In the raunchy comedy “That’s My Boy,” Adam Sandler plays Donny Berger, a crass, irresponsible, heavy-drinking slacker who became a father at age 13, when he impregnated an adult teacher named Mary McGarricle (played by Susan Sarandon), who was then imprisoned for statutory rape. Donny ended up raising their son as a single father. The scandal made national news, and Donny became semi-famous at the time of the scandal, but then faded back into obscurity.
Donny’s son, Todd, who is now an adult (played by Andy Samberg), is estranged from Donny, who hatches a plan to make some money and get some of his fame back by having a TV show film a reunion between Todd’s mother and Todd, who is about to get married to snobby Jamie Martin (played by Leighton Meester). Donny must first convince Todd to go to the prison where Todd’s mother is still incarcerated, but he doesn’t want to tell Todd that the reunion will be filmed for a TV show.
All sort of shenanigans happen in the days leading up to the wedding, as Donny finds out that he’s not the only one with bad behavior. Vanilla Ice (who plays himself n the movie), Ciara (who plays a friendly bartender named Brie) and Will Forte (who plays Phil, Todd’s best man at the wedding) have supporting roles in “That’s My Boy.” Here is what Sandler, Samberg, Meester, Vanilla Ice, Ciara, Forte and “That’s My Boy” director Sean Anders said when they gathered for a Los Angeles press conference about the movie.
Adam, you haven’t done an rated-R comedy in a long time. What are the freedoms of going back to it, and what was it like to let loose in this kind of movie?
Sandler: It was fun to speak the way I speak in my bathroom. It felt good to get it out there again. I grew up cursing a lot, and it felt natural. And then my parents yelled at me and told me to stop. They weren’t enjoying my albums, and they weren’t enjoying a lot of things I did in my life.
And then my father passed away, and he’s not here to yell at me anymore. My mother, I bullied her, and I said, “Here comes some more dirtiness. Sit and enjoy it.” And that’s what we did.
You’ve had a lot of success in family movies. Was it a tough decision to go back to doing an R-rated movie?
Sandler: No, no. It was just a funny script. I liked the idea. I liked the idea of hanging out with these guys. Samberg actually called me up and told me that he liked it, and that got me excited. That’s it. I’d done some stuff in the past few years where I’d cursed a bit, and it felt good. [He laughs.]
What is it about romancing older women that appeals to you?
Sandler: I’m comfortable with it. I’ve always liked older ladies, ever since my mother would have B’nai B’rith at our house. I don’t know. They seem to be nice. They’ve seen it all.
They’ve seen every penis size. They’ve seen some giants and they’ve seen some that don’t cause too much pain, and they’re nice about it. They find a way to compliment it, no matter what. So I’ve always liked older ladies for that reason.
Young ones are like, “Whoa. I was expecting more dick there!” The old ones are like, “You know, I have a baby.”
Have any of you ever felt embarrassed by your parents?
Sandler: I’m sure everybody here has had moments. My grandmother used to embarrass me more when she’d pick me up from school wearing a big, fuzzy hat. I didn’t like that.
Forte: My mom has a major gas problem. It’s really loud all the time.
Meester: My parents would sing to me. My mom would sing me a really nice version of [the musical] “Annie’s” “Tomorrow” to wake me up in the morning, even when my friends were over. And they were like, “That’s so nice.” And my dad would come in, like, “I love a parade!” So that was a little bit …
Samberg: Yeah, I’d be getting a ride with some friends, and my dad would sing along to “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, really loud, and get really into it. “No, don’t sing!” “Great tune!”
Ciara: My grandmother’s always over-the-top with everything that she does. Being young, and having your mom come to school with the laced-up hats and the crazy outfits are definitely moments to remember.
Vanilla Ice: My mom always told me, “Act smarter than you are and always know where your exit is in case you get into too much trouble.”
Vanilla Ice, this was an interesting take on your career and that song. When you look back at that, what are your feelings on everything that’s happened and is there anything you’d change?
Vanilla Ice: Well, after that weekend that lasted a few years … [He laughs.] No, I look back and love it all. I mean, listen, it’s a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” world out there right now. Obama grew up to that sh*t. So, I’m excited to bring back some of the old school and reminisce a little bit. We’ve got the 5.0 in the movie. I almost just wanted to stand up and do the Running Man for old times’ sake. It’s great, and I’m glad that these guys called me up to be a part of it. It’s amazing.
Sandler: The Ice Man was very cool about it when I talked to him. The way that it happened was that with the script was that I was friends with a star that I hung out with in the late ’80s, and we became friends. We were both at the height of our fame together. We were talking about who it should be, and my wife said, “Vanilla Ice. That’d be the best.”
