Released in the summer of 1998, The Wedding Singer is that rare beast: an Adam Sandler comedy which manages to be charming, sweet and perhaps most notably, consistently funny. Sure, the film shoehorns in more lazy 80s references than the entire first season of The Goldbergs. It also sees the current critics’ whipping boy wisely toning down the passive-aggressive manchild routine he’s become notorious for, strike up a sparkling rapport with Drew Barrymore which would prove to be surprisingly enduring, and utilize an eclectic cast which included an octogenarian rapper, a Boy George lookalike and one of the ‘80s finest bleached blonde punk rockers.
The story of a wedding singer named Robbie Hart (Sandler) who, after getting jilted at the altar, forges a blossoming friendship with a soon-to-be-married waitress named Julia Sullivan (Barrymore), Frank Coraci’s big-screen directorial debut also spawned two hit soundtracks and was later adapted into a Broadway musical. Nearly two decades after it first hit cinemas, here’s a look at 12 Facts You Didn’t Know About The Wedding Singer.
12. Princess Leia worked on the script
Best-known for her iconic Star Wars role as Princess Leia, multi-talented Carrie Fisher picked up a BAFTA nomination after adapting her semi-autobiographical novel, Postcards from the Edge, for the big screen back in 1990. But she also spent part of the same decade doctoring screenplays for several more populist films. First, there was nun-on-the-run musical Sister Act, then meta-Schwarzenegger flop Last Action Hero, and then, a certain comedy named The Wedding Singer.
Fisher wasn’t the only big star to work uncredited on the script. Shortly before he also revisited the ’80s on the cult hit Freaks and Geeks, Judd Apatow got the chance to showcase the talent that would turn him into one of the most bankable names in Hollywood comedy. And Sandler himself, who would later deliver the performance of his career in Apatow’s hugely underrated Funny People, also added plenty of his distinctive comic touch to the hilarious screenplay.
11. It’s part of the whole Sandler universe
Forget all the superhero universes created by the likes of Marvel and DC, and the increasingly elaborate Pixar theory; Adam Sandler was way ahead of the curve when it came to connecting a series of standalone movies. In tribute to his long-time college friend, the comedian first referenced a character called Eric Lamensoff in The Wedding Singer, a name which he then continued to use in Click, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, and the much-maligned Jack and Jill.
The name Lamensoff then gained even more prominence when it was given to Kevin James’ character in the Grown-Ups movies and Josh Gad’s arcade game champion in Pixels. Elsewhere in the Sandlerverse, Allen Covert plays 10 Second Tom, a character with short-term memory loss, in both 50 First Dates and Blended; Rob Schneider utters ‘You Can Do It’ in everything from The Waterboy and The Longest Yard, while fictional children’s book The Puppy Who Lost His Way is featured in both Billy Madison and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.
10. Several cast members guested on Friends
It’s probably easier to list which of the cast members didn’t at one point show up on the set of Friends than the ones who did. Christine Taylor, who plays Julia’s sexually-charged friend Holly, was of course, Ross’ girlfriend Bonnie, aka the one who shaved her head during the beach house episodes. While Christina Pickles, who plays Julia’s overbearing mother, showed up in all ten seasons of the sitcom phenomenon as the overbearing mother of Ross and Monica.
Jon Lovitz, who steals several scenes as creepy rival wedding singer Jimmie Moore, guested in both the early and later years: first as the pot-smoking restaurant owner who turns up at Monica’s apartment high as a kite in season one, and secondly as the schlub who Rachel has to endure a blind date with in season nine. Angela Featherstone, who plays the girl who jilts Robbie at the altar, also had a pivotal role in Friends’ season three – she was the girl that Ross cheated on Rachel with while famously ‘on a break.’
9. It’s the highest-rated Sandler comedy on Rotten Tomatoes
There’s nothing that film critics appear to enjoy more than giving Adam Sandler a good kicking. 13 of the movies he’s had a hand in have a rating of lower than 10% on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with both Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star and The Ridiculous Six receiving the dreaded zero.
