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Movie Roles That Almost Went To Adam Sandler

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Love him or hate him, there's no arguing that Adam Sandler knows how to win big at the box office. Whether it's through starring roles in his own projects or producing films through his Happy Madison imprint, the former Saturday Night Live cast member has been scoring with moviegoers since the mid-'90s. From Billy Madison to Hubie Halloween, he's been a regular presence on our screens for decades — and he's built up a regular roster of co-stars along the way, including a plethora of familiar faces.

While the critical success of his filmography ranges from snazzy to Razzie, of which he has multiple nominations, one thing is certain: the Sandman brings in the big bucks. With an estimated net worth of around $420 million, Sandler is one of the richest actors in Hollywood today. That's somewhat unsurprising if you peruse his box office history, or if you consider that Netflix paid him $250 million for four original films in 2014, a deal they have since extended.

With such a knack for onscreen success, it makes sense that Sandler has been a hot commodity for a long time, and not just for comedies. Look no further than his role in the Safdie brothers' heart-racing 2019 gambling thriller Uncut Gems, a gritty performance that garnered him serious Oscar buzz. Over the years, Sandler has actually been considered for a slew of surprising parts, nearly playing a few very famous cinematic characters. Here are some movie roles that almost went to Adam Sandler.

Sandler almost starred in Very Bad Things

Peter Berg has enjoyed a very respectable career in Hollywood. He played Dr. Billy Kronk in the 90's Golden-Globe winning medical drama Chicago Hope, he developed NBC's Emmy-winning TV series Friday Night Lights, and he even directed a few blockbuster motion pictures, including Will Smith's superhero movie Hancock and 2013's gritty Oscar-nominated war flick Lone Survivor. While today he's practically a household name, all directing careers start somewhere. For Berg, that starting point was the 1998 black comedy Very Bad Things.

Berg's directorial debut, which was kind of a dark spin on a buddy comedy, followed a group of five friends who accidentally kill a sex worker during a Las Vegas bachelor party. The movie had an extremely talented cast, including the likes of Jon Favreau, Cameron Diaz, and Christian Slater, just to name a few. Surprisingly, there was another name that was at one point attached: Berg's friend, Adam Sandler.

In his biography, Adam Sandler: America's Comedian, writer Bill Crawford shares that Sandler accepted a role in Berg's controversial film, but ultimately dropped out. "Adam was great in rehearsals... but he had second thoughts. It was just too dark for him." The role in question was that of Michael Berkow, the character who accidentally kills a sex worker in the film's inciting incident. Jeremy Piven, who confirms that it was his role that was once cast with Sandler in an interview on the film's Blu-ray, ultimately played the part.

Sandler saw neither Knight nor Day in his future

While primarily known for his comedic prowess, Adam Sandler is far from a one-trick pony. He's dabbled in many genres throughout his career, ranging from starring in dramas like Spanglish to animated kids' movies like the Hotel Transylvania franchise. However, if his remarkable filmography is missing anything, it's a blockbuster action movie.

As it turns out, the Sandman actually had a chance to check that box off of his acting resume back in 2005, when he was offered the lead in a film called Wichita. Sandler ultimately turned down the role, reportedly claiming, "I just don't see me with a gun." However, Wichita's script managed to endure years of production limbo until it finally evolved into the 2010 spy thriller Knight and Day, which starred Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. Sandler would've played Cruise's role, that of disgraced CIA agent Roy Miller (although when Sandler had the script, it was Milner).

The film's international box office pull helped cushion the blow, but Knight and Day absolutely bombed in the USA. As fate would have it, the number one film the same weekend Knight and Day was released was Adam Sandler's Grown Ups, which blew up theaters to the tune of $271 million worldwide, ultimately becoming Sandler's second-highest grossing film to date. With those kind of returns, who needs an action movie?

The Willy Wonka that never was

In July of 2020, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson shocked the internet with an Instagram post revealing that he was once considered to play Willy Wonka in Tim Burton's 2005 remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. "The fact that Tim even considered me (albeit I'm sure he considered for all of 7 seconds) sure meant a helluva lot to me," he wrote, "as I was just breaking in to the business with no idea what the future had in store." The role, which ultimately went to frequent Burton collaborator Johnny Depp, certainly would've looked different with the gargantuan former WWE star in it. However, Johnson wasn't the only contender for the part.

According to the Los Angeles Times, one of the prospects considered to play Willy Wonka was Adam Sandler. Sandler, who had already established himself as a top-tier funnyman with breakout comedies like The Waterboy, Big Daddy, and Anger Management, would've conceivably fit well into Wonka's wackiness. While critics awarded the remake with a thumbs up (the film has an 83% on Rotten Tomatoes), Gene Wilder, the legendary star of the 1971 original, had a less-than-kind opinion, saying "I think it's an insult." Perhaps Sandler, who that year made his own remake of 1974's gridiron classic The Longest Yard, dodged a chocolate-covered bullet.

