Back in October, Variety broke the news that Adam Sandler had signed an exclusive deal with Netflix to star in and produce four films for the streaming video service.It was a surprising development—that one of the biggest global stars, whose films have raked in $3.9 billion worldwide, would take his talents online—especially given that Sandler had, with a few exceptions, spent the last 15 years starring in and producing films for Sony Pictures. The actor’s production company, Happy Madison, is even situated on the Sony studio lot.
But Sandler’s last film, the critically mauled Blended, took in a paltry $46 million at the domestic box office and that, coupled with recent misfires That’s My Boy and Jack and Jill, led some to question whether the Sandman’s star was petering out.
The recent cyberattack launched at Sony by a hacking collective dubbed the Guardians of Peace, which the FBI is pinning on North Korea as retaliation for the studio’s Kim Jong Un assassination comedy The Interview, has revealed several news items, from racially insensitive emails shared between Sony Pictures Entertainment Co-Chairman Amy Pascal and uber-producer Scott Rudin riffing on President Obama’s film tastes to an alarming gender pay gap among Sony employees and onscreen talent, including Jennifer Lawrence.
Many of the private email correspondences leaked online concerned Sandler, including an amusing trove of anonymous workplace complaints uncovered by Gawker saying that the studio should stop making “mundane, formulaic Adam Sandler films.”
And while Sandler has moved over to Netflix, he’s still committed to two Sony Pictures films through 2015, including the high-concept epic Pixels and Hotel Transylvania 2, the latter an animated film produced by Sandler’s Happy Madison.
Emails unearthed by The Daily Beast reveal that the studio wasn’t happy with Sandler’s behavior on the set of Hotel Transylvania 2, as well as a studio pitch on a film adaptation of the board game Candyland that led Pascal to brand the 48-year-old actor—who has a reputation as one of the nicest guys in Hollywood—an “asshole.”
A distressed and apologetic email dated Sept. 23 of this year from Hannah Minghella, co-president of production for Columbia Pictures, to Pascal and other execs details her frustrations with Team Sandler over a Candyland meeting gone terribly awry—with Sandler allegedly cornering studio execs and demanding that they green-light the $200 million film project on the spot.
“Adam is an asshile [sic] and this is more his fault than anyone’s but what we did was not communicate with each other and make assumptions maybe I didn’t pay attention when you were telling me what I was walking into but it also comes from a non alien meant between us all and too many people doing everything and no one taking responsibility and I mean myself as it is my responsibility to let you guys know what I want to breath [sic] life into,” replied Pascal.
Doug Belgrad, president of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s motion picture group, also weighs in on the chain to Pascal, clearing Minghella of any blame and placing it more on Sandler’s own issues with his fading star power.
“On Candyland, [Minghella] was just servicing Adam,” wrote Belgrad. “You knew from when Venit called you last week and what I told you that it was all a zhiv, but Sandler is so on guard for it, there was no chance to pull that off. You said yourself that Adam was gonna be angry and you said you didn’t care you couldn’t fix what was really bothering him that he isn’t the guy he once was and nobody can make that better for him.”
Another email dated Oct. 14 from Michelle Raimo Kouyate, president of production for Sony Pictures Animation, points to further tension with Sandler and his team over the production expenses on Hotel Transylvania 2. Apparently, Sandler wanted his pal/producing partner Allen Covert, who provided several of the voices and helped produce the first Hotel film, to be kicked an extra $100,000 for his producing fee—which Sony brass wasn’t too pleased about.
“Ok but we are going to hold firm about not paying extra $$ to Covert for producing fee—we are at the $500k EP max,” wrote Kouyate. “100 percent… They are such assholes,” Pascal replied.
A later email correspondence dated Oct. 30 and sent from Michael De Luca, co-president of production for Columbia Pictures, to Pascal also hinted that the studio had been game-planning for life after Sandler (and Will Smith) following his move to Netflix—one that involves inking as many talented directors to the studio as possible, including Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead).
“I wanted to lock edgar down at columbia because I think one of the answers to your question about what replaces adam sandler and will smith at the studio is planting commercial writer/directors here, edgar and all his contemporaries, as many as I can get my hands on,” De Luca wrote.
When The Daily Beast interviewed Adam Sandler this September at the Toronto Film Festival, he seemed pretty Zen about his recent flops, as well as the critical drubbing he’s taken of late.
“I don’t really read ’em,” he said. “I hear about ’em, and have friends who called me up and told me how much they hated my last thing [Blended], and every movie I make I hear how they don’t like it. I don’t sit there and read ’em, but am I excited that they say stuff like that? You know, I wish they would calm down a little bit.”