Everybody got excited for Vanilla Ice. We called up Rob [Van Winkle, Vanilla Ice’s real name], and he came by the office and I told him about the part. I said, “It’s fun and you’re actually going to be cool in the movie, like a good friend. There’ll be jokes about what you do over a career and stuff like that.” He said, “Yeah. Anything you want to do.” He was very loose, very cool.”
Samberg: I like the idea of kids reading the bio of Obama 20 years from now and it saying, “Huge Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan.” And now we run the world! Straght out of the gutter!
How did you choose Susan Sarandon as your older lady love interest?
Sandler: That was Heather Parry. Her idea was that whoever was to play the teacher should be a mother/daughter team, that instead of doing the makeup for 30 years later and putting a lot of makeup on an actress, it’d be fun to get a pair and those two [real-life mother and daughter Susan Sarandon and Eva Amurri] were great. They said yes. And pretty damn funny in the movie, both of them.
What came first: This story or the idea to use Andy as your son because you look alike?
Sandler: We got some looks, yes.
Samberg: Thank you.
Sandler: We knew each other for the last few years. Our names are similar and our looks are a little bit similar. What else is similar?
Samberg: The mailman?
Sandler: The Judaism is quite similar.
Samberg: Yeah. Loose, but there. I can answer it. The script was written and then I heard that he was thinking about doing it and I was like, “Holy crap, if there’s ever a chance for me to play a part where I’m related to Sandler, this is it, because I’m the right age younger than he is if he’d had a son with a teacher at the age of 15.” It’s a classic tale!
Andy, what that’s like for you to leave “Saturday Night Live”?
Samberg: It’s extremely emotional and sad for me, but I also just felt like it was the right time.
What was on the calendar that made you feel like the timing was right time?
Samberg: It’s not really to do with anything that I’m doing outside of the show or any kind of project that I’m moving on to. It was just more that I’d been there seven seasons. The digital shorts were incredibly demanding to get done so often.
The two guys that I work with consistently, Akiva [Schaffer] and Jorma [Taccone], they’re in the Lonely Island with me, and had both been moving on for a while and had been coming back to help me out, but it was tough to keep them on the hook, so to speak. There really wasn’t any one specific reason. It was more just a feeling that I had that it was time to move on.
Adam, what was it like when you left “Saturday Night Live”? Was it like getting out of prison?
Sandler: No, no. You’re scared when you go. It’s a home. “SNL” is a home. You’ve got all your brothers and sisters there and it’s a great time. And you’re guaranteed that it’s 20 shows a year, and you’re definitely going to get on some of them and get to do your thing.
So when that goes away, there’s no life jacket. You’re just on your own and you have to figure it out. But like Andy said, you just have to feel like, “All right, I’ve done what I had to do. I don’t want to repeat myself too much. I think I have to figure out some other creative things to do.” And it’s scary.
I remember watching the show after I left and I was like, “Oh, sh*t. They can do it without me.” That hurts. They can do it quick. None of them are like, “Oh, I miss that guy.” They’re like, “All right, get that guy out of the f**king way. Let me go.”
But it hurts. It hurts to watch in the beginning and then you start loving it again. You miss it, but you’re also glad those guys are doing it and you’re at home watching sometimes, too.
Andy, there have been some similarities between your early career to Adam Sandler’s early career. Did you grow up as a fan of Adam Sandler?
Samberg: I can talk about being a fan of Adam’s for like the next seven hours. I watched “SNL” since I was 8, and wanted to be on it since I was 8. I remember when he came on the show. There was a lot of stuff that he did, but the moment that I was like, “Oh, this is my guy,” was the Easy to Do Halloween Costumes on “[Weekend] Update.”
He was like, “Oh, I’m Jew guy. I’m under the desk man,” whatever. Under the Desk Man, when he got under the desk and there was just a blank screen and him yelling up, I was like, “You’re allowed to do this on TV?”
The crowd was going nuts. It felt like the kind of stuff a lot of comedians talk about when you see some comedian or some sketch or some whatever movie, it feels like it’s made just for you and that was definitely one of those moments. His time on the show was that [for me].
And then with the first couple of movies, “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore,” I was just at that impressionable age and I memorized those movies. I’ve said this before, but I had “Billy Madison” on audio cassette and I’d walk around town listening to it in my Walkman. It’s like if I couldn’t be in front of a TV, I wanted to be hearing “Billy Madison.” So I think it’s safe to say that getting to work with Adam on this was kind of a dream come true for me.
