Adam Sandler on His Most Serious Role Yet in ‘Spaceman’: Director “Didn’t Want Me Sounding Like Me”

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Despite his place as a comedy icon, Adam Sandler is no stranger to dramatic roles; yet, his performance in new Netflix film Spaceman is likely the most serious work he’s ever done.

At the film’s Los Angeles premiere on Monday, Sandler told The Hollywood Reporter how director Johan Renck “kept saying, ‘I want to see none of Adam Sandler in there,'” as the star joked, “I understood, I hear that in my house too: ‘I want to see none of Adam Sandler.'”

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“I did my best,” Sandler continued of stripping his signature comedic style from the role. “He didn’t want me sounding like me, he didn’t want me making faces. It was a difficult process.”

Spaceman follows an astronaut (played by Sandler) who is sent to the edge of the solar system for a long mission while his life at home — with pregnant wife Lenka, played by Carey Mulligan — falls apart. To cope, he finds an unexpected friendship and emotional awakening in a giant extraterrestrial spider (voiced by Paul Dano) living on his ship.

Renck cast Sandler for the role after a general meeting between the two, when he told the star about the film and Sandler “was like, ‘That’s a film about me, I have to do this film,'” Renck recalled.

“I really like comedians in serious roles because I do think that there’s something about the fearless aspect to be a comedian that I can capitalize on. A lot of times when you’re a director, you’re dealing with actors who you’re talking about how you want to do a scene and they’re like, ‘Yeah I don’t know about that,'” Renck explained. “With comedians, because they live life onstage making fools out of themselves in front of people. They’re like, ‘I’m not afraid of anything.’ So Adam from the onset was like, ‘Do whatever you want, however you want to do this,’ and that’s really liberating for me as a filmmaker.”

He added that comedians also tend to be much more vulnerable than typical dramatic actors, and despite Sandler’s effortless comedy, there were no openings for the occasional joke in this film.

“I’m not for levity, I’m a dark fuck,” Renck said. “There’s absurdities in this film, after all, he’s hanging out with a spider… but levity, I don’t want to nullify the importance of the themes in this film by having fun in it. It doesn’t belong there, to be honest. This is a film about regret, I don’t want that to be funny at all.”

To prepare for the project, Sandler and Renck had a call with astronauts stationed at the International Space Station, as the star remembered, “They told us so many cool stories, and we got to watch them float around, and I was like ‘Oh, I’ve got to look like that.’ They told me about life up there and what their days are like and how to pass the time and what it’s like when they’re missing home and how heartbreaking it is.” Sandler also added that he “tried not to watch too many” other space films before shooting because “I didn’t want to rip off anybody.”

For her role as Sandler’s wife back home, Mulligan said she was drawn to the story because “it was so romantic and beautiful, and coming out of COVID, it put a different slant on everything. It was about priorities, it was about what matters to you most and not being distracted by other things and focusing on the things that matter to you.”

Spaceman is currently in select theaters and hits Netflix on Friday.

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