drunk Love (and his ongoing working relationship with Anderson) was sparked by the director’s admiration for the 1995 comedy and Magnolia’s Tom Cruise facilitating the two meeting in the first place.
Sandler tells hosts Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and Sean Hayes that he met Cruise during an episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Nicole Kidman. “Tom called me up” and told him, “‘I’m doing a movie with my friend Paul, he’s a great director, and he’s interested in doing a movie with you,’” Sandler remembers. At the time, he didn’t know who Anderson was but he got on a call with Anderson, who said he “loved Billy Madison” and Sandler’s comedy albums. He offered to cast Sandler in his upcoming movie and, taking a chance on a director he didn’t know, Sandler ended up taking the lead role in what would become Punch-Drunk Love. Later, Sandler says, he went to the theater and saw Magnolia out of curiosity and ended up “looking up at it ... fucking terrified.”
“I was going, ‘Oh this guy is fucking better than me,’” he says. “’I don’t want to be in this. I’m going to ruin his movie!’” Sandler ended up so freaked out about doing Punch-Drunk Love that he asked not to be in it. Anderson reassured him that his casting would work and ultimately got him through the process.
Listen to the entire SmartLess episode for more. The story about meeting Paul Thomas Anderson, which Sandler says “was the luckiest thing,” starts around 35 minutes in.
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