Did you learn anything from Adam Sandler?
Samberg: Yeah, a lot. He taught me how to put on a rubber the right way. I’ve been doing it wrong for years! I have so many kids! He taught me.
But also, he’s not just an actor. He’s a writer and a producer. And getting to watch him have this whole team assembled and his crew that he brings back, he’s so loyal to everybody, and there’s this family environment on his sets.I think everyone here got to witness that and how incredible it is.
It’s the same as working on “SNL,” like he was saying, it’s a family. You definitely get that feeling from walking on to a Sandler movie where everyone knows each other and respects each other and there’s an easy sort of shorthand that everyone has. The flow of production is really nice and kind of pleasant.
Do you worry about jokes leaving a bad aftertaste? Is it something you shrug off or do you make a conscious effort to make jokes most people will like?
Samberg: It depends on your palate, I suppose. The aftertaste is different for everyone.
Sandler: Yeah, that’s good.
Andy, coming off “Saturday Night Live” and having “That’s My Boy” and “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” which is a smaller movie, do you have certain ambitions for your career at this point?
Samberg: Obviously, I mean I hope I get to keep doing movies and hopefully I’ll make another record with the Lonely Island, stuff like that. But I’m trying to just be happy.
Vanilla Ice: Sometimes that’s tough.
Leighton, is there any situation when it might be wise to taste a suspicious stain, like your character does in “That’s My Boy”?
Meester: Wow, good question. In real life? No. That was a really fun day for me. Somehow, we managed to make it fun and I think pretty funny too. And, for me, going into it, I didn’t really know what to expect. I thought it would be fun and a lot of laughs, but it was really a life-changing experience to work with people who are so funny and so creative and so giving.
And so it was really cool to step outside what I’m used to and comfortable with. And it actually felt like, “Hey, I can do this too.” And to have the freedom to make up your own jokes, and really talk about it and figure it out and feel it out is really cool.
Samberg: Leighton was brave in this movie. She has some stuff.
Ciara and Rob, what was it like to work with all these experienced comedians?
Ciara: For myself, it was definitely a very, very, very new world for me. And really, for my first experience with such an amazing cast, and especially being with Adam, I just really wanted to be a sponge and soak it all up. I couldn’t have been more fortunate enough to be around such an amazing crew. Like he said earlier, it’s very family-orientated. It really felt like family.
And, for me, that was very great because it really was a lot to take on, but I was ready for it, and I really walked away feeling motivated and hoping to do a lot more. I just wanted to learn as much as I could.
These guys are really so funny and so fast. And when you see them in movies, it’s one thing to see the funny happen, but to actually it live, and to see how quick they really are and coming up with fresh lines that aren’t in the script, it’s like, “They’re just really beasts. They’re amazing.”
Vanilla Ice: I just get in where I fit in. I had no idea what to expect. I get there and everyone is just so cool. Adam was so down-to-earth, a family guy. It made it easy for me to just do what I had to do. It gave me freedom to go in there and be myself and enjoy it.
Even off set we were playing guitars, and Peter Dante is back there keeping everyone’s morale up. It’s just a great cast, a great group of people, on or off the camera. They’re fun to work with, and so it made it easy.
Sandler: And we were in a good place. We were on the Cape together, hanging out at a beach with that big house where these guys were getting married in the movie. We got to hang there for five weeks or so, and so it was just a fantastic hangout. We got to be funn, we got to curse, and we got to get a tan.
How did you decide to work with Sean Anders, who’s a newer director?
Sandler: Sean and his buddy, John [Morris], I love their movie. I saw “Sex Drive” one night on television. We had a plane ride, like me and my 10 friends, we were going somewhere. One by one I was going, “You have to watch this ‘Sex Drive’ movie.” And they were all plugging in their headphones and watching the movie, and everyone loved it.
I said, “I want to meet with those guys. They’re pretty great.” And then we had a meeting and we hung out a little bit, and then when it came to doing this, my usual guys that I work with who I love, they were all kind of busy. We were all filled up, the plate was full, so no one could jump on this.
So, I said, “Let me have a meeting with the guy from ‘Sex Drive.’” And that’s kind of how it happened. Then they started writing drafts. He’s just an animal, he and his partner John.
You just give a thought and the next day, it was literally that quick, or two days later they had another 20 pages that they’d rewrite and just great guys with great instincts and similar tastes in what we think is funny in a rated R film. I don’t know if we have a similar PG-13 taste. We’ll never know. But rated R, we just had a great time.
