On the 'Go' in Wailea
May 5, 2010 - Rick Chatenever
When comics improvise together, they’ve got to get in the same groove. It’s somewhere between marching to the beat of the same drummer and totally surrendering to ESP. It’s about picking up the rhythm, it’s about shared confidence and trust.
“Just go with it,” they say.
“Just Go With It” is also the title of the new comedy Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman, assorted co-stars and more than 500 Maui extras are filming in Wailea right now.
And it might also sum up the relationship between screen comedy icon Sandler and his longtime favorite go-to director, Dennis Dugan.
This is at least the sixth time Dugan has directed Sandler in some of his best comedies, including “Happy Gilmore,” “Big Daddy,” “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” and “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.” Soon to be released is “Grown Ups.”
Taking a break from shooting in Wailea this week, Dugan spent a few minutes on the phone talking about the local production.
Things have been going well. The veteran movie and TV director and actor summed up his role on a Sandler shoot: “I shout, ‘Action!’ then sit back and have some fun.”
In the film Sandler plays a marriage-resistant Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who uses a fake wedding ring to keep his romantic partners at a safe distance. But, due to circumstances best explained by the script, his strategy backfires on him, forcing him to enlist his office assistant played by Aniston and her two kids as a pretend family, and winding up with them on a Maui vacation.
That’s where the film’s title comes from, Dugan explained, “since everything in the movie is about creating fictional lives for each other.”
It gives a whole new meaning to “Just Maui’d,” which could have been a good title, too.
The five-week shoot began in mid-April at the Grand Wailea where a lot of the action takes place. The project is pumping tens of millions of dollars into the island economy. Besides providing hundreds of jobs for crew and extras, the producers have been writing checks all over Wailea, from Gannon’s, A Pacific View Restaurant for almost a week of shooting, to bringing in musical artists Hapa, Ledward Ka‘apana and Jake Shimabukuro to appear in key scenes.
“Everybody has been very cooperative,” reports Dugan, from restaurateur Joe Gannon to Maui Film Commissioner Benita Brazier.
“Everybody everywhere we’ve gone has been bending over backwards.”
As opposed to jaded reactions in locales more familiar with location filming, things are still fresh on Maui.
“It’s been very, very nice, from (locally haired) crew members to the extras, a lot of whom who have never been in movie before. In Hawaii, everybody’s cooperative — it’s just a bigger landscape.”
The filming also has South Maui starstruck in a major way. Everyone, it seems, has had a close encounter of the celebrity kind, and with the exception of a few paparazzi, locals are abuzz with just how nice those Hollywood folks are.
While Sandler isn’t always a darling of movie critics, audiences have loved him in a spectrum of roles over more than a decade. His roles have ranged “from the goofiest goofballs to more serious things,” says Dugan.
Dealing with anger management issues in some of his earlier comedies, his more recent films have had stronger family components, perhaps as a reflection of Sandler’s own life.
“There are heartwarming things when he does comedy,” explains Dugan.
In addition to being one of the most recognizable and bankable comedy stars in the world, Sandler is a writer and producer. Dugan’s role as director just relieves him of one extra responsibility in the process.
“He writes, acts and produces,” Dugan says, describing own role more as collaborator, facilitator.
“We have similar sensibilities when it comes to humor — which means anything is funny. We like each other, we respect each other. We have really good shorthand.”
On a Sandler project, the star “works hard on the script with the writers.” Then, when filming begins, there are writers on the set, pitching more jokes during rehearsal and between takes.
Dugan’s job is “helping keep it all together, keeping everything in the same tone … and just laughing.”
While Sandler is obviously the sun shining at the center of this creative universe, it’s very much a collaborative effort.
“Adam and Jen Aniston have been pals for a long time,” says Dugan. “They’ve wanted to work together.”
Musician Dave Matthews is another buddy who’s been a fixture in many Sandler films. Oscar winner Nicole Kidman is the new kid on the block.
“You’ll be surprised at how funny she is.”
“We’ve been having a really good time making this film,” concludes the director. “There’s an overwhelming feeling being in Hawaii. We’re going to hate to leave.”
• Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I shout, ‘Action!’ then sit back and have some fun. (My job) is helping keep it all together, keeping everything in the same tone … and just laughing. — Dennis Dugan