A comedy great and a hip-hop great come together for a great movie
The Cobbler hits theaters this Friday, March 13. In the film, Max Simkin (Adam Sandler) repairs shoes in the same New York shop that has been in his family for generations. Disenchanted with the grind of daily life, Max stumbles upon a magical heirloom that allows him to step into the lives of his customers and see the world in a new way. Sometimes walking in another man’s shoes is the only way one can discover who they really are. Adam Sandler, Steve Buscemi, Ellen Barkin, Method Man and writer/director Thomas McCarthy all participated in a press conference about the film. Read highlights below:
How was it like to really take stepping into another person’s life and explore it in this film?
Adam: It was very easy because once I put the shoes on another actor came in and did it.
Method Man: I’ve wanted to walk in other people’s shoes before, that’s for sure, especially Adam when he was making all those great shorts … Tom basically walked me through it. I came to the assessment that I wasn’t trying to be Adam’s character, I was trying to be myself in Adam’s character’s body, bottom line.
One of the great things about a film being shot in New York is all the different locations. Are there locations that you were glad were in or places that you wanted to film in? Can you talk about the locations?
Adam: Lower east side was great to be in again. A lot of my family is from the lower east side. Just good food and nice people just brought back a lot of memories for me and driving in New York with my parents and them always talking about ‘grandma lived there’ and that kind of thing.
Method Man: Going to Long Island and the mini mansion. I’m a Long Island kid, I’m from Long Island. It was pretty cool.
This movie is going to be released in theaters and on VOD, how have your views on filmmaking changed because of the evolution of VOD and how audiences will view it.
Adam: I am just excited for people to see this movie. And I did see the movie in Toronto at a film festival on a big screen and there were a lot of people in the room and it was neat because it played a lot like a comedy. There were a lot of laughs. It’s always fun when you’re in a theater and you’re hearing group laughs and people just on the same wavelength and having a great time. And this movie is coming out in some theaters. But the fact that you can see it at home and get it is great. You work hard, you make the best movie you can make, and you’re making it for as many people to see it as possible. I think it’s nice. I never want movie theaters to go away. It’s just the greatest time out. Location, great hang, great date, great place to be with friends. But as an actor who works hard at making movies, I’m glad that people can watch it easier. It’s nice to see that there is a life for your movie.
There is a lot of physical comedy in the film, how would you rank how you suffered for your art physically when compared to your other movies?
Method Man: I dislocated both of my thumbs trying to grab Adam’s foot. Both of them, but luckily I had three days off so when I came back I felt pretty good. It was pretty cool. I would do it all over again.
Do you think shoes say a bit about the person wearing them?
Method Man: In my culture, it’s more or less that it’s the first thing women look at … well the second thing they see; they see the guy first. They look at the face first. The build first and then they look at the shoes to see if you have money. So if you have nice shoes then you have money. If you don’t have nice shoes then ehhhh. But for me, it’s lawyers. If I have lawyer, the first thing I’m looking at is his shoes. If he has great shoes, then oh yeah this dude is getting money, we goin’ do this thing. If he has terrible shoes, public defendant.
Who among the cast made people laugh the most or goofed off the most or even played any pranks?
Adam: Cliff had a great energy. Ellen made me laugh. Every other day it was ‘f this and f that.’ I loved it. Buscemi was surprisingly not funny. He was an energy drainer.
Does anyone have any good Dan stories?
Method Man: I didn’t know that he was trying to rattle me when we were in the rehearsal area and he kept trying to grab my private area. So I told Tom and was like, ‘Yo we are in rehearsal can you tell him to tone it down a little bit?’ But by the time we came on set, Tom had already given him the 1, 2, 1, 2 and he knew not to grab my genitalia. He was pretty cool. It was his method. Or he just wanted to see the size I guess. And Dustin too. When I first met the guy he asked if he could tie my shoes for me because they were untied. He cares a lot.
What was it like walking in other people’s shoes?
Steve Buscemi: Well one of the first things I asked Tom was “How is this going to work? Do I do Dustin?” And he said, “No, do you, because it’s your voice and the person who steps into the shoes sort of inhabits that person. So I was pretty nervous thinking about it and then I had to stop thinking about it because I said, “I can’t do Dustin anyway. What am I going to do? *mimics Dustin Hoffman’s voice* I’m walking here!”
Tom: It was pretty fun to watch all of these guys play around with that though. In their own different ways they had to deal with it or think about it. There was at least one point where we all got confused in the movie about who was supposed to be who. I know Dustin was a few times. *mimics Dustin Hoffman voice* “Am I me or am I Adam?” Ellen never knew who she was talking to.
Ellen Barkin: I got confused with Fritz Weaver. “Wait, am I talking to Adam?”
Tom: Fritz was the only guy who understood it all.
You wrote Up, another movie about a man getting kicked out of his house. Is it a topic you’re interested in?