However, there have been a few occasions when Sandler has managed to escape the wrath of the industry’s most brutal reviewers. Ignoring brief cameos in Top Five and I Am Chris Farley, the two films in which he most impressively left his usual persona behind, Punch Drunk Love and Funny People, unsurprisingly lead the way. But in terms of the broad comedies he’s renowned for, The Wedding Singer is the highest-rated picture as of 2016, with its score of 67% beating the likes of Happy Gilmore (60%), Billy Madison (46%) and 50 First Dates (44%).
8. The rapping granny was the only other star to appear on the official soundtrack
Alongside Sandler’s performances of the likes of Dead or Alive’s ‘You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)’ and Ricky Nelson’s ‘That’s All,’ the film sees a whole host of other actors showcase their vocal abilities. Jon Lovitz performs the most creepy version of ‘Ladies Night’ you’ll ever hear, Alexis Arquette gives Culture Club’s frontman a run for his money with a rendition of ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,’ and Steve Buscemi closes the movie with a unique take on Spandau Ballet’s ‘True.’
Even Drew Barrymore gets in on the action with a quick burst of David Bowie’s ‘China Girl’ during the club scene. However, the only cast member besides Sandler to actually make it on to the official soundtrack was Ellen Dow, who plays the delightful rapping granny who rewards Sandler’s teaching efforts with homemade meatballs. Indeed, alongside The Sugarhill Gang, the final track on the album features the then 85-year-old and her inspired rendition of their groundbreaking hip-hop anthem, ‘Rapper’s Delight.’
7. The soundtrack album reached No.1 in Australia
The majority of cast recordings you hear in the film may not have appeared on the actual official soundtrack, but that didn’t stop it from becoming a chart success. The first 14-track collection, which includes Sandler performing original composition ‘Somebody Kill Me,’ a snippet of dialogue called ‘Have You Written Anything Lately’ and the Presidents of the United States of America covering The Buggles’ ‘Video Killed the Radio Star,’ alongside hits from The Police, The Smiths and Billy Idol, not only reached No.5 on the Billboard 200, it also went all the way to the top in Australia.
Featuring Robbie’s serenade to Julia, ‘Grow Old With You,’ as well as classic 80s hits from Kajagoogoo, Depeche Mode, The B52’s, A Flock of Seagulls and Hall and Oates, The Wedding Singer Vol 2. didn’t fare quite as well, but still managed to reach No.22 in the US later that same year.
6. An uncredited Brian Posehn made his film debut
All actors have to start somewhere. Brian Posehn had already enjoyed blink and you’ll miss it roles on the sitcoms Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond and Empty Nest, and was a regular face on sketch show Mr. Show with Bob and David. But the comedian hadn’t appeared on the big screen until he played the less-than-pivotal role of ‘Man at Table 9’ during the scene in which Robbie belts out J. Geils Band’s ‘Love Stinks’ with ever-growing self-pity.
Of course, Posehn would later go on to enjoy far more screentime in the likes of Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic, The Devil’s Rejects and The Five-Year Engagement. But it’s on the small screen where his career has truly flourished thanks to recurring roles in Mission Hill, Just Shoot Me!, Reno 911, The Sarah Silverman Program, Guys with Kids and New Girl, and voiceover gigs on Out of Jimmy’s Head, Sym-Bionic Titan and Steven Universe.
5. Adam Sandler was once a real life wedding singer
Well not professionally, but Sandler did have at least some experience of what it’s like to perform in front of a pair of newlyweds before taking on the role of Robert ‘Robbie’ Hart. The comedian was forced by his mother to sing Ringo Starr’s ‘You’re 16’ and Paul McCartney’s ‘Yesterday’ – the only two songs he knew all the words to – at his sister’s wedding aged just eleven.
