Love him or loathe him, Adam Sandler is one of the biggest success stories Hollywood has ever produced.
Despite his films hardly ever having met critical approval since he made his movie debut in the late 80s, Sandler has weathered the criticism to become one of modern cinema’s surefire box office winners.
With his latest film, Murder Mystery, now streaming on Netflix, here are 20 things you never knew about the man behind the funny.
20. He’s one of the richest actors who’s ever lived
To date, Adam Sandler’s films have grossed billions at the box office; his most recent theatrical release, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation alone grossed $528 million worldwide.
Even since he made a move to Netflix with The Ridiculous 6 in 2015, Sandler has continued to find a wide audience.
Sandler, as the principal star and – frequently – writer and producer of these films, has been handsomely rewarded.
Beginning with Little Nicky in 2000, Sandler has been commanding upwards of $20 million for every studio film he makes (Sandler was even paid $7 million, or almost a third of the budget, for the 2002 indie Punch-Drunk Love).
Of course, it all adds up. At last count, Sandler’s net worth was estimated to be $420 million, making him the 7th richest actor alive right now, and one of the richest actors of all time.
19. A dog was the ring bearer at his wedding
Sandler’s best bud and beloved pet bulldog, Meatball, sadly passed away in 2004, but not before he got to play a major role in Sandler’s wedding.
In June, 2003, Sandler married model and actress Jacqueline Titone, whom Sandler first met in 1998 on the set of Big Daddy.
Obviously, Sandler wanted the day to be a special one, with all his favourite people (and pets) taking main roles in the ceremony itself.
For one, Meatball, wearing a doggie tux and a yarmulke (Sandler and his wife were married in the Jewish faith), served as the ring bearer.
Sadly, not a year after the big day, Meatball suffered a heart attack at the age of 4 while undergoing a veterinary procedure and died.
18. Sandler held a funeral service with over 100 guests after Meatball died
Anybody who’s ever had a pet understands the heartache that comes with the animal’s passing.
However for Adam Sandler, whose Meatball was his best bud, grief didn’t begin to describe what he felt after his pal died.
To process it all, Sandler decided to say goodbye to Meatball in style – by holding a memorial service at his Malibu home.
It wasn’t a small one either: Sandler had 100 guests around to his house for the funeral, with attendees all given a T-shirt bearing Meatball’s name.
Sandler buried Meatball at his home, under a tombstone marked simply: ‘Meatball, My first son’.
17. Meatball was the son of Little Nicky’s Mr Beefy
Mr Beefy, the demonic talking bulldog in Little Nicky so prominent he features on the film’s poster, must have formed quite an impression on Adam Sandler.
While Sandler was working on the film, the ‘actor’ who played Beefy had a pup. This was Meatball, who Sandler decided to adopt as his own.
Perhaps taking after his movie star father, Meatball grew up to be a natural in front of the camera, starring in a series of online videos shot by Sandler.
Sandler even filmed a short movie, A Day with the Meatball, about a day in the life of his pet pooch, in 2002.
Considering the film’s critical and box office failure, Meatball is likely the thing that Sandler most treasures from his time on Little Nicky.
16. He and Judd Apatow used to be roommates
Long before either was a household name, Sandler and Judd Apatow – the filmmaker responsible for hits including Knocked Up, Superbad and The 40-Year-Old Virgin – lived together.
It was the 80s, and the two were still just a pair of young, budding comedians sharing a $900 per month LA apartment, making rent on sporadic standup and writing gigs.
According to Apatow, Sandler slept on a mattress with no sheets and kept rental cars filled to the brim with McDonald’s bags.
Sandler insists it wasn’t as bad as it sounds, though: “We were doing as comedians good enough to get by. We could eat at Red Lobster once every month. That was a big night out.”
Years later, having gone their separate ways and found great individual success, Sandler and Apatow finally teamed up again for the 2009 comedy-drama Funny People.
15. He started performing standup age 17
Neither his laidback comedy style nor a filmography that hardly reflects much effort suggest that Adam Sandler is much of a hard worker.
Still, just because Sandler’s style looks easy doesn’t mean he hasn’t put the hours in during his time in comedy. In fact, Sandler started his standup career aged just 17.
It was 1983 when Sandler performed his first standup gig, at a club night in Boston at the insistence of his brother.