Tom: I guess so. I hadn’t really thought about it too much in that connection but it is weird because I do really appreciate character. I live in Tribeca right now which has lost lots of its character but there’s still patches of it but even that, they’re just ripping down these old buildings and putting up these glass towers and Ellen’s right – if you walk around the pockets of the Lower East Side, there’s still some stitches of it and it’s sad to see the city lose all of that. I understand development is inevitable but it’s sad to see the city lose all of its charm and texture that’s the very reason why we chose to live here in the first place. So yeah I guess maybe. It was fun to work it into the story and have a context for it that we can be a little light hearted with. But all of these shopkeepers, there’s something in the geek side that really appreciates and getting to explore it with these actors was really fun.
Do you have any bad landlord stories?
Steve: I actually once talked my landlord down from rent because I knew that he was overcharging me because I got in the mail my previous tenant’s rent price and it was still $100 less than what I was paying. But I made a deal with him because I had two roommates and he said that I wasn’t allowed to have any, so he let me have the two roommates and I got a $100 marked off the rent.
Tom: Well one movie that was sort of an inspiration for us writing, Paul and I, was Marty. That Max (Adam Sandler) had some kind of Marty in him- so that was a great movie and if you haven’t watched it, go watch it.
Did you ever have custom made shoes?
Steve: I did have a pair of boots custom made for when I did Boardwalk and same thing – they trace your foot a few times. These things hurt more than anything I’ve ever walked in. In my whole life – after one season I had to say, please retire these boots. I cannot wear them anymore. I don’t know what happened, I couldn’t wear them for you.
What do you think the basic element is for turning a comedy into a classic?
Tom: I don’t know. If people did know, there would be a lot of classics. I think it’s something with being original and just how it connects with the audience and Adam spends more time in the comedy world than I do and I think he has more answers on that. But I think whether it’s drama or a comedy or in this case, a combo of both, our job is to keep telling the stories and see where they land with audiences and see how they continue on- we talked about all of these ways these movies and shows have long lives now. It sort of stops there for me- I love making them, I love sharing with audiences but then I sort of let go of it. And whatever happens happens.
Was there a message you wanted to convey in terms of race?
Tom: Ultimately I don’t think there was a message I was trying to convey – I just wanted to show the New York City I know. We certainly took a light-hearted approach to a lot of the themes in this in terms of heritage and race and culture and all of that. I can’t say I had a specific message involved other than just trying to represent a little bit. I mean we all talked about and who was trying to represent each other – but it was more about character than anything else and the storyline that was driving it. I wish I had a story with it but I was trying to be true to the characters and the city. I mean you go down to the Lower East Side and everyone’s there – every race, sex, country is represented and it’s just the greatest thing.
Was there anyone who made the others laugh?
Tom: I think all of us up here, no one liked Danny Stevens. He’s a terrifically likable guy. No it was a really fun group of people. When you get to write a really wacky story like this and get to work with all the actors and send them a script and say, “Hey, let’s try and do this,” it’s a great privilege and you get to have a lot of fun and we all worked very hard at it because whatever the story, we cared a lot. And Adam has a way of quietly leading that. Well he’s been doing it for a long time and two, he enjoys it. And so he sets the bar that high and then you have Dustin walking in and he is eccentric but that’s only because that guy cares about everything. We just had a day of rehearsal and he’s on every beat and every moment – he digs into everything. And it’s really inspiring to see a person who’s working that long and at that level. It’s great.
Steve: I don’t usually get offered roles like him [Nucky from Boardwalk Empire] but I took it and I don’t think about it. But I said yes to this when Tom and Adam called me with the script and it’s been fun.
Tom: It’s sort of funny in that I was thinking of first Adam and Paul and I were just thinking about who’s good for the role and we’re not paying much attention to anything else. And Adam asked “Who you thinking about?” And I said “We’re thinking of Busc-,” not realizing that these guys have known each other forever and he said “Great I’ll call him.” And I said “I guess it’s happening now.” But it really paid off because on set these guys have a history together and you kind of forget how long they’ve been working at a high level and it’s cool to see their careers intersect and it’s interesting to watch.
Steve: But this is the first time that we’ve worked together in something that was, even though there’s a lot of humor in the film – we weren’t playing anything for laughs. We just kept saying that it was so cool that we were getting to do this. We’re getting to play these roles.
How did you put together this cast?
Tom: I mean I’ve known Ellen for a while from New York and I thought I’m very lucky to get her and I called her and I said I have a script and she said, “Who is this?” And I said, “It’s your old friend Tom.” And Cliff, I just reached out. We were on The Wire together but we’ve never worked together. We had a debate about who people dislike more from that show. But most people it was just reaching out. Some actors and actresses I didn’t know – I didn’t know Dan Stevens, but I knew his work so someone set up a meeting. It was pretty low key- just getting people who at the time are willing to jump in and give the screenplay a shot.
Steve: But I just want to pick up where Ellen left off that it’s the movies that Tom has made and I was so thrilled because I just wanted to work with Tom so it was the best way to do it in New York and with Adam and this cast.
-Vinesh Vora + Catherina Gioino