Adam Sandler is having a big year, as not only was Hustle just released to critical acclaim, but he’s working with the Safdie brothers on an Uncut Gems follow-up, and he just announced a Bat Mitzvah family comedy. While the actor is known for his Razzie-nominated goofy comedies, his rotten-rated movies are becoming fewer and farther between.
But there have been multiple times in Sandler’s career when he could have acted in more prestigious and beloved roles. The actor was one of the most bankable stars of the 1990s and 2000s, so it’s hardly surprising that he was offered roles by some of the greatest directors in cinema history.
Collateral is one of the most captivating hitman movies, as it follows silver fox assassin Vincent (Tom Cruise) who hires an unknowing taxi driver, Max (Jamie Foxx), to drive him around Los Angeles to assassinate every target. It’s one of the coolest-looking movies, there’s just as much style as there is substance, and Cruise and Foxx give great performances. But it was almost a lot different. According to The Digital Fix, before Foxx was cast as Max, Sandler was attached to the role, and instead of LA, it was going to be set in New York.
It wasn’t just Sandler who was set to take Foxx’s part either, as the comedy actor would have starred alongside Russell Crowe, who was originally attached to play Vincent. And while the location change is interesting, it’s surprising that Sandler didn’t demand that it be set in Hawaii, given that so many of his movies are set there. Sandler must have kicked himself for this one, as Foxx get an Oscar nomination for the role for turning Max into one of director Michael Mann’s best characters. And, according to Mind Life TV, the comedy actor turned down the movie to star in the long-forgotten Spanglish too.
It’s not remotely surprising that Johnny Depp plays chocolatier Willy Wonka in 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as he and director Tim Burton have had a decades-long working relationship. However, before it was confirmed, according to The List, there were several candidates including Jim Carrey, Nicolas Cage, Brad Pitt, and Will Smith. And surprisingly high on that list was Adam Sandler.
Though it’s a strange choice, it might actually have worked. Sandler is great with kids, and he often plays the goofy protagonist in so many family-friendly movies. And for as much as the actor is criticized for not being serious enough, he has proved with incredible dramatic movies like Uncut Gems that he has the range to carry the more emotional scenes toward the end of the family film. But with such a wide range of vastly different actors on that list such as comedians, action heroes, and rom-com leads, it’s obvious that, at that point in time, there wasn’t that clear of a direction for the 2005 release.
According to The Things, in the mid-2010s, Sandler was offered the role of Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy, which ended up going to Bradley Cooper. Once again, questionable choices are to blame for Sandler not playing the animated raccoon. He turned the blockbuster role in favor of a forgotten romantic comedy, Blended. The 2014 romcom saw Sandler and Drew Barrymore on screen together for a third time, which was entertaining as always, but that doesn’t exactly compare to the comedian voicing a trigger-happy raccoon in some of the highest-grossing movies of all time.
In fairness, it might not be because Sandler chooses movies based on which he thinks will be more successful, but which he thinks he’ll enjoy doing more. And in that respect, the actor can’t be blamed for doing what he wants to do, but not many actors would say “no” to Kevin Feige and not have any interest in joining the MCU. In the end, it worked out for the best, as Cooper completely owns the role.
Very Bad Things isn’t the most popular movie in the world. In fact, few have ever heard of the criminally underrated dark comedy. The 1998 film is like a twisted version of The Hangover, as it follows a group of men at a bachelor party in Las Vegas, but things go from bad to worse when they accidentally kill a stripper and have to cover their tracks.
According to TV Over Mind, Sandler was slated to play Michael Berkow, the man who accidentally kills the stripper, but Jeremy Piven replaced the actor due to schedule conflicts. Sandler was busy shooting the comedy classic The Waterboy when production on the 1998 dark comedy was set to begin. However, The Guardian says differently, as director Peter Berg says that after some great rehearsals, Sandler ultimately turned it down because the material was too dark for him.
While Sandler could have starred alongside Cruise in Collateral, he almost played a role that eventually went to the Mission: Impossible actor, and it’s one of his most underrated performances. The 2010 movie Knight and Day is an underrated romantic action comedy about Roy Miller, a secret agent on the run from the CIA. According to The New York Times, Sandler was originally in talks to play Roy, which is hardly surprising, as it sounds like a typical rom-com with a radical concept that’d co-star Drew Barrymore.
The comedian reportedly turned down the role, explaining, “I just don’t see me with a gun,” which is respectably self-aware. However, that doesn’t exactly explain You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, which sees Sandler as an Israelian army counterterrorist commando, but, in fairness, he does resign to become a hairdresser.
Few actors have ever turned down Quentin Tarantino, as the writer-director’s dialogue is so great, and the characters are so rich. Being offered a role in a Tarantino movie is often a golden ticket, and there’s a reason why the filmmaker has revitalized so many washed-up actors’ careers. But Sandler is one of the few, as he turned down the director’s offer to play Donny Donowitz, a.k.a the Bear Jew, in Inglourious Basterds.
The comedian turned down the role in order to star in the Judd Apatow dramedy Funny People. Though it would have been great to see Sandler as a baseball-wielding Nazi hunter, it worked out for the best on both sides. While it bombed at the box office, Funny People is a surprisingly emotional comedy and an in-depth look at stand-up comedy, and Eli Roth nailed the Bear Jew too.
One of the most interesting roles that Sandler almost played, unfortunately, didn’t materialize with any actor in the role. Martin Scorsese has loads of unrealized projects, and one of those is the ’90s biopic Dino, which would have followed the Rat Pack at the peak of its popularity in the 1960s. According to Variety, Tom Hanks was attached to play Dean Martin, Jim Carrey was set to play Jerry Lewis, and Sandler was on board to portray Joey Bishop.
Even ignoring the premise of the movie, the idea of Scorsese and Sandler working together alone is enough to pique cinephiles’ interests. And the actor sharing the screen with Hanks and Carrey could have made for the ultimate ’90s movie, but that’s a lot of big personalities for Scorsese to handle on set.
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