When Adam Sandler nearly joined the MCU

When Kevin Feige first announced that Marvel Studios was working on a Guardians of the Galaxy movie at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con, the overwhelming response was: "Who?" Now, several box office record-breaking years later, that feels like a silly question. Chris Pratt's Star-Lord and his band of lovable intergalactic A-holes have all become household names, and it's hard to imagine anyone but Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel voicing Rocket Raccoon and Groot.

However, Cooper and Diesel weren't always locks for the highly coveted voice-acting gigs. In fact, there were many names thrown around during the early casting phases of GotG, including It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Glenn Howerton for Peter Quill, and UFC star Gina Carano for Gamora. Perhaps the most head-turning rumor was that Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler were being considered for Groot and Rocket. It's unclear as to which comedic legend would've voiced which character, but the combined star power of Sandler and Carrey would've certainly elevated the film's hype to new heights.

Sandler turned down Tarantino

With multiple Oscar wins and nominations, Quentin Tarantino is one of the most respected names in Hollywood. Still, despite the massive prestige that often comes with a Tarantino flick, there have been several actors who turned down prominent roles in the brilliant filmmaker's movies over the years. Will Smith turned down the role of Django in 2012's Django Unchained, for example, and Sylvester Stallone opted out of playing Louis Gara in 1997's Jackie Brown.

In an interview with radio legend Howard Stern, Tarantino shared a surprising casting factoid about his 2009 Oscar-winning World War II-set masterpiece Inglourious Basterds. As it turns out, he'd originally really wanted Adam Sandler to play the part of Sgt. Donny Donowitz, a.k.a. "The Bear Jew." He even wrote the character as a Bostonian because of Sandler's own Northeastern accent.

Although Sandler ultimately turned down the role to shoot the Judd Apatow-directed dramedy Funny People, Tarantino stands by his original casting choice. "I wrote it for him... and I also just thought, 'Wow, you've got Adam Sandler playing like the badass Jew... NOW you're representing!'" It's not hard at all to picture Sandler wielding Donny's Nazi-killing baseball bat, especially with the magic of the internet.

Collateral wasn't enough for Adam Sandler

Although it was praised by critics and audiences alike, 2004's Collateral is still a criminally underrated movie. Helmed by Oscar-nominated director Michael Mann, the heart-racing crime thriller stars Jamie Foxx as a timid cab driver held hostage by a viciously slick hit man, played by Tom Cruise. For his performance, Foxx was even nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 2005 Academy Awards. In a different world, however, it could've actually been Adam Sandler in Foxx's shoes.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Mann offered some behind-the-scenes insight into Collateral's origins, including that it was originally a script titled The Lost Domino, it took place in New York instead of Los Angeles, and Russell Crowe and Adam Sandler were originally envisioned as the leads. "Nothing's wrong with Adam Sandler," insisted Mann, "but... it took place in New York, the Jamie Foxx character was a badly-written Jewish cab driver, with the kind of stereotypes that can only come from someone writing that kind of a character who's foreign, who's not American, that doesn't live in New York." Although Foxx and Cruise made for a truly unforgettable screen duo, don't you kind of also want to see the Crowe-Sandler pairing, too?


Martin Scorsese has been a staple in Hollywood for over 50 years, with a slew of awards under his belt to show for it. While he's made some true classics during his storied career, including 1976's Taxi Driver and 1990's Goodfellas, one once highly anticipated picture will forever haunt fans with what might have been: his Dean Martin biopic, often referred to as Dino.

During a press conference in 2004, the Mean Streets director opened up about the project that never materialized, explaining that he and fellow Goodfellas collaborator Nicholas Pileggi truly gave it their all. "There was talk, a lot of it. We did it...Tom Hanks was going to do it. Nick Pileggi and I killed ourselves working on that script...we really suffered making that one." Due to legal issues, the film was eventually put on ice, and Scorsese went on to make Gangs of New York instead.

Tom Hanks wasn't the only huge name attached to the biopic. While Hanks would've played Dean Martin, Variety reported that other stars were planned to play the rest of the famed Rat Pack, including John Travolta as Frank Sinatra, Jim Carrey as Jerry Lewis, and Adam Sandler as Joey Bishop. To have Sandler, who in 1998 was already one of the biggest names in comedy, portray a comedic legend like Bishop seems like a no-brainer. With Scorsese at the helm, Dino feels like another Oscar winner that never was.