You Don't Mess with the Zohan: Adam Sandler, Dennis Dugan & Rob Schnieder Interview
We caught up with director, Dennis Dugan, and the two stars of new outrageous comedy You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Rob Schneider stars as a Palestinian taxi-driver and Mr. Adam Sandler stars as Zohan, an Israeli commando who fakes his own death, in order to pursue his dream: becoming a hairstylist in New York. We got bang up to date with the ins and outs of political humour, nipple licking and Mariah Carey…
LOVEFiLM: Incorporating the politics of the Israli-Palentsine conflict isn’t what you’d normally find in a comedy, were you worried about causing offence?
Rob Schneider: We’re equal opportunity offenders! We tried to get both sides while they’re at their weakest! No I don’t think we set out to do a political comedy, to me, it was because of the funny characters. I’m just glad that they didn’t make it some phoney country like Palistickastan or something.
We were aware that there were some sensitivities, I mean God knows it’s a very volatile subject matter. At the same time, I think, as artists, we can’t be afraid to offend otherwise you should go into retail. But at the same time we’re not out to offend. If anything, I think that it’s a story that is not mean-spirited. It’s about getting along, so I think in that sense to me it’s a worth effort.
Dennis Dugan: It doesn’t matter what you do when you do comedy, you’re gonna offend somebody anyway. You’re not doing it right if somebody ain’t pissed off!
RS: You offend someone no matter what you do.
LF: Is there anything that you would really draw the line at making fun of?
RS: You have to trust your instincts. You know, if something feels bad it probably is. If I can speak for Adam for just a second here; if he thinks something’s funny, he’s laughing; it’s not like we’re intellectualising something, it’s really an instinctual thing. But there are some things that are too far, it’s pretty obvious you know. But at the same time, you know you gotta go for it.
LF: Adam, a film on Palestine is one thing but asking tennis legend John McEnroe to go shirtless is quite another?
Adam Sandler: That was a good one man. That was just in the moment. ‘Hey McEnroe! Maybe it would be funny if you took your shirt off and swung it round your head?’ He was like ‘yeah!’ He had no preparation.
LF: The character of Zohan is surely not based on a real Israeli?
AS: It’s not! But there was a guy who used to cut my hair, Ukey, he was an Israeli guy and I always used to ask him questions about the Israeli army and stuff and he would be fixing my hair at the same time mentioning missions he was on. He was pretty cool, he taught me how to shampoo with the ladies, how to be delicate with them. I don’t have a delicate touch like many hairstylers do, I’m a little rougher.
AS: Well we wrote this movie a long time ago. But definitely, Borat is one of the funniest movies, and that character he did is definitely a foreign guy with a voice. I had to try and make sure when we were doing the movie we didn’t do Borat, but I’m sure on occasion you can’t help but go ‘alright that feels a little Boraty…’. But we were consciously trying to do our own thing.
LF: Is there a bit of a family atmosphere on set, you do seem to work with the same group of people?
AS: Absolutely. I think my friends – they’re my friends second –are the funniest guys I know, and the fact that they are my friends makes life a lot better; but I don’t want to just put these guys in the movie ‘cos they are my buddies. I do think they are great so that’s why it works for me. I lived with Apatow, we were room mates, he was best friends with Jim Carey too – we all hung out, and Stiller, and all those guys we all hung out in the same crappy apartment.
LF: Did Mariah Carey have any outrageous demands?
AS: Nope not at all. Great girl. Worked hard, took it very serious and I got to listen to her new album while we were shooting. We would go into her trailer after and play the new record and I was in the room when they were deciding which should be the first single and stuff – it was excellent. I like the new record too it’s great.
LF: How did you contact her?
AS: I don’t even remember, I might have met Mariah Carey a long time ago on Saturday Night Live, and then we wrote it in the original draft that we thought it was cool that the only thing that the Palestinians and the Israelis could agree upon is Mariah Carey being hot.
LF: How much ad-libbing did you do during the making of the film?
RS: Adam and Dennis keep a fun playground, were you feel safe and kinda go for it, and you’re not gonna get in trouble. If you trust it comedically, if you trust you’re gonna find someplace and you keep going – you’re gonna find someplace.
LF: Did you have a lot of unseen footage left over for the DVD?
DD: Yes. We always shoot the script first as written by Adam and Schneider and Apatow, we always tell any actor that comes in that we’re gonna do the script first and once we’ve done that we’re sitting at monitors, and re-writing lines all the time.
RS: But the best stuff’s in the movie lets be honest…
LF: What else have you guys been up to and what’s in store for the future?
DD: I ran around Hyde Park twice today.
RS: I did five radio interviews before this.
AS: I have Bedtime Stories, Russell Brand is in that. He’s a good man that kid – I did a family movie for Disney and Russell’s my buddy in that, he plays the room service guy. And now he’s writing and starring in his own movie; I think he’s a great kid and congratulations to him and his mum if she’s watching this! And what else…I’m getting ready to shoot an Apatow movie which he wrote and is directing.
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