By EW Staff
Updated August 19, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT
Punch-Drunk Love: Peter Sorel

No, we?re not punchy — or drunk — Adam Sandler is the male lead in Anderson?s latest film. Inspired by the true story of a California man who bought thousands of pudding containers to earn frequent-flyer miles, the director?s ”Magnolia” follow-up concerns a pudding-obsessed salesman prone to fits of rage (sounds like Sandler now, doesn?t it?). Then he finds true love when he meets a businesswoman (Watson) perfectly suited for his peculiarities.

Anderson wrote the roles specifically for Sandler and Watson, but filming proved a far more free-form venture. ”He was very much experimenting,” says Watson. ”He said he wanted to do [the movie] like a musician lays down a track — he would do one line and then he?d go and he?d listen and come back and do another.” The results of this painstaking process? First, scenes like the opener, which takes place at the crack of dawn, took days to shoot. Second, Anderson ran out of time. Up against a potential actors? strike, he lost his stars for months when Sandler had to shoot ”Mr. Deeds” and Watson departed for ”Gosford Park.” ”It was actually great for Paul,” says Watson. ”Because when we came back, his sense of experimenting was gone. He was on fire, knowing exactly what he wanted to do.” It seemed to work: Anderson shared Best Direction honors at Cannes and glowing critical notices, which has had some people saying that…

THE LOWDOWN …Sandler has an outside shot at an Oscar nomination. It couldn?t happen — could it?

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