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Actors Who Refused To Be In Adam Sandler Movies

Adam Sandler made his feature film debut in 1989's "Going Overboard" alongside a cast that included Billy Zane, Billy Bob Thornton, and Milton Berle. But it wasn't until after his big break on "Saturday Night Live" the following year that he began to take the lead in hit movies like 1995's "Billy Madison," 1996's "Happy Gilmore," and 1998's "The Wedding Singer." While Sandler continued to write, produce, and star in hit comedy after hit comedy, he also broadened his career by appearing in critically acclaimed dramas like "Punch-Drunk Love," "Reign Over Me," "Uncut Gems," and "Hustle."

With a wide variety of successful films under his belt, Adam Sandler has attracted a diverse range of talented actors to appear in his movies, from dramatic heavy hitters like Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, and Al Pacino to award winning leading ladies like Winona Ryder, Jennifer Aniston, and Drew Barrymore.

But while the likes of Billy Idol, Carl Weathers, Harvey Keitel, and Patricia Arquette have made appearances, there are some actors who have simply refused to be in an Adam Sandler movie. Who turned down these roles? Why didn't they want to feature alongside the comedic powerhouse? Did they make the right choice? Let's find out.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

The 1995 comedy "Billy Madison" tells the story of dimwitted Billy (Adam Sandler), who is poised to inherit a chain of hotels from his father, Brian (Darren McGavin). However, Brian reveals that while his son was growing up, he had bribed Billy's school to give him passing grades. Now Billy must prove himself capable of running the business by going back to school and passing all twelve grades within six months. If he fails, the business will go to the hotel's evil vice president, Eric Gordon.

Initially, Sandler wanted to cast Bob Odenkirk as the villainous Eric, the two having worked together on "SNL." But Odenkirk, then virtually unknown to movie audiences, was vetoed by studio executives. After an extensive audition session, Sandler fell in love with the performance of a young actor named Philip Seymour Hoffman. However, the executives were reluctant to hire him. Sandler was finally able to convince them, but a new problem arose – Hoffman refused to play the role.

In "Fly on the Wall," a podcast hosted by David Spade and Dana Carvey, Sandler detailed how he called up Hoffman to see what was going on (via The Playlist). "I go, 'Hey, I saw your tape, you're so great, buddy, and they said you don't want to do it ... So, do you want to do it?'" Sandler recalled. "And he goes, 'Aww, I can't.' And I go, 'Oh, why not?' And he goes, 'Aww ... I just don't want to.'"

Fortunately, the role was delightfully filled by "The West Wing" star Bradley Whitford, while Hoffman and Sandler eventually worked together on the film "Punch-Drunk Love."

Loren Anthony and other Native American actors

Adam Sandler's first of many Netflix films was the Western parody "The Ridiculous 6." The film starred Sandler as a man raised by Native Americans who soon meets his biological father (Nick Nolte) and learns he has numerous half-brothers (Terry Crews, Jorge Garcia, Taylor Lautner, Rob Schneider, and Luke Wilson). The brothers all team up to save their newfound and recently kidnapped father.

Despite its eclectic cast — which also includes Harvey Keitel, Steve Zahn, Vanilla Ice, and Will Forte — critics and audiences alike were less than pleased with the movie, earning it a shockingly low 0% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes with only a slightly higher audience score of a little over 30%. Many criticized the film as racially insensitive, with loads of unfunny jokes that relied on terrible stereotypes. But it wasn't just the audience saying so — this criticism also came from some of the movie's own cast members.

As reported by Indian Country Today, many of the Native American extras were upset at the lowbrow jokes and inaccurate costumes, leading about a dozen, including Loren Anthony and the Native cultural advisor, to leave the set in protest. Netflix responded to the controversy, telling Vulture, "The movie has ridiculous in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous. It is a broad satire of Western movies and the stereotypes they popularized, featuring a diverse cast that is not only part of — but in on — the joke." Perhaps the film's low approval rating proves that Sandler should have listened to the criticisms raised.

Rob Schneider

In 2010, "Grown Ups" became Sandler's highest-grossing film to date, raking in over $270 million worldwide. The movie did so well that Sandler generously gifted brand new Maseratis to his co-stars, Chris Rock, Kevin James, and David Spade, as well as a Tesla Roadster for Rob Schneider.

