Average moviegoers don’t know the name Dennis Dugan the way they do Michael Bay, though judging by the grosses, they’ve certainly seen his movies. Why the low profile? Simple: Dugan isn’t a spotlight kind of guy. He works behind the scenes to empower the actors, making them as comfortable as possible.
On “Grown-Ups” — an all-star reunion of former “Saturday Night Live” funnymen Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider and David Spade, with Kevin James thrown in for good measure — he sat the five guys down in chairs, letting them riff for two 45-minute takes. And if anyone has a crazy idea — not a rarity for Sandler and company — Dugan tries to make it work. “The squad is creating, and my job is to put together all the disparate parts,” he says. “I consider myself a comic enabler.”
Dugan’s method has earned him the distinction of becoming Sandler’s go-to director. He’s worked with the actor (and his production company Happy Madison) on “Happy Gilmore,” “Big Daddy” and his last three films, with two more coming up in 2011. Their latest collaboration, “Grown-Ups,” became the year’s top grossing live-action comedy, banking $162 million domestically and nearly $110 million overseas, earning Dugan the distinction of “Billion Dollar Filmmaker.”