Adam Sandler rocked Cannes 15 years ago with “Punch Drunk Love,” proving to the world that he really can act. On Sunday in the South of France, he returned to character-actor mode with Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories.”
In the Netflix comedy, Sandler plays one of two brothers (alongside Ben Stiller) in a dysfunctional New York family. Dustin Hoffman is the dad, married to third wife (Emma Thompson).
“I couldn’t believe we were doing this movie,” Sandler said at a press conference with the cast, admitting that he got “misty-eyed” reading the script.
“It’s different for a comedian when you get an offer like this,” he later said. “My first thought is, ‘I don’t want to let anybody down and work as hard as I can to know the material and be as good as I can be.'”
The film is the second in-competition title from Netflix, after Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja” premiered to a prolonged standing ovation a few days ago. The streaming giant’s presence on the Croisette has sparked a fierce debate about whether movies without a major theatrical release should be allowed in the world’s most prestigious festival.
On Wednesday, Jury president Pedro Almodovar huffed that he couldn’t imagine given the Palm d’Or to a movie that didn’t screen in theaters first.
“He said that about ‘Happy Gilmore’ too,” quipped Stiller, who co-starring in that ’90s comedic blockbuster with Sandler.
“I have a very big screen,” Hoffman added.
“It will play in Dustin Hoffman’s living room, so it will be fine,” Baumbach joked. He explained that he financed the film independently, shooting on 16 mm film, prior to selling it to Netflix earlier this year. “I made this movie with the expectation that it would be shown on the big screen,” Baumbach said. “I believe in that.”
The 30-minute Q&A was unusually dishy, at least by Cannes standards. Sandler admitted that he had a therapist. “Therapy doesn’t end,” he said to a question about personal family issues. “That’s what you find out when you get older.”
The star got injured on set during his big fight scene with Stiller. “Ben has a more solid body than I thought,” Sandler said. “I had one of the biggest bruises in my life on my arm. By take 34, I was like, ‘Ben … if you start the fight in the middle of my chest, that would help me.”
Thompson said she felt like an outsider in more ways than one. “I thought, ‘I have absolutely no idea what this is going to be like.’” She added that playing an American accent (“which is quite hard”) was balanced by the fact that her character is an alcoholic.
Half the cast revealed they almost turned down the movie. Stiller, who has collaborated with Baumbach on multiple projects, wasn’t sure if this character felt different enough. “I didn’t really get the role the first time I read it,” Stiller said. “I didn’t understand how to connect with it.”
Hoffman had another concern. “I passed on it,” he said. “I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to play an old man.” His son Jake finally convinced him, based on Baumbach’s credit. And Hoffman had to adjust his acting style. “Not since ‘The Graduate’ was I required to say every single word. It pays off because there’s a music to his writing. “
Late in the press conference, a young reporter from Aregentina stood up to tell Hoffman they shared a last name. “Will you turn sideways?” Hoffman cracked. “I want to look at your nose.”