The Cobbler Press Conference Interviews

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Comic Adam Sandler Steps Into Other Shoes In The Cobbler
Posted by Brad Balfour

March 11, 2015

The Cobbler Poster

Funnyman Adam Sandler doesn’t usually find himself in front of a gaggle of journos. Yet his apparent enthusiasm for his character Max Simkin — his latest starring role — in The Cobbler brought him, co-writer/director Tom McCarthy and several cast members, Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Ellen Barkin (Sea of Love), and Method Man (Wu Tang Clan), before press people in the London Hotel. Or maybe he conveniently appeared because he was in town for the three-hour plus SNL40 anniversary broadcast.

First spotlighted as a Saturday Night Live cast member, Sandler has starred in many Hollywood hits with a combined gross of over $2 billion. Never a Hollywood darling either for his comedies or political affiliation (he’s registered Republican who performed at their 2004’s national convention), Sandler has nonetheless, become one of the most successful comedians as well as screenwriter, actor, entrepreneur, producer and musician, in recent years.

Besides 2014’s South African-filmed rom-com Blended — in which he starred with Drew Barrymore — the 48 year-old Brooklyn native has most recently been a star in more indie fare such as Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children, and the soon-to-be-released The Cobbler.

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Also an actor, Oscar-nominated creator McCarthy has appeared in such movies as Meet the Parents and Flags of Our Fathers as well as TV series such as The Wire, Boston Public, and Law & Order. The New Jersey native received critical acclaim for his writing/direction on such indies as The Station Agent, The Visitor and Win Win; he also got an Oscar nom for co-writing the animated mega-hit Up.

The Cobbler’s storyline follows shoe repairman Simkin who’s labored in his family’s New York shop  for ages. Disenchanted with the daily grind, Max discovers a magical heirloom that allows him to literally step into others’ lives, particularly his customersso he sees the world in a new way. For Max and the rest (Dascha Polonco, Dan Stevens, Melonie Diaz, and Dustin Hoffman are among the cast), walking in another person’s shoes is the way one can discover who they really are.

This Q&A is culled from that press conference before a set of journalist late this past February.

The Cobbler 1 Adam Sandler

In this movie, you become a lot of different people. In real life, if you could spend the day in someone else’s shoes, look like them, get away with whatever, who would it be and why?

Adam Sandler: It would be my grandma. Just the pleasure she has in making me soup. Just to see it from that side — turning on the vaporizer when I’m sick. To see what that must be like for her.

All of you are used to trying out other peoples’ lives for a living as an actor but what was it like exploring the idea of really assuming another person’s body?

The Cobbler 5 Method Man

AS: It was very easy because once I put on the shoes another actor came in.

Method Man: I haven’t thought about it; but I’ve wanted to put on other people’s shoes before, for sure, especially Adam’s [laughs]. Basically, Tom walked me through it; I came to the assessment that I wasn’t trying to be Adam’s character, I was trying to be Adam in that character’s body.

SB: One of the first things I asked Tom [was], “How is this going to work? Like do I ‘do’ Dustin [Hoffman]?” And he said, “No, because it’s your voice, and it’s the person who steps into those shoes who, sort of, inhabits that person.”

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So I was very nervous thinking about it, and I just had to stop thinking about it. I can’t be Dustin — I’m walking here! It was pretty [much] fun watching these guys play around with that, though in their own different ways, [we all] had to deal with it or think about it. I think there was one moment, where we all got confused a bit, especially Dustin. I remember at one moment he said, “Am I me, or am I Adam? I don’t know!”

AS: Ellen never knew! [All laughs.]

One great thing about the film being shot in New York is seeing its locations. Were there any places and of you wanted to visit, or places you recognized?

AS: The Lower East Side was great to be shooting in. A lot of my family is from the LES. There’s good food there, nice people… It just brought back all those memories for me — just driving around New York and hanging out with my parents and always talking about, “Grandma lived there, and that happened here” and that kind of thing.

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EB: It was nice to shoot downtown, on the LES because in some way it is the last place in the city that to me still looks like the New York I grew up in, and I think it’s just that little pocket. Just getting to the East Village, you are getting into a very different part of New York, so it was nostalgic in a lovely way and it also sort of angered me, as I walked around and thought, “Why don’t I live here anymore?”

Tom, you co-wrote the Oscar-winning animated feature Up — which is about a helpless person who has his house taken over by big corporations. This film touches onto that as well. Is this something you are concerned with; is this something you feel compelled to write about?

