Adam Sandler takes on a new role in ''Punch-Drunk.'' Will a slew of new mature movies make a changed man out of Mr. Deeds?
Adam Sandler, Punch-Drunk Love
Credit: Punch Drunk Love: Bruce Bermelin

Adam Sandler was a bit nervous when he first met his ”Punch-Drunk Love” costar Emily Watson. After all, she was a two-time Oscar nominee, and he was, well, Mr. Deeds. ”I could feel him going ‘Aaaah, it’s Watson, it’s the European actress,”’ she recalls. ”I could kind of feel him give me a bit of respect.”

Hollywood may be returning the favor. The go-to goofball’s dramatic debut, Paul Thomas Anderson’s ”Punch-Drunk Love,” took in a mighty $367,000 in its first weekend in just five theaters, with Sandler’s performance as a gawky plunger salesman garnering the best reviews of his career. ”It wasn’t a role that you would normally see Adam Sandler in,” notes Revolution Studios partner Tom Sherak. ”We’ve gone out of our way to say, ‘This is a Paul Thomas Anderson movie that stars Emily Watson and Adam Sandler.’ We’re not selling it as an Adam Sandler vehicle.” Neither is Sandler. While the notoriously press-shy star appeared at the Cannes, Toronto, and New York film festivals, did a brief college tour with Anderson, and visited PBS’ Charlie Rose, his rep says the actor will do no more talk shows or print interviews for ”Love” to tout his new, more serious turn.

No doubt about it, the comic is tweaking his doofus persona to reach more than just frat boys, with such fare as next month’s animated musical ”Adam Sandler’s 8 Crazy Nights” and next summer’s comedy ”Anger Management” featuring three-time Oscar winner Jack Nicholson. All of which belies what Sandler told a post-screening crowd Oct. 5 at the New York Film Festival: ”It’s not like I sit at home thinking about how to challenge myself next.” Adds Sherak, ”As roles come along that are…more mature, that he likes, you’re going to see him do those.” If only Sandler could convince pal Rob Schneider to do the same.

(Additional reporting by Gillian Flynn)

Punch-Drunk Love
  • Movie
  • 97 minutes