×

‘Uncut Gems’ Star Adam Sandler on Being an Early Partner of Netflix: ‘I’ve Been a Genius My Whole Career’

Though A24’s “Uncut Gems” features retired Celtics player Kevin Garnett in his acting debut, avid basketball fan and star Adam Sandler said he never actually had the chance to shoot hoops with the famed center during filming.

“But he taught me two good tips and I’m not going to tell you what they are, but I hope I see you out on the court and I’m going to destroy you,” Sandler cracked to Variety on Wednesday night at the film’s Los Angeles premiere at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.

Basketball played a central role in the both the film’s story and development; Sandler’s first meeting with the writer/director brother duo Josh and Benny Safdie took place on the court. “We played a lot of basketball during this shoot,“ Sandler said. “Josh has long arms. He lucked out and blocked me one time. Blocked my shot. That doesn’t happen very often because I tend to push off and make room, but old Josh blocked me and Jake Hoffman, who was also playing basketball, took a picture of that very moment. So, he passes out the picture of Josh’s hand on my basketball blocking me and he showed me that shot throughout the whole shoot and I hated it. Just one good moment to get Adam.”

Set in Manhattan’s Diamond District in 2012, “Uncut Gems” follows Sander’s Howard Ratner — a jeweler and gambling addict — as he careens from one bad decision to another in a desperate gambit to fend off his encroaching circle of enemies. Sandler’s performance has been hailed as one of his best (the star was named best actor by the National Board of Review), though he has yet to garner any major awards recognition. Despite that, Sandler appears to be in the middle of a career renaissance, especially considering his lucrative Netflix production deals, with the first inked in 2015.

Popular on Variety

Sandler’s early decision to sign on with the streaming giant, which is emerging as a significant awards contender, now appears to be somewhat prescient. When asked if he considers himself a genius for quickly spotting Netflix’s potential, Sandler jokingly replied, “Certainly that, I’ve been a genius my whole career. I opened the doors for many others. They were very nice. They were very friendly to creative types. They wanted to just make good stuff. They trusted me, they got involved with me. Ted Sarandos [Netflix’s Chief Content Officer], the guy who runs the joint, I just loved him as a person, so I just lucked out.”

For their part, the Safdies told Variety that they were pleased with the film’s positive reception and the accolades for Sandler. “Adam deserves it because he put in so much time and work and dedication and this was everything for him and it was everything for us,” Josh Safdie said. “And I’m happy to see that for him.”

As Knicks fans, the Safdies also told Variety that they had to overcome their initial reticence in casting Garnett, who had led the Celtics to victory over their favorite team many times. However, once 76ers center Joe Embiid fell out of contention, Garnett swiftly won them over.

“We talked with a few players and when we talked with Kevin, we just didn’t want to get off the phone,” Josh Safdie said. “And you have to realize that his fandom of wrestling actually affected his performance. That’s why he was such a great heel, a great performer, he knew how to manipulate 20,000 people. And then you start to get to know him and he’s an incredible storyteller and acting is giving shape to story. And he shaped his stories in such a unique way. He’s incredible and so dedicated and he called me coach once, so I was already done.”

The Safdies confirmed that legendary Lakers player Kobe Bryant had also been considered for the film, but the idea ultimately fell apart.

“We never actually sent it to Kobe,” Josh Safdie explained. “Our agents were like, ‘Oh, you should give it to Kobe because I heard he wants to act.’ And then we spent two weeks trying to rewrite the movie and the work because it’s an essential character, it’s not a cameo. And I finally finished it after they were bothering me for a week and a half or two weeks … and [then] we find out he wants to direct not act, so they never even sent it to him.”

Julia Fox, Kevin Garnett, The Weeknd, Adam SandlerA24's UNCUT GEMS Los Angeles Premiere, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 11 Dec 2019
CREDIT: Eric Charbonneau/Shutterstock

More Film

  • Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star

    How 'Bad Boys for Life' Escaped the Franchise Revival Curse

    Sony’s “Bad Boys” franchise proved a 17-year gap between installments means little for the right property. “Bad Boys for Life,” reuniting stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as drug-busting cops, beat expectations and debuted to a stellar $68 million in North America over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. The action comedy now stands [...]

  • Tony Hall, Director General of the

    Frontrunners Emerge as BBC Boss Tony Hall Set to Leave Broadcasting Behind

    As the U.K. industry reacts to news of Tony Hall’s intention to depart the BBC this July, top-level executives including Charlotte Moore and Tim Davie as well as external contenders such as Channel 4’s Alex Mahon are beginning to emerge. Variety understands that Lord Hall, who has headed the BBC for seven years as director [...]

  • The Isle of the Dead

    UniFrance Puts Spotlight on Emerging French VR Sector at Rendez-Vous

    France has a burgeoning eco-system of virtual reality and augmented reality producers, and is one of Europe’s leading VR/AR hubs. The UniFrance Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in Paris, a showcase of French projects that wraps Monday, included a VR/AR showcase, with recent projects demonstrated by Wide Management VR, VRrOOm and Atlas V. UniFrance’s online MyFrenchFilm [...]

  • Los Lobos

    Watch First Trailer for Samuel Kishi Leopo’s ‘Los Lobos’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    FiGa Films has shared the first trailer for Animal de Luz production “Los Lobos,” the second feature from Mexican director Samuel Kishi Leopo, set to play in Berlinale’s GenerationKplus. Previously the film won the SIGNIS award at the Havana Film Festival and passed through various international festivals such as Korea’s Busan International Film Festival and [...]

  • Jacques Bidou, Marianne Dumoulin on Challenges

    Jacques Bidou, Marianne Dumoulin on Challenges of Producing Sundance-Player 'Yalda' in Iran

    Massoud Bakhshi’s second feature, “Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness,” has its world premiere in Sundance’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition, to be screened without the director. The pic’s production company, JBA Production, and sales outfit, Pyramide International, issued a joint statement on Jan. 14 explaining that the director won’t be attending due to the U.S.-Iran crisis, [...]

  • Mama Weed

    'Divorce Club,' 'Mama Weed,' 'Under the Stars of Paris' Among Highlights at UniFrance Rendez-Vous

    A mix of comedies such as Isabelle Huppert starrer “Mama Weed” and Michaël Youn’s “Divorce Club,” and director-driven titles like Claus Drexel’s “Under the Stars of Paris” were among the most buzzed-about market premieres of the UniFrance Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. The five-day showcase kicked off Jan. 17 with the world premiere of Martin Provost’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content