The Paradox of Adam Sandler 2.0

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Good morning: In today’s edition of The Industry, we look at:

The Paradox of Adam Sandler, Marisa Tomei goes full Miranda, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, and a questionable paradise.

(A previous version of this cover story ran in an edition last year)

Let’s go!


THE PARADOX OF ADAM SANDLER

Adam Sandler is a cultural mecca because his insecurity resonates globally.

Sandler’s honest depiction of characters struggling to get ahead is a through line in his work. From his studio tentpoles:

To his indies:

His work has generated over 2 billion viewing hours on Netflix.

But when he was in college at NYU in the mid-80s, he was nervous getting on stage, leaning into playing the guitar during bits to help provide a security blanket.

Even after Sandler achieved his dream of becoming a cast member on SNL (1991-1995), he was still trepidatious about performing on David Letterman, as seen in this anxious laughing video.

Despite finding a home performing iconic skits on SNL with Chris Farley and David Spade (Pepper Boy, Gap Girls at Foodcourt, Adam Sandler on Thanksgiving) by 1995, the network and the critics didn’t think Sandler was funny enough, and he was forced to leave the show:

“My heart was broken, and I was scared. And then you don’t like telling anybody, ‘Hey, you know that thing I was doing?’ They said I was no good at it.”

By the early 2010s, Sandler’s mid-career mirrored his post-SNL departure. After domestic studio flops like That’s My Boy (2012) and The Cobbler (2014), he encountered difficulty getting studios to greenlight his projects because they thought he had lost his universal appeal.

In 2014, the landscape shifted when Netflix leveraged their algorithmic data to show that Sandler was the most-watched celebrity on their platform.

He signed a four-picture deal with Netflix, and then, on May 25, 2020, he renewed his contract with Netflix for four more films.

Without having to bear the brunt of box-office ups and downs, he was freed up to take on an indie with the Safdie brothers in 2019.

Sandler spoke about the directors throwing out variations of lines to keep the dialogue from getting stale in between takes of Uncut Gems:

“This was probably the most free I could ever be in a movie just…he…he made so many mistakes and was so unlikable.”

Adam Sandler’s journey marks a profound shift from a pathological drive to be liked to an artist unshackled by traditional metrics of success, embodying a new era in his career where he can authentically express his creative vision.

For more:

A trip to the stars. In Spaceman, Adam Sandler plays a man on a solo space trip. It’s reminiscent of Moon (2009) but with Paul Dano as an alien. Check out the trailer—out on Netflix on March 1st.

The heart-pounding trailer for Sandler’s Uncut Gems.

An Adam Sandler art house film. Trailer for Punch Drunk Love.


THE INDUSTRY NEWS

Chad Stahelski is now master of the John Wick and Highlander universes after signing a deal with Lionsgate. Stahelski, who directed all four chapters of the John Wick series under his production company, 87 Eleven Productions, will have complete creative control over the film and television arms of the franchise.

Here are their recent/upcoming Wick projects:

Stahelski spoke about overseeing a second franchise:

John Wick is so close to my heart, and to be able to continue shepherding it will be a blast for me. I’m so happy to also be launching another franchise with

Highlander, a world that is so rich with engaging stories to be told.”

Highlander centers on an immortal hero (Henry Cavill is attached) born in the 16th century, flung into the present and battling eternal warriors—uber sci-fi stuff.

Watch the original ​Highlander​ (1986) trailer featuring Sean Connery.

HBO took the cake at last night’s Emmy Awards. Winning 31 awards, including Best Drama Series, HBO’s CEO, Casey Bloys, provided some series updates.

The White Lotus – Season 3.

“I think Natasha Rothwell was saying in an interview that every script she read, she just gasped out loud. I would concur with that. Mike [White] is a really unique and singular voice, and I’m excited for people to see what he has in store.”

Filming in Thailand in a few weeks. Starring Parker Posey and Patrick Schwarzenegger.

The Last of Us – Season 2. Bloys has read five scripts:

“It is bigger, gets into questions of retribution and revenge, it follows the video game but has big themes, big action. [Creators] Craig [Mazin], Neil [Druckmann] and the team are doing a spectacular job.”

Filming in Canada next month.

Euphoria – Season 3. Bloys has read three scripts:

“Sam [Levinson] is an incredibly talented writer; he’s got a lot in store for these characters, and I’m excited.”

No production date is set for Euphoria due to Zendaya’s busy schedule.

Given all the high-caliber future seasons in the works, there’s nothing stopping HBO from dominating the Emmys next year.


THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

Marisa Tomei wears Prada. In her latest film, Upgraded, an art gallery facsimile of The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Tomai plays a devilishly stern art gallery boss (trailer).

Tomei has had several standout indie performances over the years:

Tomei’s performance in Upgraded feels a bit one-note from the trailer, but she’s got tremendous range. And if the film allows for her character to have an arc indicative of Meryl Steep’s Anna Wintour-inspired character, it’ll be well worth watching.

The humbleness of Christopher Reeves. The upcoming Sundance documentary Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story looks into Reeves after he was a well-established on-screen hero:

The documentary starts with Reeves’ off-screen accident, where he was thrown from a horse and became paralyzed from the neck down. His children posit that this accident led to him become a more caring father and a real-life hero.

With his wife, Reeves founded The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation – a center dedicated to curing spinal cord injury and has raised 100s of millions of dollars.