After the smashing success of the first film, a sequel followed in 2013 with one major difference: Rob Schneider was absent, seemingly replaced by comedian Nick Swardson playing Schneider's character's brother. When questioned about his absence in a radio interview, Schneider initially made it sound like there was bad blood between Sandler and his frequent co-star. "They're doing 'Grown Ups 2' without me. Mistake," he said. "They should have paid me a lot of money." However, he soon added, "Well, truthfully, I wasn't sure if I'd have my TV series, so it was an availability thing, but at the end of the day, they should have [said], 'What money does Rob need?'"

If there really was any falling out behind the scenes, the two seem to have made up, as Schneider went on to appear in multiple Sandler films, including "The Ridiculous 6," "Sandy Wexler," and "Hubie Halloween."

Christopher McDonald

Following the highly successful "Billy Madison" was Adam Sandler's classic 1996 sports comedy "Happy Gilmore." The film chronicles the journey of failed ice hockey player Happy Gilmore, who soon discovers his talents transfer better to the world of professional golf. His more rambunctious style rankles his uptight competitor Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald), who begins to resort to nefarious means to get Gilmore off the course.

McDonald's portrayal of Shooter is truly iconic, and a role he's still known for to this day, but it almost didn't happen. In an interview with Alex Withrow for And So It Begins, McDonald confirmed that he actually turned down the role twice and clarified the reason for his initial reluctance. "I was tired, I wanted to see more of my family."

Fortunately, McDonald changed his mind after winning a game of golf. "That high was something else. So, with my golf shoes still on, I went in the locker room, called my agent and said, 'Is that golf movie still available, because I just won this tournament and I'm feeling a little bit, well, Shooterish.'"

McDonald was cast and movie magic was made. McDonald enjoyed the freedom he was given to improv and make sure his character didn't just play to all of the cliched bad guy tropes. Though he initially declined the role, he now looks back on the film as a blessing. "[W]e really had fun with that one," he reflected. "And the fact that that movie is still on people's minds is great."

Kevin Costner

After Christopher McDonald initially turned down the role of Shooter McGavin in "Happy Gilmore," studio executives began looking for a possible replacement. Deciding to take a big swing, the studio reached out to Kevin Costner, legendary star of sports films like "American Flyers," "Bull Durham," and "Field of Dreams" (per Outsider).

Casting Costner as a golf player sounds like a perfect fit and it seems like Costner agreed, though he did not agree to the role of Shooter. Instead, he was busy making his own golf movie, "Tin Cup." That film earned Costner a Golden Globe nomination for his role as Roy McAvoy, so it was probably a good idea for him to swing away from "Happy Gilmore."

More sports films followed for Costner, including Sam Raimi's "For Love of the Game," the football movie "Draft Day," and Disney's "McFarland, USA." But for a brief shining moment, the world was nearly graced with Kevin Costner as a sports film villain.

Tom Cruise

Adam Sandler once again traded in comedy for drama in 2007, taking the lead role of Charlie Fineman in "Reign Over Me." After Charlie loses his wife and daughter in the World Trade Center attacks, he cuts himself off from the world and gets lost in music and video games.

Though Sandler does a remarkable job portraying the grief and depression of his character, the role was not originally written with him in mind. Instead, writer-director Mike Binder wrote the film for "Mission: Impossible" star Tom Cruise. After Cruise turned down the role, his replacement was suggested by Javier Bardem, who was originally cast in the co-lead role that eventually went to Don Cheadle when Bardem dropped out of the film due to scheduling issues.

Binder recalle brainstorming with Bardem in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "Bardem and I were throwing out ideas. He walks over to the shelf and he looks at the 'Punch Drunk Love' DVD in my collection on my wall," Binder said. "Bardem doesn't know a lot about American cinema, and he says, 'Who is this man, this actor? He's brilliant.' And I say, 'You don't know who that is?' And he says, 'No. I've only seen him in this movie, but I love him ... Think about him. He's so wounded.'"

While Tom Cruise would surely have had an interesting take on the character, Sandler brings an intense humanity to the role that a star like Cruise might have distracted from.

The Estate of Michael Jackson

The 2015 action comedy "Pixels" sees Adam Sandler as Sam Brenner, a former arcade champion who is recruited by the government to stop an alien invasion that forms their attacks as recreations of classic arcade video games like "Galaga," "Pac-Man," and "Donkey Kong."

In the film, the aliens take on the form of '80s pop culture icons like Madonna, Max Headroom, and the cast of "Fantasy Island" to deliver their messages to mankind. According to a report from Showbiz 411, the infamous 2014 Sony email leak revealed that the studio reached out to the estate of Michael Jackson for a potential cameo in "Pixels." While the estate didn't exactly turn them down, they did request a fee that surpassed their $25,000 budget by quite a large amount.