TM: I guess so… Though I haven’t thought about that connection too much. But I do appreciate [the] character of [classic NYC]. I live in TriBeCa right now, and they’re ripping down these little buildings and building glass towers now.

Ellen’s right: if you walk around the pockets in the LES where we shot, there are still vestiges of it, but it’s sad to see the city lose all that. I understand development is inevitable, but it is sad when you think that we are losing all of this charm and texture that is the very reason we chose to live here I the first place.

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It was fun working it into the story, have a context for it, so we could be lighthearted with it. Like all these shopkeepers and stuff, there something in geek side of me that really appreciates it and exploring that with these wonderful actors.

How have your views on filmmaking changed since people now see things on smaller screens? A lot of physical comedy works best in terms of film; how do you think we will know you suffered for your art?

AS: I’m just excited for people to see this movie, and I did see this movie in Toronto at a film festival on the big screen. There were a lot of people in the room and it was neat because it played like a comedy there were a lot of laughs and it is always fun in the theater, hearing group laughs, being on the same wave length and having a great time.

The Cobbler 3 Adam Sandler

And this movie is coming out in some theaters, right? Which will be cool to see. But the fact that you can see it at home, it’s great. You work hard, and you make the best movie you can, and you just want as many people to watch it as possible. And that’s nice.

I never want the theater go away — it is the greatest [for audiences] to go, it’s the greatest time out on the town, it’s a great place, great hand, date, a great place to hand with friends. But as an actor who works hard at making movies, I think that no matter what people can see movie on; it’s hard to keep a theater for long, there are so many movies, so, when you leave a theater—you’re just glad there’s a light fare for a movie.

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How was the physical comedy for you?

MM: I dislocated both my thumbs trying to grab Adam’s foot. Both of them. Luckily I had three days off, so I could rest.

AS: That was a good fight we had [deadpans].

Did you want to be this movie because you have bad landlord stories?

AS: My landlord now is always yelling at me. “Pay up. Where is your 250 bucks?” And I’m like, “Talk to my wife. She’s got it.”

SB: I actually once talked my landlord down from rent, because I knew that he was overcharging me, because I got in the mail the previous tenant’s rent, and it was still a hundred bucks less than what I was paying.

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So I made a deal with him because I had two roommates, and he said I wasn’t supposed to have two roommates, so he let me have the two roommates and I also got the markdown, the hundred bucks.

EB: You know, I live on 12th Street, right across from where the old St. Vincent’s [Hospital] was, so when I read the script, I had a very personal connection [with it] because of where I live. I am watching the entire nature of my neighborhood change with the taking down of one building. It’s a big fucking building and it will change the entire neighborhood. Is it going to happen? Yeah. Can you stop it? I don’t know. But does it feel terrible? Yeah, it does. And most of the people on the block, who’ve been there for a while are all trying to get out as soon as they get in.

It’s just an interesting thing to think about. It’s like what Adam was saying about the VOD. Yes, going to the movies is a great experience, but you’re not going to stop now that there are new ways to watch movies, and more people get to watch it.

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I saw the movie both ways. I saw it in Toronto, and I saw it in my living room last night, and I have to say, it felt the same way. If it’s some IMAX movie then you want them to go to the theater, but this movie held up beautifully.

Adam, if your character were to ask you for advice on how to be happier with your life, what advice would you give someone?

AS: How would I try, as Adam, to cheer up my character? I don’t know. I like to think that he is good at what he does — but I can’t cobble as well as that guy. You know, he’s got a loving mom. He’s got the house, [but there’s] the bills that mom didn’t pay.

I think the best thing he’s got going for him is the plastic on the couch. He doesn’t have to clean up if he spills. I’d just tell him, “Everything is going to be alright, Max. Believe me. You’re a handsome man in a beard. Enjoy it.

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What do you think would make a great double-feature with this film?

EB: I’m going to double-feature it with It’s a Wonderful Life. I think it’s a same feel.

MM: Freaky Friday.

SB: Did you ever see the movie the Landlord? It’s a different kind of feel.

TM: One inspiration for Paul [Sado, co writer] and I in writing this film was Marty. We felt that Max had a bit of Marty in him, especially with his mom.

AS: And I think one movie we’re all forgetting is Caligula [[which is very x-rated]]. Let Caligula go last though. [Everyone laughs]

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Do you feel that shoes say something about a person; are shoes important?

SB: There was a big controversy about those shoes [I wore on Boardwalk Empire], because they weren’t the right time period. When we shot the opening credits… But I still have people come up to me and say, “How could you walk in those shoes?”