I think Sean is just connected with the movie, like me. I knew guys like Donny Berger and I really loved playing the guy. Actually, my friend Nick Swardson who’s in the movie, every couple of weeks when I see him, he just goes, “Boy, I wish you were Donny. I miss that guy.”
Rob, now that you’ve been bitten by the acting bug again and are back in front of the camera, is there any chance of a “Cool as Ice 2”?
Vanilla Ice: [He laughs.] Hey, man, you never know. Yesterday’s history and tomorrow is a mystery. I take it day by day, man. Get in where you fit in and enjoy the ride. You never know about it. A sequel?
Sandler: That’s a good idea.
Adam, we heard from Andy about what it was like to work with you. What was it like working with him?
Sandler: Well, I really loved him. We got tighter and tighter. I would keep saying to Andy and to my buddies about Andy: “He’s kind of similar to me, but a little better, a little smarter and a little better looking.”
He’s got all good angles. I can fake being good-looking, like, if I’m looking dead at you, but if I move left or right, it’s like, “What the f*ck is that?’ Andy can turn his head and you’re still like, “All right, I like that.”
He’s just a hard worker. He’s got comedy chops. Him and [Will] Forte are similar to the way that me and my buddies were back in the day, where it’s all about being funny and all about coming up with stuff that you feel is fresh and that makes you laugh.
He really gave me good stuff in the movie, gave me good lines to say. I would finish a take and Andy would say, “What about if you this,” and that’s not a common thing in my life, where a co-star is looking out for me, saying, “Say this, try this joke.” He was in his trailer and Will, too, writing jokes for me.
It was good. It was beautiful. I think his future, whatever he wants to do with it, it’ll happen. He is a little less nuts with me. When I was his age I was f*cking a little more obsessed with kicking ass. He’s obsessed with having a good life, and I like that. He’s going to have a nice life, and he’ll also kick ass if he wants to.
How did you come up with the voice and the mullet for this Donny Berger character?
Sandler: That was a last day choice. The voice, I grew up with that voice. I grew up in New England and I heard that voice on many drunk people and I got beat up by that voice many times. “You little f*cking hot shot.”
But I just enjoyed being that guy, and the hair helped me not look so much like Adam Sandler. It was nice to be the wigged-up Adam Sandler for a second.
Will, can you talk about shaping your Phil character? And will there be a sequel to the “MacGruber” movie?
Forte: First of all, with the Phil character in the movie, they would give me a bunch of leeway … They would push me in certain directions, but I had so much freedom. It was such a fun set.
What he was saying was absolutely right. There were just so many people looking out for you. Adam would always be giving you great jokes. Sean and John would be giving you great jokes. And Andy. So it was super-easy and collaborative and fun, which is not always the case.
Samberg: [He says jokingly] Will, what movie was it not fun to be on? I heard they were pretty tight-ass on “Rock of Ages.”
Forte: As for “MacGruber 2,” it’s very much in the works. No, I’m kidding. Jorma [Taccone, the director of “MacGruber”] mentioned it. He was really tired one morning, giving an interview, and he said something really stupid about it.
We would love it. We had so much fun doing it. We’re proud of it and jokingly talk of a sequel all the time, but I don’t think anybody in their right mind would give us any money for it. But if somebody gives us money for it, we will start writing it.
Samberg: I’ll give you a thousand bucks right now.
Forte: We will make it then! There will be a “MacGruber 2” then, funded by Andy Samberg.
Samberg: Shot on a flipcam!
When you have underage actors saying all these curse words, so you have to beg their parents to let them say it or are they rushing to say this stuff?
Sandler: That’s a good one. What happened there, Sean?
Anders: I can tell you that the kid who played Adam was a kid we found out of nowhere. He’s a kid named Justin [Weaver]. He’s a great, great kid. And the kid had never even been in a school play before. And he came out and was a pro from day one. We were all just blown away by this kid. And he was a huge Sandler fan, and he was having a blast.
And he’s actually 13, and he threw out two of his own improv lines, which are actually in the movie. I’m not proud of having a kid say those lines, but he was great. And he and his friends were having a blast.
And we didn’t really have any freaky stage moms or anything like that. When you’re doing that kind of a sequence, when that’s what it’s about, everybody is kind of going, “Well, all right. Have a good time with this.”
Sandler: I think as you read the script, you go from there. Parents who are involved with their kids acting in a movie, any movie, if your kid is in “Goodfellas,” if you read that script and if your kid’s part calls for him chopping somebody’s head off or something that’s what he’s going to do. That’s what this movie called for.
