Master of the Universe

Master of the Universe

Articles - Directing

Frank Coraci and Adam Sandler
Frank Coraci and Adam Sandler on the set of Click (2006). Photo: Columbia Pictures.

Curtiz and Bogart. Kurosawa and Mifune. Herzog and Kinski. Scorsese and De Niro. Coraci and Sandler?

College buddies Frank Coraci and Adam Sandler may not be aiming to make the next Casablanca, but there’s no denying the magic that exists in their collaborations. Of the five feature films that Coraci has directed, Sandler has starred in three of them—including The Wedding Singer and The Waterboy—and together they’ve brought in close to a half billion dollars at the box office.

As he prepared for world domination with the release of Click, Coraci spoke with MM about his collaborations with Sandler and keeping things fresh.

Jennifer Wood (MM): It is, of course, almost impossible to speak with you without asking about Adam Sandler, as so many of your films have been collaborations with him. So how did the two of you first meet?

Frank Coraci (FC): In college at NYU freshman year. We hung out one night with a group of friends and spent the night staying up in a closet to the wee hours making each other laugh. It became one of many nights that we did that. Our group of friends included (producer) Jack Giarraputo, (writer) Tim Herlihy and (actor) Alan Covert We felt like we were creating our own brand of comedy; we called it Shnorf Humor. I was in film school and Adam in drama, so we started collaborating back then in my short student films. He has remained a very close friend since.

MM: What’s the one thing that makes you want to keep working together?

FC: I think we both have the desire to do things that are original and push the envelope in some new way. As an artist, I truly respect that drive in him to do that. Also, I think he’s extremely intelligent and talented. And he makes me laugh. Something tells me I do the same for him. So there is just such a trust and a respect for each other’s taste.

MM: How does collaborating with one actor so often make your job as director easier? Are there unique challenges that can arise, too?

FC: It’s easier to direct Adam because we have an immediate short hand. There’s no tiptoeing to get to know each other’s boundaries. It’s so easy for me to say one word and conjure up an idea, or an emotion in him. On CLICK, there were some really dramatic moments that are hard for any actor to shed their guard about. I feel like I made Adam comfortable to let go. He’s a great actor, but by allowing me to say anything to him that was personal and emotional for him was as simple as him saying to me “Do whatever you have to do to get me there.” And when you see his performance in CLICK you’ll realize he definitely got there.

MM: Are there unique challenges that can arise, too?

FC: The unique challenges are, how do you keep it fresh? And I think the answer is to always do a project together that pushes the boundaries further. That’s what brought us back together on CLICK.

MM: So how did CLICK come to you?

FC: CLICK is an interesting movie because it’s sort of a combination of genres and tone wrapped into one movie. In that way it’s totally original. Adam really wanted me to do it—and everyone around me that I trust and respect came to me saying “This is the one you have to do with Sandler again.”

I read it and realized it could be as funny as the movies we had done before, but could somehow surpass them. Along with being hilarious, it was taking some serious themes head on. It felt important. And from a filmmaking standpoint, it had the potential to be the most visual film I have ever done. I believe in all films being as cinematic as possible. And comedies usually get slighted, but thus far I’ve tried my best for that not to happen. CLICK was a chance make one of the most visually interesting/stylized movies yet. It’s kind of a comedy, sci-fi, time/dimension traveling fantasy film.

MM: When deciding on a project, what are the most important factors for you? What’s the one thing that will make you say ‘Yes’ right away?

MM: Is this a story that is worth bleeding into for the next one to two years of my life? It’s a really long commitment to make a movie, and hopefully it will live long after I’m gone. I put a lot of pressure on myself when I make that decision. Sometimes I just really wish I were an actor, because I would jump on movies so much faster since I could do six movies a year then. I never say right away, but for CLICK, I did make the decision relatively quickly.

MM: What was it that sold you on the film?

FC: I saw how interesting and unconventional it was storytelling-wise, since Michael Newman was such a flawed character. And the journey he goes on in this film takes on some heavy themes—head on. It became clear that this could be a really cool movie. And I believed what it had to say. From that point on, it was full tilt. And now I’m so glad I did it.

MM: So if you had the “universal remote,” what’s the first thing you’d do with it?

MM: Pause and take naps so I could stay up late every night and get more out of life. It’s crazy to think we sleep a third of our life away.

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