MM: In my culture, it’s more or less like, that’s the first thing women look at. Women look at the build, and then they look at the shoes. If you don’t have nice shoes, you don’t have money. For me? It’s lawyers. First thing I’m looking at is his shoes. If he has good shoes, this dude’s getting money. We’re going to do this thing. If he has terrible shoes? [He’s a] Public Defender. [Laughs.]

"The Cobbler" Premiere - 2014 Toronto International Film Festival

EB: As an actor, I think the first thing I ask for is my character’s shoes. It’s the first thing I think on about myself, and it’s the first thing I work on with the costume designer, because I think it’s how you are grounded. I think it’s different if you’re wearing Aldo’s or a six-inch heel.

Does it matter what type of shoes you wear?

AS: I don’t wear shoes a lot. When that happens, my vocabulary goes up. I feel like my father, like I’m worthy of having children. When I’m in my sneakers and my kids ask me a question, I say “Ask your mother.”

When was the last time you wore shoes — not sneakers?

AS: I’m wearing shoes to the Saturday Night Live thing. I rented a tux — no, I bought a tux! They gave me shoes. That was the first thing I asked for.

MM: I’ve got only one pair of shoes.

AS: One pair?

The Cobbler 15 Method Man and Adam SandlerMM: One pair, I wear them everywhere.

AS: And the rest are sneakers?

EB: And how many pairs of sneakers do you have?

MM: Maybe about 50 pairs.

SB: You could sell them on eBay.

MM: Nah.

Have any of you ever had custom-made shoes made for you?

EB: It feels like the most indulgent thing you could ever do. But when you do it, I thought I could give up five winter coats to do this again. My grandfather I remember had a pair of custom shoes, and I was thinking about it, and it’s because he had a cobbler. But it feels good, like they trace your foot on a piece of paper—it’s made for you.

The Cobbler Adam Sandler

SB: I did have a pair of boots made for when I did Boardwalk, and same thing, they trace your foot on a piece of paper. These things hurt more than anything else. I could only wear them for one season, and then I said, “Please, I’m tired.” I don’t know what happened, it just didn’t work for me.

AS: I have custom orthodics. They work well. I’m wearing them right now. I’ve got a question for you guys: when I was growing up, you just wore one pair of sneakers to shreds. When were you allowed to get the next pair? My parents were just like, once a year!

EB: Once a year.

SB: I remember my first pair of sneakers. [They were] Flyers. The commercials for them were great: you felt you could jump higher.

MM: My first pair of sneakers was a pair of Paul McClydes.

Steve Buscemi

SB: Come on! They were your first?

MM: They were my first.

SB: You were cool at that age.

MM: Before that, it was Buster Brown.

Following up on your comment about SNL… What has SNL meant to you as a fan and as an actor?

AS: [Turning to Ellen] Did you use to go to [those parties]?

EB: I was a waitress, when they were rehearsing. It was called the Locale. We all hung out. I have the first-year shirt in my house.

AS: That’s amazing. You know, as kids, it was what we talked about. What was funny, like Mr. Bill… Everything about it rocked. It was cool. It was cool enough that your parents weren’t sure if you should be watching it, and then they were excited to get in there and you had to stay up late for it, so that was a big deal.

The Cobbler Adam Sandler and Thomas McCarthy

Over the years, it’s there. It’s there for you, for me. It’s comforting, it’s exciting, you know it’s happening live. It’s an amazing thing. Forty years’ worth of meaning something. Everyone talks about it — if the show was good or bad.

Even if a show falls flat, it’s still exciting to see you know that something’s happen. Pretty awesome. And the best thing will be that Ellen will be bringing us all a drink.

Even with so many diverse and wacky characters in this film, Dustin Hoffman has a reputation of being an eccentric — but who in the cast really made people laugh the most or goofed off the most?

The Cobbler - Steve Buscemi, Tom McCarthy, Adam Sandler, Ellen Barkin and Method Man

AS: Cliff [Samsara who played Max] brought a great energy. Ellen made me laugh all day — every other word was “f—k this” and “f that!” I loved it. Bruce Chandling? He was surprisingly not funny.

TM: He was like the black hole. Certainly no one up here liked Dan Stevens. [Actually he’s a] terrifically likable guy. When you get to write a really wacky story like this and get to call [in] all these great actors, sit down with them and settle a script and say, “Hey, let’s go try and do this,” it’s a great privilege. You really get to have a lot of fun. We all worked really hard on it and no matter the story, we cared a lot and I think we all feel lucky.

