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Improvised Moments In Adam Sandler Movies That Were Too Good To Be Cut From The Movie

Audiences were first introduced to Adam Sandler's obscure off-beat comedy when he joined "Saturday Night Live" in the early 90s. Never afraid to make his co-stars laugh or steer off script, Sandler adapted his brand of comedy onto the big screen when he wrote and starred in 1995's "Billy Madison." From there, Sandler never looked back and has built a tall collection of films that have earned over $3 billion at the box office.

Surprisingly, Sandler has built a diverse filmography ranging from romantic dramas to outlandish comedies. However, the actor has remained in the driver's seat of his own career by building his own production company, Happy Madison, and consistently releasing comedies throughout the decades.

Although Sandler's movies rarely impress the critics, his success remains undeniable thanks to working closely with familiar faces and unabashedly going for the laughs. Equally, the fun that the cast has on set with Sandler is palpable through the screen. This is achieved through the comedian's reputation for keeping scripts open to interpretation and improvisation. Whether trying out a dozen different jokes or taking a scene to wacky unexpected places, Sandler's films tend to flesh out the humor of the performers for the sake of getting the funniest take. While improv stands as an essential element to Adam Sandler's movies, below are some of the best improvisational moments that needed to be in the final cut.

The dodgeball scene – Billy Madison

Adam Sandler catapulted his comedy career when he doubled down on his immature humor by going back to grade school in "Billy Madison." The film centers around the titular character who runs a gauntlet of schooling in anticipation of inheriting his father's business. While the movie is celebrated for offering a young Adam Sandler at the top of his game going all-out on his ridiculously childish character, the reaction from his adolescent co-stars helped sell one of the film's most memorable moments.

Returning to the earliest semesters of education, Sandler's character struggles to fit in amongst the first graders. After being served a shot of humility care of the youngest member of the O'Doyle family, the odds are evened when the class partakes in a game of dodgeball. Aggressively, Billy takes his frustrations out on the group of six-year-olds, bringing some of them to tears. As it turns out, many of those tears were real as Sandler admitted during an interview with Conan O'Brien. Obviously, the parents of the child actors were none too pleased; however, audiences remain grateful that the scene made the final cut, as it is one of the most outlandish moments of the film.

Shampoo is better – Billy Madison

Over the years, audiences have admittedly waned on Adam Sandler's shtick of crazy antics and silly voices. But comedians develop a shtick for a reason – they get the laughs. And if Sandler's unique humor could be isolated to one scene above any others, it would take place in a bathtub during "Billy Madison." The moment has grown to become one of Sandler's most quotable lines of any film, but on rewatch it is completely ridiculous. Enjoying a steamy bubble bath, Billy animates two bottles that are having a heated debate over who is better. In a completely unexplainable move, Sandler then turns and requests that a swan-shaped faucet stop looking at him.

The immature nature of the scene would never have worked in any other movie — it is pointless and serves nothing from the plot or jokes in the rest of the film. But that is what makes it a stand-out moment. In 2015, the film's director Tamra Davis wrote an article for The Washington Post exploring her time on the movie 20 years after its release. She points out that her intentions while filming were to allow Sandler the freedom necessary to deliver his funniest jokes. Knowing "Billy Madison" wasn't going to win over critics, she encouraged Sandler to do what Sandler does best. And the improvised bathtub scene was a direct byproduct of him feeling "loose and having fun."

A drunk Norm MacDonald – Billy Madison

Finally, "Billy Madison" is also famous for being the film debut of the late Norm MacDonald. The Canadian comedian became famous for his deadpan anti-humor alongside Adam Sandler on "Saturday Night Live," in particular for hosting the long-running "Weekend Update" segment. MacDonald went on to have a successful career, including his own movie, "Dirty Work," and a 54-episode television sitcom, "The Norm Show." However, the actor admitted that he was ill-prepared for his first movie appearance in 1995.

In "Billy Madison," MacDonald plays one of the titular character's best friends who seemingly mooch off their wealthy friend by spending their days by his pool and drinking. However, it turns out the older actor took method acting to a new level when he became so intoxicated that he passed out during filming. "They wanted me to play a drunk," MacDonald said while retelling the story on Conan on TBS. "So, I said, 'got some booze?'" So, while the comedian is credited for his portrayal of a drunken lollygagger, MacDonald acknowledges not much acting was happening.

Flustered Shooter McGavin – Happy Gilmore

Often considered the height of Adam Sandler's comedy career, "Happy Gilmore" was an unexpected cult classic around the sport of golf. The story follows Happy (Sandler), a below-average hockey player who finds his niche in smacking golf balls at unprecedented distances. With his one talent, the amateur becomes one of the biggest names in the sport which conflicts with his aggressive and immature behavior. Representing the elitist game of golf is the beloved antagonist Shooter McGavin, played by Christopher McDonald.