Watch Reeves discuss this epiphany after his injury on Late Show with David Letterman (1998).


FESTIVALS

One Million Dollars. Untold Stories, a collaboration between AT&T and Tribeca Festival, provides $1 million, mentorship, and support to underrepresented filmmakers. In previous years, the prize has gone to Nigerian Prince (2018) and Lucky Grandma (2019). The 2024 Tribeca Festival will feature pitches from five teams, with the winner receiving $1 million and a guaranteed 2025 premiere.

Tribeca will host two virtual info sessions on 1/16 or 1/25 from the Studios mentorship team. Register here.

Submissions for Untold Stories close Feb 6th. Apply here.

Six Million Dollars. In a major move to promote diversity in the film and TV industry, Adobe and the Adobe Foundation have announced the Adobe Film & TV Fund. This initiative commits $6 million to aid underrepresented and emerging creators in advancing their careers. The fund aims to address funding and training disparities, offering fellowships, grants, and Adobe product donations. Collaborating with organizations like Easterseals, Gold House, The Latinx House, NAACP, Sundance Institute, and Yuvaa, the program will launch with the NAACP Editing Fellowship. This marks a significant effort by Adobe to enhance diversity and inclusion both on-screen and behind the scenes in the entertainment sector.

Read the press release here.


INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

Ned Benson signs with CAA. Benson’s fractured poetic love tale, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, was a daring romance that split its narrative into two films. The first is The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: His, which focuses on James McAvoy’s head-over-heels romance that leaves him abandoned when his lover disappears.

The second film, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her, centers on Jessica Chastain’s side of the relationship.

Both films were released at the Toronto International Film Festival. Then, a year later, they were combined into The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them (trailer), which premiered at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard.

Benson just signed with CAA; he’s also had two scripts on the blacklist, and his latest film, The Greatest Hits, is out in a few months.

The official synopsis demonstrates a remarkable return to form:

Harriet finds art imitating life when she discovers certain songs can transport her back in time literally. While she relives the past through romantic memories of her former boyfriend, her time travelling collides with a burgeoning new love interest in the present. As she takes her journey through time, she must consider whether or not she should change the past.

Benson’s bold creativity could have set a new standard for cinema-going, but it was considered too radical at the time.

We have high hopes that The Greatest Hits, currently in post-production, will play with the medium in a refreshing way.

Kerry Howley wrote a feature co-starring Zach Galifianakis that will play at Sundance. Here’s the official synopsis for Winner, which is based on Howley’s NY Magazine’s cover story:

Follows Reality Winner (yes, that’s her name), a brilliant young misfit from Texas who finds her morals challenged while serving in the U.S. Air Force and working as an NSA contractor.

Howley is having quite a year. Her non-fiction book, Bottom’s Up and The Devil, which also centers on Reality, is a NY Times 2023 Top Ten Book of the Year and a Vanity Fair Best Book of the Year.

Reality was recently the subject of the HBO documentary Reality (2023) starring Sydney Sweeney trailer.

Howley has just signed with Black Bear, who represents Charlie McDowell (writer/director: The Discovery) amongst over 100 others.

Magazine Dreams is back on the market. The buzzy Sundance film from last year, which garnered rave reviews, was bought by Searchlight Pictures for mid-seven figures. But after Jonathan Majors’ guilty verdict, they dropped it from their release schedule.

Now, they are returning it to the filmmakers:

Hopefully, the team can muster up a comeback and release the project.


INTERNATIONAL NEWS

A Swedish Short Term 12. Paradise is Burning rings out with the insatiable frustration of teenage maturation. The film has received several awards:

  • Venice Film Festival – Horizons
    • Best Director
  • BFI London
    • Sutherland Award (first feature award)
  • Guldbagge (Sweden’s Oscars)
    • Top Film Award

Here’s the official synopsis:

Three sisters, aged 7 to 16, live alone after their mother vanishes for whole swathes of time. When the social services demand a family meeting, oldest sister Laura plans to find a stand in for their mother.

There’s something crushingly beautiful about watching these Swedish children grow up too fast in the trailer. The director, Mika Gustafson, will be someone to watch. Hopefully, this film has an opportunity to be screened worldwide.

The BBC announced the 2024 recipients of its Small Indie Fund, supporting 57 small independent UK production companies with turnovers below £10m. The beneficiaries, spanning drama to children’s content, receive strategic investment and a BBC commissioning editor as a mentor. Notably, this cohort features a record 77% of diverse-led producers. The initiative reflects the BBC’s commitment to nurturing emerging talent and diverse voices in the UK’s vibrant independent film and television sector.

Matt Travers, BBC Head of Business, TV Commissioning and Business Development said:

“We know it remains a challenging time for the sector, and the Fund demonstrates our continued commitment to supporting smaller producers, right across the UK.”

The greatest success from the 2022 fund was A24 and Showtimes’ series Dreaming Whilist Black (trailer).

Read the press release here.

If you’re running one of the companies that received funding and want to share a little more about your upcoming projects, please give us a shout at hello@theindustry.co


ON THIS DAY

1986. 2nd Sundance Film Festival: Smooth Talk wins Grand Jury Prize Dramatic.


See you Thursday.


​Written by Gabriel Miller. Research by Spencer Carter.

Editor: Gabriel Miller.

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