Adam Sandler

Adam has a way of quietly leading in that way. He’s been doing that for a while because he’s good at it and he enjoys doing the hell out of it and he works very hard, so you know he sort of sets the bar and we all have fun under that.

And you have Dustin walking in, and he’s eccentric, but only because he cares so much about everything. We had a day of rehearsal, and he just cared about everything, every beat, every moment — he digs into everything — like Caligula. It’s really, really, inspiring to watch a guy who’s been working that hard for so long at that level and brings it, still. It’s cool.

Adam, was there a list of who you had to have in this film. Was it like you’re saying, “Method Man, I want Method Man” Or something like that?

AS: [The casting?] That was all Tommy.

What are the basic elements that turns a comedy into a classic?

TM: I don’t know. If there was an equation for that, there would be a lot of classics right now. I think it has something to do with being original and how it connects with the audience. Adam spends a lot more time in the comedy world than I do, and I think he might have more answers on that.

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Whether it’s comedy or drama, or in this case a combo of both, our job is to keep telling stories and see where they land with audiences. See what how they continue on—movies and shows have long lives now. It stops there for me. Like I love making, I like collaborating with people and I love sharing with audiences, but then I sort of let go of it, and what happens, happens.

AS: For me, it helps to have Steve Buscemi here. My mother says to me, I swear to god, when I’m making a new movie, she says, “Oh, is Steve Buscemi in it?”

I’d say, “Yeah.”

And she, “Oh, then it’s going to be a good one.”

I swear, every time. And when I say Steve’s not in it, she says, “Oh.”

So Steve, how was it leaving Nucky behind — are you seeking roles that serve as a break in from him?

SB: It was hard to say goodbye to that character, but I also feel like I don’t know where we could’ve gone. I felt that five seasons were just the perfect amount of time to do for the show; I loved playing the character and I certainly miss it, but it was time to move on.

Were you deliberating looking for something not like that character?

SB: Well, I don’t usually get offered that stuff [in the first place] so it wasn’t like, “No, I don’t do that anymore.” It was a real privilege to play him, but I like playing all kinds of characters. I was thrilled when I got the call from Adam and Tom do this, and I guess I don’t really think about it. I just see where this life leads the work and have fun.

TM: When I was casting, first Adam… Paul and I were talking about who we would pick for this role. Adam asked us who were thinking about and I said that I was really thinking about Buscemi, not realizing that these guys had known each other forever.

It really paid off because these guys had a history together and sometimes you forget that these guys are used to working at such a high level. And it’s cool to see where their careers intersect like that. It was fun to watch.

SB: Before, we weren’t playing anything for laughs, it was really just so cool.

Since there’s a transvestite in the film, were there any good drag stories?

MM: He was a cool guy. I didn’t know he was trying to rattle me one day when we were in rehearsal and he kept grabbing my private area, so I told Tom, “Dude, we’re at rehearsal, could you tell him to tone it down a little bit?”

By the time we got on set, Tom had already given him the one-two/one-two and he knew not to grab my genitalia. But he was getting into it. Method, I guess. Dustin tied my shoe for me, because it was untied. He cares a lot, that guy. He cares a lot.

Tom, what about your wonderful cast members who aren’t here, like could you talk more about the women?

TM: We were a little restricted by the shoes, size 10 1/2 — and men’s shoes. But yeah, they’re two terrific actresses. Melonie Diaz’s from the neighborhood, from the LES, grew up there, started acting there, but she’s working in Boston so she couldn’t be here.

[Melonie and Dascha] are both working actresses who we loved to have and were a lot of fun. Especially with Melonie’s character, that sort of straightforward eagerness of really trying to fight the system and that sort of relentless positive energy, I just found very appealing. She certainly connected with that character being from that neighborhood. All good things. A lot of wonderful actors. We were lucky in that regard.

And Tom, was there a message you wanted to convey in terms of race?

TM: Ultimately, I don’t know if I had a message to convey. I was just trying to reflect the New York around me. You know, we had a light-hearted approach to a lot of the themes in the movie, in terms of development and race and heritage and all that. So, I can’t say that I had a specific message, other than trying to represent a little bit. We all talked about that, like who was playing what. It was really more about character than anything else — and storyline.

I wish I had a deeper answer to that, but I was really trying to be true to the characters as much as possible. So, when you live in New York that comes out — which is one of the great things about living in New York City. When you go to the LES, it’s just… Everyone’s there. We have every race, sex, heritage, country represented, it’s just what’s so great about the city.


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