Adam Sandler Illustration by Eric Palma
Joel Stein
May 02, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Why we’re okay with Adam Sandler not talking to us

I don’t blame Adam Sandler for not talking to me. And it’s not just because I’d spend the whole time begging to be name-dropped in the 23rd version of that Hanukkah song. Print publicity hurts his career. Sandler stopped talking to newspapers and magazines in earnest back in 1996, after he did lots of interviews for his first big movie, ”Billy Madison,” and met a lot of reporters who were really nice to him. The profiles they wrote called him a moron. This made Sandler mad. Not funny mad, but mad mad. You can tell the difference because when he’s mad mad, he mumbles ”hibbidy hoppidy hibbidy” in a much more threatening way.

The problem is that Sandler, despite his popularity, doesn’t appeal to the East Coast, Ivy-league-educated liberal media elite, of which I am by no means a member. (I went to Stanford.) Sandler, who laughs at his own jokes, slips into baby talk, and blurts the obvious, was too lowbrow for baby-boomer magazine writers who longed for the refined wit of Senor Wences. So they torched him.

The genius of his embargo is that the public hasn’t noticed. Sandler does all the talk shows, and even the listen show, ”Charlie Rose.” His website offers more personal information — including a direct e-mail to his dog and letters from his dad — than even his dog and dad want. Throughout the boycott, his movies that don’t involve Emily Watson or Satan have made bank, including his current opus, ”Anger Management.” Why should Sandler allow himself to be picked apart by a print journalist? Especially when a decent chunk of his fan base can’t read anyway.

For celebs who appeal to the middle-aged yuppies who run magazines — Norah Jones, Julianne Moore, any ”Friend” will do — profiles are great. But there’s no reason Carson Daly, Christina Aguilera, Steve-O, and Fred Durst should submit to the lack of control that comes with print interviews, the last because I desperately don’t want to read a Fred Durst article.

Talk shows, which are usually live-to-tape, are hard to mess with, but print profiles are all about the messing. I spent two days with Leonardo DiCaprio for a TIME cover story, and for most of it Leo talked about the environment. I wanted to shoot myself. When he went to the bathroom, I noticed that he had a Ralphs Club card peeking out of the wallet he had left open on the table. I’m sticking to that story. Anyway, shocked that a $20-million-a-picture star looks for supermarket bargains, I persuaded him to go to the store with me. I then printed his receipt alongside a story about how he is indecisive, using a tense moment with brownie mixes as my evidence. I totally screwed him.

But I couldn’t have handed in a six-page story about how much Leo worries about how methane causes global warming. On TV, audiences will watch boring diatribes because they know they’re getting an unfiltered, if heavily rehearsed, glimpse into the minds of people they obsess over. Reading, which inherently sucks, requires a harder sell. A sell that — if you are unappealing to the media elite or are their darling but nevertheless happen to be dating Gisele Bundchen while your interviewer isn’t — can make one look bad.

I’ve torn apart scores of actors, yet they keep coming back for abuse like Kevin Eubanks. That’s because actors are so vain that they need not only to be 60 feet tall on a screen but also to see their retouched images on magazine spreads. Sandler, however, is so comfortable in his narcissism that he doesn’t need to be validated by anyone but his accountant.

Sandler, who has the luxury of ”Saturday Night Live” fame as well as talent enough to write and produce his own films, only has to worry about making movies his fans will like. So even though it’s bad for me and this magazine, I think Sandler is doing the right thing. I just hope that if he finally does break his print vow of silence, he does it with me. That’s why I’ve spent all this space kissing up to the baby-talking moron.

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