Sandler’s seemingly pushy mum also guilt tripped him into performing ‘The Hanukkah Song’ – the novelty tune he debuted as a member of Saturday Night Live based on the alienation that Jewish children feel during Christmas – at his nephew’s bar mitzvah. In a 1998 interview, Sandler admitted: “I didn’t want to. My poor nephew – it was his day. My mother’s like, ‘You’re here. Everyone would be so happy to hear you sing.’ She was practically shouting, ‘Please, you sing for everyone else. Why can’t you sing for the family. So I sang ‘The Hanukkah Song’ and everyone stared at me.”
4. It was the first Sandler film to gross $100 million
As of 2016, 20 films which Sandler has worked on have cracked the $100m barrier at the worldwide box-office, with the Hotel Transylvania movies ($379m and $471m respectively), Grown Ups (an astonishing $247m) and Pixels ($244m) his biggest hits. But before The Wedding Singer came along, Sandler hadn’t got anywhere near that magical figure, with Airheads ($21m), Billy Madison ($25m) and Happy Gilmore ($41m) all earning respectable if unremarkable tallies, most of which came solely from North America.
However, The Wedding Singer changed all that, achieving an impressive first-week gross of $18m to land just behind Titanic in the box-office Top 10 on its way to an $80m figure in the US, and perhaps most notably, a $43m tally across the rest of the globe. Sandler’s commercial success was then cemented by the even bigger grosses of The Waterboy ($190m) and Big Daddy ($228m), and of all his Happy Madison comedies, only two (Little Nicky and That’s My Boy) have failed to pass the $100m barrier since.
3. It was the first of three Sandler/Barrymore collaborations
Adam Sandler has starred alongside some of Hollywood’s most glamorous and acclaimed leading ladies including Marisa Tomei, Jennifer Aniston, Penelope Cruz, Kate Beckinsale, Jennifer Garner, Patricia Arquette, Winona Ryder, Emily Watson, Jessica Biel and Salma Hayek. But the most convincing and the most successful partnership he’s struck up on screen is undoubtedly with Drew Barrymore.
As friends-turned-lovers Robbie and Julia, The Wedding Singer was the first time that the pair showcased their sparkling chemistry, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last. In 2004, Sandler played a philanderous veterinarian who stops his womanizing ways after falling in love with Barrymore’s amnesiac in romantic comedy 50 First Dates, winning an MTV Movie Award for Best On-Screen Team in the process. While in 2014, the pair reunited with The Wedding Singer director Frank Coraci to star in Blended, a sadly much lazier affair which basically served as an excuse for the pair to take a vacation at a luxurious African safari resort.
2. Billy Idol’s son inspired him to be in the film
Famous for his spiky blonde hairstyle, snarling lip-curl and leather jacket, post-punk rocker Billy Idol was one of the definitive early stars of MTV, reaching the US Top 10 in the ’80s with the likes of ‘Eyes Without a Face,’ ‘To Be a Lover’ and ‘Mony Mony.’ So an invitation to appear in one of the films most heavily indebted to the decade that taste forgot was obviously a no-brainer.
However, Idol admits that he only took the small but pivotal role of well, Billy Idol, in the airbound proposal scene because of his young son. Apparently, Adam Sandler was Willem Idol’s very own idol at the time and so his father reasoned that if he was going to end up watching The Wedding Singer he might as well be in it too. His brief cameo also had a positive impact on his more familiar singing career: “I gained a number of diehard teenage fans through doing it, who are adults now and are still turning up to my gigs.”
1. Its Broadway adaptation picked up five Tony nominations
Eight years after its release, The Wedding Singer was adapted into a Broadway musical, making its debut at the Al Herschfeld Theatre in April 2006. Co-penned by the film’s writer, Tim Herlihy, the storyline largely stuck to the original, but with the exception of Sandler’s songs ‘Somebody Kill Me’ and ‘Grow Old With You,’ the music was was written entirely from scratch by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin.
Theatregoers may have been deprived of another rendition of ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,’ but that didn’t seem to affect ticket sales, and the show ran for 284 performances before moving onto a national tour, while it was also adapted in the UK, Canada, Germany, Austria and Mexico. Still, it was the original production that proved to be the most successful, picking up five Tony Award nominations including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Choreography and Best Actor for Stephen Lynch.