The kid was growing up in a home like that and is in a situation where it has happened before. We built some comedy around it, but we know that it’s a serious situation. He said his lines. He came up with some good ones on his own. That’s kind of what happens.
Adam, you’re a dad. Have you accepted the fact that you’ll eventually be embarrassing to your daughter eventually?
Sandler: Actually, I don’t look forward to it. I do embarrass her now, I think. I wear shorts a lot, and my kids do ask me to put pants on when I go to school. “Can you just one time wear pants?” And every time I get out of the car, I look down and I go, “I got those f*cking shorts on again. She’s going to yell at me.”
Anyways, I’m going to embarrass them, I’m sure. I’m getting older, and that happens. You don’t care as much. I’m definitely at that age, by the way. I don’t care too much anymore.
I’ve got to think about that because my father used to wear the same pants for a week. I remember that, and I’m like, “Holy sh*t. My friends have been over three times this week and they see me in the brown pants. Can I please convince this guy to get on some blue pants for a day?” But, yeah, I’m sure I’ll be that guy and humiliate the kids.
Adam, will you be doing more R-rated movies?
Sandler: I think I just liked the script. I thought that it was funny. I identified, or not identified with myself, but I knew this guy. So that’s what made it exciting and it made sense that this type of guy got loose and cursed and drank and cracked people with beer bottles and stuff. I’ve seen this guy. It wasn’t a career choice where I said, “I want to move my life into rated R.”
If a movie comes to me that’s rated R again, and I like it and connect with it, I would do that, but it wasn’t a choice. I don’t know what I’m doing next. I never know what’s coming next. I definitely yell at people in my life, going, “What the f*ck am I doing next?” a lot. But I don’t really ever know what’s happening.
How do you deal with the fear of failure and wondering if you’ll ever work again? How do you overcome that?
Vanilla Ice: You keep your hustle tight and you never get caught slippin’ on your pimpin’. If you get caught slippin’ on your pimpin,’ you’re up sh*t creek without a paddle. So learn how to swim through the trenches and get to the other side and when you get there it’ll be paradise for you.
Forte: My answer to that question is that you’ve got to be happy outside the entertainment industry. And whatever happens happens.
Meester: I feel like you guys covered it. You said it all.
Rob, are you always thinking in deep wisdom and mad rhymes?
Vanilla Ice: It depends on the day. Yeah.
Sandler: He’s a positive man, Rob, always looking at the bright side.
Vanilla Ice: That’s it, man. That’s one thing I’ve learned. I live off these little phrases. We are who we are because of who we were, which I had to accept, and there’s a little truth to that. It’s not all jokes, but these little phrases, they’re more valuable than thousands of dollars worth of therapy to me. They make sense.
Be yourself and enjoy yourself. Show me a smile and I’ll show you one back. They’re contagious. Karma: Believe in it. It’s real. It comes back to you.
Show me who your friends are and I’ll show you who you are. This type of sh*t. So it works for me. Stay positive and good things happen. Look where I’m at.
Sandler: It does work for him, too. He’s a solid man.
Vanilla Ice: I was in the trenches, trying to get to the other side. Sh*t creek. I found a paddle. He helped me with the other paddle and here we are. [He laughs.]
Ciara: I think it’s about you putting in the universe what you want to be. And seeing is believing. You’ve got to live in happiness. I think you’ve got to make an effort to do it, and everything else follows suit. That’s the way I see it.
Do you have any self-taught lessons in life?
Ciara: I really just walk in it. I kind of have this understanding since I was young, in reference to living in happiness. It’s really worked for me, and it’s kind of helped me get through whatever it may be, and that’s just how I’ve done it.
Self-taught? I think it’s more just reminding yourself that when things don’t go right, everything will be OK. And if you think that, then everything will be. But really, the tongue is very powerful, so what you say really is, and I really believe that. So I just try to say good things, and then things like this happen.
Andy, is there something that you’re looking forward to doing away from “SNL,” like a big vacation, or you just about working right now?
Samberg: It’s too soon. I don’t even know. I’m still processing that I said I was leaving the show.
Forte: You’re not excited about the cruise we’re going on?
Samberg: [He says jokingly] I wasn’t going to talk about the cruise we were going on, Will, but now that you’ve brought it up, I’m going on a cruise with Will Forte. It’s not a couple’s cruise. It is a couple’s cruise, but we’re going as friends that are a couple.
[He says seriously] I don’t know. I hope to have a beer on the beach. That image sticks out. That’ll be nice. I’ll drink responsibly.
For more info: “That’s My Boy” website