Though Sandler really wanted the King of Pop to appear in the Chris Columbus-helmed adventure, sadly the aliens did not moonwalk their way into the final film.

Kathy Bates

After the successful comedy "Happy Gilmore," Adam Sandler again returned to sports for the 1998 football comedy "The Waterboy." Sandler stars as the titular waterboy Bobby Boucher, who lives with his overbearing mother, Helen (Kathy Bates). When Bobby winds up playing football instead of just handing out water, he begins to make his way out from under his mother's thumb and into the real world.

The Academy Award-winning actress almost didn't play the iconic role of the Waterboy's mother, as her agent didn't like the script (via SBNation). "But they made an offer, so legally, she had to send me the script," Bates recalled. "And I read the first 12 pages, and it was about football, and it was kind of silly, so I tossed it in the trash next to my bed."

Fortunately, Bates' niece saw the script and recognized Adam Sandler's name. She convinced Bates to give the script another chance. Bates now looks back at her time on the film fondly. "[T]here's many experiences I've had that have been more difficult or unpleasant or didn't turn out the way I wanted them to turn out," she said. "This was one of the happy experiences that I've had."

Juancho Hernangómez

The 2022 Netflix sports drama "Hustle" stars Adam Sandler as NBA scout Stanley Sugerman. When he is sent to Spain to recruit a player, Sugerman stumbles across an even better player named Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangómez). Unable to convince his boss of Cruz's talent, Sugerman quits and focuses on preparing Cruz for the NBA Draft.

Hernangómez is an NBA star who's previously played for the Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, and Utah Jazz, and currently plays for the Toronto Raptors. "Hustle" is his acting debut, but he was initially reluctant to take the role as he wanted to focus on his sports career. In an interview with Pop Culture, Hernangómez stated, "I told them no. I mean, I didn't want to do it. I mean, I don't want to waste time in something like this. It's not my dream."

Eventually his sister Andrea convinced Hernangómez to take the role, which he later described as a great experience. "I was really surprised how hard they work for making a movie. I just enjoy the journey so much. I mean, I embrace it and I enjoy it."

He also enjoyed working with Sandler, feeling an instant connection on set. "We enjoy it so much every single day. We spent two months together. We didn't have any bad days ... I feel like that's the reason Bo and Stanley have that good chemistry because in real life, we got a great feeling."

Adam Sandler

While Adam Sandler has acted in several dramatic films, none have had quite as much impact as his portrayal of gambling addict Howard Ratner in the 2019 film "Uncut Gems." Critics praised his performance and many believed the film would earn Sandler his first Oscar nomination. While the gold statue evaded the Sandman, he still managed to nab best actor wins from the Independent Spirit Awards, the National Board of Review, and the Boston Society of Film Critics. But he almost didn't take the role.

Filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie initially reached out to Sandler's management in 2015, but were told he was unavailable (per Vox). The brothers moved on to other actors, including "Borat" comedian Sacha Baron Cohen and "The Wolf of Wall Street" star Jonah Hill. After struggling with trying to de-age the character, Hill eventually left to star in other films.

With more films under their belt, including the critically acclaimed Robert Pattinson-led thriller "Good Time," the Safdie brothers decided to reach out to Sandler one more time. Luckily, this time he agreed to the role, ushering in a whole new era of critical respect and acclaim.

Adam Sandler, again

The "Hotel Transylvania" animated franchise has made over a billion dollars worldwide. Adam Sandler lent his voice to the first three movies as Dracula, who owns the titular hotel for monsters and struggles to be a good father to his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez).

The films also feature many of Sandler's frequent live-action co-stars, including Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, and David Spade. When the fourth film, "Hotel Transylvania: Transformania," premiered in 2022 on Amazon Prime, most of the actors reprised their monstrous roles — with two major exceptions. First off, Frankenstein was no longer played by Kevin James, but instead voice actor Brad Abrell. But more surprisingly, the lead role of Dracula was now voiced by Adam Sandler impressionist Brian Hull rather than by Sandler himself.

In an interview with Screen Rant, director Derek Drymon spoke of the casting change. "The fact that he turns into a human was a good opportunity to do things a little differently," Drymon reasoned. "He could be a little different than he was in the movies, and it would be natural. So, it kind of was the perfect movie to have a person come in and fill those shoes."

Though there is no official reason behind Sandler's lack of involvement on the record, some have theorized it had to do with his contract with Netflix and another animated film he was developing with the competing streaming service (per Newsweek).