Undoubtedly, the champion golfing villain has become McDonald's most infamous movie role. However, the actor originally shot the role down twice before agreeing after he had a rousing game of golf in real life (per And So It Begins Films). McDonald, who has embraced his iconic villain character over the years has stated how much he enjoyed the freedom to improvise on the set of "Happy Gilmore." McDonald explained in an interview with Vulture, "Shooter and Happy are exchanging words outside his grandmother's house and he goes: 'You're gonna beat me? At golf? Ha, you're in big trouble pal, I eat pieces of s*** like you for breakfast!' Happy, of course, is like, 'You eat pieces of s*** for breakfast?' When I walked away, I turned around and had absolutely no comeback. So, I just took a long pause and blurted out, 'No!' Well, that was an ad-lib, and the whole set was laughing. That's when I knew I could have a little fun."

Eminem's cameo – Funny People

Adam Sandler has never been afraid to bring in a cameo or two to help land a joke in a movie. However, the comedian returns to the same roster of friends for most of the roles. That changed when Sandler had a long-awaited collaboration with director Judd Apatow for the film "Funny People." The movie offered a meta-story about a comedic actor past his prime who enlists an up-and-comer, played by Seth Rogen, to reinvigorate his stand-up routine. Surprisingly, the film is loaded with notable cameos, including Sarah Silverman, James Taylor, and Justin Long.

However, the fan-favorite cameo from "Funny People" was the appearance of rapper Eminem, who plays himself offering his old friend advice. Unforgettably, Eminem gets heated as he catches sitcom actor Ray Ramano watching him from the corner. Apatow has since stated that the rapper's appearance is his favorite cameo from his filmography (per Rotten Tomatoes) given that Eminem was so receptive to the improvisational lines being offered. Surprisingly, much of the scene was off-the-cuff, and most hilariously is the fact that Ray Ramano's reaction to being yelled at by the Grammy Award-winning songwriter is completely genuine.

A quarter of the jokes – Grown Ups

While touching on Adam Sandler's affinity for working closely with his celebrity friends: that was the entire premise behind making the 2010 film "Grown Ups" and its subsequent sequel. "The whole idea was putting together old friends and hanging out for a weekend," Sandler said in an interview with National Post. "All these guys are my old friends, and I'm glad that they all said yes to it." The film features comedians Chris Rock, Kevin James, Rob Schneider, and David Spade, led by Sandler in a rambunctious Fourth of July weekend of middle-aged suburban family fun.

Unsurprisingly, much of the movie's best jokes are unscripted moments from the comedian collective. One of the most talked about themes during the marketing of "Grown Ups" involved how much the actors would riff off each other and make one another laugh. Admittedly, there was a solid script, but Sandler estimates around 25 percent of the film is ad-libbed moments too funny to cut from the film (per Tribute). Meanwhile, trying to pinpoint his favorite moments, Sandler admits that having Rob Schneider as a punching bag nearly broke him out of character multiple times. Alternatively, the lead comedian has given credit to David Spade for impressing the all-star cast with his ad-lib humor.

Romance with Jennifer Aniston – Just Go with It

One of the more impressive facts about Adam Sandler's career is the long list of A-list leading ladies that have appeared in his films. The actor has collaborated on three different projects opposite Drew Barrymore. Meanwhile, the comedian has shared romantic scenes with Fairuza Balk, Winona Ryder, Marisa Tomei, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Salma Hayek Pinault, and more. 

While Sandler manages to build a bond with all his co-stars, the chemistry between him and former "Friends" star Jennifer Aniston is undeniable. The pair have already made two films together with a third reportedly on the way (per Hollywood Reporter). The ongoing partnership makes sense considering the two performers legitimately work well together. Truthfully, much of the romantic chemistry is ad-libbed and so realistic that it makes the movie. "When we were romantic, we were ad-libbing. Jennifer was very uncomfortable in scenes with her brother — I'm brotherly to her — so a brother being that close, she started ad-libbing," Sandler stated while on Oprah talking about the 2011 film "Just Go with It." "Like, 'Let me say something funny because your big nose is about to hit me.'"

Josh Gad vs Navy SEALS – Pixels

"Pixels" is one of Adam Sandler's most ambitious films to date. The movie, about an alien invasion featuring nostalgic video game characters, required a heavier dose of CGI than is standard in a Sandler flick. Unfortunately, the extra effort and appearances from Donkey Kong and Pac-Man did not translate to better reception as "Pixels" was effectively slammed by critics. Still, the Chris Columbus film boasts a comedic cast, including Peter Dinklage, Kevin James, and Josh Gad. With such star power behind it, "Pixels" is yet another movie where fun was had on set.