If a comedy career wasn’t exactly born that night, Sandler kept plugging away, to the point where he was finally hired by Saturday Night Live in 1990 at the age of 24.
Naturally, this turbocharged Sandler’s standup career: his first two standup albums, They’re All Gonna Laugh at You! and What the Hell Happened to Me?, went double platinum in 1993 and 1996.
14. He got fired from Saturday Night Live. Nobody seems to know why
Adam Sandler isn’t shy about admitting he got fired from Saturday Night Live in 1995, after five years on the show.
Sandler even made light of the fact when he returned to host SNL in 2019, singing a song called ‘I Was Fired (From SNL)’ as his opening bit.
Still, nobody seems to know why exactly Sandler, along with best bud Chris Farley, got fired – particularly since neither did anything to offend anyone on the show, and were two of the more popular SNL players of their era.
“We kind of quit at the same time as being fired. It was the end of the run for us”, Sandler explained to The Daily Beast in 2017, vaguely.
When asked why the studio happened to let Sandler go at the same time as he ‘quit’, he responded: “Who knows… It hurt a lot at the time because we were young and didn’t know where we were going, but it all worked out.”
13. He could have been Tim Burton’s Willy Wonka
Tim Burton’s reimagining of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, starring Johnny Depp as eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka, drew praise when it was released in 2005.
The film could have turned out very differently, however. Rather than regular Burton collaborator Depp hamming it up in the lead role of Wonka, it could have been Sandler who took the part.
In the early stages of production, Sandler was one of the actors seriously considered for the part by the studio.
Sandler had a lot of competition: Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey and Nicolas Cage were all also considered.
In the end, Burton’s pal Depp got the gig, his popularity having recently skyrocketed thanks to 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
Sandler has yet to work with Burton.
12. He was seriously considered for Guardians of the Galaxy
Another case of what could have been, it’s been reported that Sandler almost became a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2014.
According to reports at the time, Sandler was on the shortlist to play – or more accurately voice – Guardians of the Galaxy’s Rocket Raccoon.
In 2013, Latino Review reported that Sandler was the first choice for Rocket, with Jim Carrey also being eyed to voice one of the characters.
At this early stage, the likes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Glenn Howerton and The Office star John Krasinski were in the running to play Star-Lord, while Jason Momoa was eyed for Drax the Destroyer.
Alas, such dream casting was ultimately to come to naught.
In the end, director James Gunn went with Bradley Cooper for Rocket, albeit with an adopted Adam Sandler-style accent.
11. His Netflix films keep breaking records
If you thought Adam Sandler moving his movies over to Netflix was a step down for the comedian, think again.
Since signing an exclusive deal with the streaming service, Sandler has broken Netflix records with his original films.
Sandler’s western parody The Ridiculous 6, which debuted on Netflix in 2015, was viewed more times in 30 days than any other film in Netflix’s history.
Sandler’s latest, Murder Mystery, has been similarly successful: the film broke another Netflix record when it had the streaming service’s biggest opening weekend ever.
Another Netflix film of Sandler’s broke the mould for a different reason: in 2017, The Meyerowitz Stories, which drew praise for a rare dramatic performance from Sandler, became the first Netflix film to screen in competition at the notoriously streaming-unfriendly Cannes film festival.
10. He got his big break on The Cosby Show
Adam Sandler didn’t become one of the most successful film stars in the world overnight.
Before he even made it into movies, Sandler had his baptism of fire in television first, beginning with The Cosby Show in 1987.
That’s right: Sandler made his debut on the enormously successful sitcom masterminded by since-disgraced comedian Bill Cosby.
Between 1987 and 1988, Sandler played Smitty, pal to Theo Huxtable, played by Malcolm-Jamal Warner.
A year later, Sandler made his first movie appearance, playing Schecky Moskowitz, a struggling comedian who goes to work on a cruise ship, in Going Overboard. The film is rated one of the worst ever made by IMDb, so Sandler definitely started as he meant to go on.
9. He almost got the Jamie Foxx role in Collateral
Before it was Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx, it was almost Cruise and Adam Sandler playing the Vincent and Max roles in Michael Mann’s Collateral.
In what would have been a departure for the comedian, Sandler was for a long time attached to play cab driver Max in the crime thriller.
For a time, it was Sandler and Russell Crowe in the lead roles; even when Crowe later bailed, Sandler remained attached to the film.
