If you were to bump into Adam Sandler on the street you would probably think he was someone you knew in high school. Or he might remind you of a guy who borrowed a few bucks from you a couple of years back. He’s too quiet and unassuming to make you assume that he’s a big movie star.
But he’s definitely among the top actors working in films these days. Sandler has built a huge following with the often-raunchy, no-holds-barred comedies “Happy Gilmore,” “The Waterboy,” “Little Nicky,” “Billy Madison” and “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.” He’s won over serious moviegoers with the dramas “Spanglish” and “Punch-Drunk Love.”
Now Sandler’s trying to attract an even bigger audience. The comedian, who went from the outrageous Canteen Boy on “Saturday Night Live” to box-office sensation, stars in “Bedtime Stories.” It is the tale of a handyman whose late-night stories to his niece and nephew come to life. It opens Christmas Day.
The film is Sandler’s first family-friendly effort. He has been thinking about making such a movie since his 2-year-old daughter, Sadie, was born. He has a second daughter, Sunny, who was born in November. Becoming a father made Sandler take a close look at his career, and he decided to take a shot at making a family-oriented movie.
It’s a gamble. Sandler has developed a loyal following among young moviegoers, mostly males, who like seeing the comedian punch veteran game-show host Bob Barker or get funky with a senior citizen.
Sandler’s aware a lot of youngsters have seen his other movies, including the ones that have been rated R. He knows this because their mothers yell at him for corrupting their children by urinating on walls, among other acts.
“I wanted to make sure I made one movie in my career that mothers hug me for. This could be it,” Sandler says.
There are no guarantees the hugs will come. That won’t diminish the fun Sandler had making the movie. And he had to deal with a broken ankle during most of the shoot. Sandler was injured just before the start of filming while playing basketball with his nephew.
The injury required some creative thinking by director Adam Shankman. He put off filming all of the movie’s action scenes, which range from a chariot race to a Wild West showdown, until late in the schedule.
Sandler says it was all worth it to produce the kind of film he wanted to make.
“I had a great time making this movie,” Sandler says. “When the kids are laughing in the theater, I tear up I am so happy I did a nice thing. I am so happy to hear kids laugh and so happy it gives parents somewhere to take their kids.
“I keep thinking about grandmas. It is going to be cool for grandmas and grandpas to be having a nice time with their grandchildren.”
Sandler has no plans to abandon the fans who like his more unfiltered side. He’s just happy he took a shot at making a movie he knows he can show to his daughters.
“I have kids now. I have always wanted to make a family movie,” Sandler says. “I always loved when we would watch a Disney movie on Sunday night (on TV). I became a big fan of Kurt Russell and always wanted to grow up and be him.”
Sandler says the closest he has gotten to being Kurt Russell is that he now lives in a house Russell once owned.
And, adds Sandler, “I have his old muscles.”
In the Sandler household, the comedian is more comfortable reading to Sadie in the morning. He has not had great success with bedtime stories, because instead of falling asleep, his daughter becomes more riled up and crazy.
“Most of my stories, it is similar to the movie. She gives me a subject and we go from there. Every subject she brings up has to do with food. It is always like ‘Waffles.’ OK. There was giant waffle. ‘Pancake.’ And he met a blanket made out of pancakes. ‘Syrup.’ And then they had to cross the river of syrup,” Sandler says. “At the end of every story she is, like, ‘Cookie.’”
The favorite bedtime story for Sandler when he was growing up was “The Little Train That Could.” His sister was going through dental school at the time. When she would call home crying about all of the studying she had to do, Sandler would make her feel better with his recounting of the tale of the train with the positive attitude.
“Bedtimes Stories” ended up being suitable for all audiences. But it IS Adam Sandler - there must have been times during the filming that the frat boy side of the actor came through?
Absolutely not, says director Shankman. Sandler showed a G-rated restraint because there were always children on the set - his own, co-star Keri Russell’s new child or the film’s two young cast members, Jonathan Morgan Heit and Laura Ann Kesling.
The director is almost apologetic that there won’t be any “Sandler-gone-wild” moments for the DVD release.
“Even our bloopers are family friendly,” Shankman says.
Fans of the more adult Sandler need not worry. Although he enjoyed coming home with such a happy feeling at the end of each day during the shooting of “Bedtime Stories,” his next film takes him back to his old - and more adult oriented - ways.
Sandler’s shooting the new Judd Apatow movie “Funny People.” He says he comes home each night feeling “so filthy” and “so sad.”
“I am not making every decision based on my children. And I hope they never see these other movies I am doing. But I do want to do more family-friendly movies. I feel good doing them. But it is not going to be my way of life,” Sandler says.