Although Sandler had a well-built repertoire with many of his castmates, it was actor Josh Gad that stood out for the seasoned comedian. "We've always believed in ad-libbing but not as much as Josh Gad," Sandler said in an interview with Living Sweet Moments, adding that "everyday that Josh was on a scene it was bananas." Meanwhile, co-star Michelle Monaghan pinpoints one improvised scene as a stand-out moment from Gad: "That scene where we are talking to the NAVY Seals. That might go down as one of my favorite days on a film set and it was also one of the worst because we couldn't keep a straight face. That was a lot of amazing and brilliant improv." "It was getting out a lot of aggression out of people who are much bigger and fitter than I am," said Gad of the unscripted scene. "I definitely did relish it, for sure."

End credits – Hubie Halloween

Shockingly, despite delivering comedies of all shapes and sizes, Adam Sandler generally does not include a blooper reel at the end of his films. While it is widely accepted, and often appreciated, when comedy films add their most outrageous bloopers during the credits, Sandler keeps his best jokes in the films themselves. However, streaming has changed the way that audiences consume entertainment. After he signed a massive deal with Netflix to create an astounding eight films for the streaming company, Sandler changed his tune about blooper reels.

While not all of Sandler's direct-to-Netflix movies were home runs, 2020's "Hubie Halloween" was received as a return-to-form for the comedian. Surrounded by a cast of familiar faces, the holiday-themed movie also intertwined former characters helping fans to further map out the connected Sandlerverse. Although, the most pleasant surprise was the inclusion of a blooper reel at the end that features lots of jump scares and actors breaking character. While Sandler typically avoids including these moments, "Hubie Halloween" must have had too many good moments not to include with the movie.

Choking Scene – Uncut Gems

Adam Sandler began to see critical acclaim pour in when he played Howard Ratner in the 2019 Safdie Brothers film "Uncut Gems." The crime thriller was a different take from the normally comedic actor. "Uncut Gems" challenged the seasoned actor in new ways, as Sandler was required to play a sinister role without his typical comedic shtick. 

"Sandler's so in it, he's so into the character that it started to actually get a little scary one or two times because he's getting choked at one point in the scene," said co-director Josh Safdie in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "There was one take when Sandler was getting choked and he was trying to tap out, but the actor thought that he was just being Howard so he choked harder, and Adam couldn't breathe. Pushing the actor to the brink of death, the genuine reaction makes the on-screen performance even more powerful.

Idina Menzel throws a punch – Uncut Gems

Another significant difference separating "Uncut Gems" from the rest of Sandler's filmography was his on-screen relationship with Idina Menzel. Standard to a Sandler movie is a romance that is filled with unconditional love that transcends all the crazy antics. However in "Uncut Gems," Sandler's character is suffering through a relationship on the rocks as he commits adultery throughout the film. Where the comedian traditionally improvises clever quips with his on-screen romantic partner, the story of "Uncut Gems" required a completely different type of ad-lib.

"It was very spontaneous," said actress Menzel about the heated moments with Sandler in an interview with Extra TV. "They throw lines out at you from behind the monitor." However, Sandler was quick to point out that nobody told her to throw a punch at his face. Amazingly, Sandler's reaction was fast enough to dodge the impromptu punch in the film. Adding to the intensity, Menzel follows up the thrown fist with a scary laugh that helps to sell the moment that was too good not to add to the final cut.

Juancho Hernangómez's effort – Hustle

Adam Sandler loves basketball. The comedian has been known to throw himself in pick-up games all over the country. More than a couple of his films feature all-star NBA players making cameos. So, it was only a matter of time before the lifelong sports fan made a film around the game he loves so much. "Hustle" features Sandler as a pro scout who makes a once-in-a-lifetime discovery in amateur Bo Cruz, played by Juancho Hernangómez. And while Sandler sustained an injury while playing with his castmates between takes (per ET), it was Hernangómez who carried most of the load.

In an interview with Slash Film, Hernangómez revealed that he was pushed to the breaking point in order to capture real sweat on camera for "Hustle." "For me, the most challenging parts were the basketball scenes. It's kind of crazy, but I feel like they were really hard," said Hernangómez. "Not just mentally, for my body, because you've got to warm up, do [the scene] five or six times, and then you've got to stop for 20, 30 minutes and do it again, and do it again for six, seven, eight hours. So, that really killed my body, that killed everything." Meanwhile, the actor also revealed that many of the quips between him and Sandler were unscripted.