Unfortunately for Sandler, filming on Collateral clashed with his shoot for the comedy Spanglish, and he was forced to pull out.
Sandler was replaced by Foxx, who went on to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. Sorry, Adam.
8. He’s a big-time Republican
As a professional comedian, Adam Sandler naturally prefers to stick to the jokes – but there is one thing that Sandler appears to be serious about.
Though he’s not exactly outspoken in his politics, Sandler is that rare thing: a Hollywood star who happens to be a big-time Republican.
A member of the Hollywood Congress of Republicans – whose members include Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kelsey Grammer – Sandler has also donated his hard-earned cash to the party.
Sandler donated money to current Donald Trump attorney and Republican former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani’s campaign to be President in 2007.
Sandler also performed at the Republican National Conference in 2004, four years into George W Bush’s presidency.
7. Hotel Transylvania features his real wife and child
Sandler was cast as the voice of Dracula in the 2012 animated comedy.
Sandler’s wife and eldest daughter, Sadie, were also keen to get in on the family fun, providing the voices for Dracula’s wife and infant daughter.
Sadie made her debut big-screen appearance in the 2008 movie Bedtime Stories.
She’s since appeared in several of Sandler’s movies, including Just Go With It and Grown Ups 2.
Her younger sister is also a budding actress, having appeared alongside her sister in Grown Ups as well as providing her voice for Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation.
6. His nephew is a fellow-comedian and actor
It seems that funny runs in the blood, with Sandler’s nephew Jared catching the acting bug from a young age.
He attended USC’s School of Dramatic Art and made his debut performance in Sandler’s 1999 movie Big Daddy.
It seems the family stick together outside of filming too. In 2014, Sander’s brother represented him in a court case after his Nanny accused the actor of ‘slavery’.
The pair won the law suit, with the Nanny being ordered to pay back the $45,000 Sandler had previously given her in a settlement.
Lesson learned: never go up against the big guns!
5. He’s won nine people’s choice awards
We all know Sandler is a bit like marmite, you either love him or hate him.
But it seems the majority of people really, really love him.
Five of the nine awards were given consecutively to Sandler in the Favourite Comedic Star category , from 2011 to 2015.
The award disregards critical acclaim, leaving the public to judge.
This just goes to prove Sandler truly is a man of the people.
4. His wife converted to judaism to marry him
If you’re a Sandler fan (or even if you’re not), it will come as no surprise to learn that Sandler is a devout Jew.
His wife, model and actress Jackie Titone, was born and raised a Christian.
She was still practicing her religion when she met Sandler on the set of Big Daddy back in 1999.
She converted to Judaism in 2000, three years before their wedding.
It seems love really does conquer all.
3. The ‘dodgeball’ scene in Billy Madison was not staged
It might not be an Oscar-winning master-piece, but every fan remembers Sandler’s epic dodgeball scene in the classic comedy.
Sandler has since revealed that, against usual protocol, he actually hit the kids with dodgeballs to make the scene ultra believable.
In fact, one of the kids even started crying for real after being hit by one of Sandler’s more accurate shots.
After being reprimanded by several parents, Sandler argued that the scene was in the script.
He was subsequently informed that, due to being six, most of the children could not read. The kids are now in their 20s, and we’re betting they find the whole saga a lot more funny in retrospect.
2. Three of his movies are on the list of Worst Films Ever Made
Sandler’s movie production company Happy Madison have made more than their fair share of…um…questionable movies.
They’ve released over 44 movies in the 20 years since it was founded.
The three films to make it on to the list were Master of Disguise, That’s My Boy and Jack and Jill.
The latter, which sees Sandler play twins Jack and Jill, won him awards for both Worst Actor and Worst Actress.
If you’ve seen the movie we think you’ll understand why.
1. Neil Diamond covered one of his hit songs
Sandler debuted the infamous holiday classic Chanukah Song on Saturday Night Live way back in 1994.
The lyrics are based around naming famous Jewish people, in attempt to make Jewish children feel more included at Christmas time.
In 2009, Diamond released a version of the catchy comedy tune, alongside a South Park style video depicting a very literal portrayal of the characters listed in the song.
Diamond’s cover features a few lyrical variations, with the line ‘Tom Cruise isn’t, but I heard his agent is’ changed to ‘Tom Cruise isn’t, but Jesus Christ is’.
Who knows why he changed these lyrics, but we think a national treasure like Diamond deserves a little artistic licence.