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Adam Sandler: I'm a millionaire moron

Despite being one of Hollywood's richest actors, Adam Sandler knows how to keep his feet on the ground.

A recent item in Los Angeles' scurrilous Hollywood insider website Defamer started this way: "There really is no point in resisting Adam Sandler". The comment prefaced that weekend's box-office results detailing Adam Sandler's spot at No 1 with $40m for Click. Nobody in town was surprised. Four of his last five films opened in excess of $40m on their first weekend and did better than $120m.

He reportedly earns at least $20m every time he stars in one of his signature comedies, and has the sort of uncommonly profitable "back end" deals [earning a percentage of a film's gross] reserved for the likes of Jack Nicholson. Sandler, for once, is not joking on why being Adam Sandler currently rocks: "I'm filthy rich!"

Before Sandler's latest hit opened, we met at a Beverly Hills hotel, his beloved if rather unattractive English bulldog Matzoball in tow. In the film he plays stressed architect Michael Newman whose inflexible boss (David Hasselhoff) makes it virtually impossible for him to achieve any approximation of a personal life with his wife (Kate Beckinsale), two kids (and inevitably a dog). When he meets the very peculiar Morty (a deliciously weird Christopher Walken), Sandler discovers the elixir he thinks he needs to salvage his ongoing time-management crisis - a universal remote control that will allow him to fast-forward through duller moments of life.

Did the film imbue him with any revelatory bolts from the blue?

"I did learn a lesson from this film," he says. "My wife throws it in my face whenever I'm at work. She says, 'What about your movie? Did you learn your lesson?' I do love the premise. My friend Steve and his buddy came up with the idea and wrote it. I definitely connected to the fact that life gets out of control and you end up doing things and wishing you were doing other things instead. Sometimes you can't prioritise family and you feel guilty."

Click begins as vintage Sandler comedy but metamorphoses into something much less funny: the death of Newman's father whose later years he fast-forwarded through. Sandler was close to his own father, Stan, who died in 2003, not long after his son's wedding. He credits both his father and grandfather with instilling in him an unconventional sense of self-worth which prevails to this day.

"I've been called a moron since I was about four. My father called me a moron. My grandfather said I was a moron. And a lot of times when I'm driving, I hear I'm a moron. I like being a moron."

The birth announcement for his now four-month-old daughter Sadie, read, in typical Sandler prose: "Sandler had a kid. Kid is healthy. Wife is healthy. He's still a moron and that's all that counts." And he takes delight in recounting what his father's reaction might have been to his having prayers said for Meatball, another of his bulldogs, after his demise. "He'd have said, 'It's just a dog, you moron'."

Of his father's death, he says: "Some things get bombed on you in life, but I still enjoy it. I'm happy to be here and I don't want to fast-forward anything. You know, some parts are boring, some parts are tired but it goes away and you get back to having good times again." He says he would rewind to "when that first pubic hair came. The second one was good too".

Sandler is by all accounts one of Hollywood's good guys, up there with Hugh Jackman and George Clooney. He surrounds himself with a loyal, supportive, funny troupe of guys - actors, writers, directors, producers - and hires or works with them whenever he is able. Sandler's Happy Madison production company is one of the West Coast's most prolific, producing both his own films and projects for the likes of Rob Schneider, David Spade and Chris Rock. "Having friends around you is great," he says. "That's what makes me happy."

Two weeks ago Sandler turned 40. Why wouldn't he be thrilled at how life has turned out in the 23 years since he crashed a Boston comedy club stage and discovered he had a natural talent for stand-up comedy? A small role on The Cosby Show was the prelude to a run on Saturday Night Live, America's still-revered if patchy TV sketch show staple, which earned him a movie career.

And then there is his sideline - drama. He recently filmed Empty City playing a man destroyed by the loss of his entire family on September 11, who eventually finds some measure of peace with the help of a friend, played by Don Cheadle. He was also a revelation opposite Emily Watson in 2002's critically acclaimed art house hit Punch-Drunk Love directed by the not remotely comedic Paul Thomas Anderson. "Paul and I learnt a lot from Adam," said Watson at the time. "He just opens the door and sees what falls through."

Sandler's last film, a remake of The Longest Yard, made substantially more money in the US than Mission: Impossible III, and its American TV rights recently sold for an unprecedented $27m.

For young men in America, Sandler is in every sense a hero, at a time when Americans across the board really need a laugh. They love the fact that despite not having typical movie-star looks, his winning charm often gets the girl. But mostly, they love his puerile lavatory humour. "My favourite scene in the whole of Click is the one with Hasselhoff [where Sandler farts in his face]. Putting my buttocks near his face was fun. It was good for me and him, and the crew. Everyone enjoyed that moment. It took about nine takes to get right."

He notes that another co-star, Walken, "terrorised" the children on Click's set. Sandler on the other hand is a sort of Pied Piper character who gets on famously well with every child in his films, while joking that he is yet to meet his four-month-old daughter Sadie. "I hear she has a really good shaved head and does something in her underwear. Right now it's all about Click and she knows that."

It is also apparently about the women at home being in charge. "I have been with my [ex-model] wife for eight years now. I had control of that remote for seven years and then I gave it over this year because she was complaining about the shows we were watching. It's been the worst year of my life. I have watched shit I've never wanted to see. Of course every show we watch is about how bad men are. I tend to walk out to the kitchen and read a lot now while the TV is on."

He earned "research" privileges to watch some of Beckinsale's father Richard's work before filming Click. "Beckinsale's dad was a great comedian and a good-looking man. And Kate is a good-looking woman and also funny. Her husband actually made a DVD for me and I loved Porridge."

As for more contemporary British comedians, Sandler, like Ben Stiller, appears to idolise Sacha Baron Cohen. "We like him," he says, as if speaking for the comedy frat pack. "By the way, he is getting good at basketball here in America. I played with him and he fouls more than anybody I have ever seen. Then he says, 'I didn't know you're not allowed to do that'. I met him a bunch of times though, hung out with him and I think he's a great guy.

"He is one of the funniest guys I've ever met, too. He's different. He has got more balls than anybody I've ever seen. I had those balls when I was 12. And then I just said, 'I don't want to get beaten up any more'. He just keeps going. Someday I hope we'll do something together. And, of course, we all love The Office."

Why exactly is Sandler so liked by Hollywood and an audience, which evidently without hesitation buys tickets to every single film he makes? Perhaps because he appears to care little about the gold, but rather about life (witness the space afforded his dad's letters and his dogs' photos on his official website). His biggest kick in Click, for example, was having Henry Winkler play his father.

"He's a great man. Honestly, when my father was sick, Henry Winkler was a great guy. He called him all the time when he was fighting cancer and left so many messages for my Pap. He's just a good person. At my wedding to Jackie, he gave a toast and it was one of the most memorable moments. He was so sweet to everybody. After that, I was like, 'Man, I have to make sure I have a movie where Henry plays my dad because I feel so close to him'. And then this came along. What an honour for me."

'Click' opens on 29 September