‘Scriptless’ Jennifer Aniston, Adam Sandler as funny as their screen personas
We have spoken to so many celebrities since we began writing for the Inquirer in 1995. But our recent roundtable chat with Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler for “Murder Mystery 2,” the sequel to the hilarious 2019 hit whodunit that premieres on Netflix this Friday, is certainly one for the books.
Easily one of the most fun interviews we’ve had the pleasure of conducting, the quick Q&A also vivified how a potent combo of winsome personality and self-deprecating comedic chops has immensely contributed to Jennifer’s enduring appeal—a top-notch “appraisal” we share with the two other journalists present during the video chat.
In fact, one of them—a dear friend—intimated to us after the interview that she used to belong to Team Angelina, but that she wasn’t sure anymore after she was won over by Jen’s spontaneous and scriptless “charm offensive.”
On the other hand, the other writer’s rave was even more “superlative,” describing the interview as “the best eight minutes of my life!”—and we won’t be contesting that any time soon.
“Murder Mystery 2” takes place four years after Nick and Audrey Spitz (Adam and Jennifer) solved their first murder mystery on the yacht of a billionaire. But the former New York City cop and his hairdresser wife, who are now full-time detectives, are struggling to get their cash-strapped private eye agency off the ground.
When they get an invitation to attend the lavish wedding of their friend, the Maharajah Vikram Govindan (Adeel Akhtar), on his private island in France, Nick and Audrey are suddenly thrust into a high-stakes kidnapping and murder case that gives them the rare opportunity to prove their worth as rookie private sleuths.
Unfortunately, the arrival of former MI6 hostage negotiator Connor Miller (Mark Strong) only makes them look inept. With 400 people to investigate on the island, figuring out who the culprit is in this zany whodunit is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
The crime caper has a lot of fine elements working in its favor—from its glossy European setting to a stellar cast that also includes Melanie Laurent, Tony Goldwyn and Jodie Turner-Smith. But make no mistake about it, Adam and Jen are the glue that makes the film cohesive and keeps the laughter coming.
Comedically gifted duo
While Adam has been comedically gifted since Day One, we’ve always wondered when the gorgeous and perpetually youthful Jennifer had realized her knack for comedy.
“Hmm, I’m also interested to know the answer,” Adam quipped as he stepped away from his chair and began circling around Jennifer.
Welcoming the chance at nostalgia, the actress beamed at us and said, “I used to write skits for recess in third grade … ” Adam then asked her, “You wrote skits … ?” She replied, nodding, “Uh-huh.”
Looking amused, Adam pressed on, “So, you wrote it on paper, distributed the characters around and performed skits at recess?”
Jen replied, laughing “Uh-huh. And nobody would pay attention to what was happening in class. Then, we’d go do them at recess … then I would usually fail the class!”
Adam, now snickering, countered, “But at least you had a good recess.”
But just as we thought they were ready to move on to the next question, Jen resumed talking: “And I also remember when I was doing a play—like, it was Chekhov—and people were laughing. And they shouldn’t have been!”
As Adam guffawed at Jen’s recollection, the actress continued, “So, the drama teacher said, ‘Jennifer, I think you should try comedy—and I was offended! Because, like (says with conviction) … ‘I’m a dramatic actress. How dare you!’ My Russian acting coach said I was a disgrace to Moscow theater (laughs)!”
To which, Adam responded, “Really? Well, maybe you’ll wake up one day and find out that that man had one percent Spanish blood.”
Nodding, Jen said, “Oh, that’s possible. But I don’t think he’s with us anymore.”
To be honest, we couldn’t stop laughing over this hilarious banter—and it was just the first question from our Q&A! We told the duo that it felt like we were watching an extra scene being workshopped for “Murder Mystery 2.”
When asked what they think makes their tandem click, on-screen and off, Adam turned to his costar and asked, “Why do we click, Jen? I just know I have a good time with you. When I come to your house, you always look out for me.”
Jen answered, “I don’t know what it is, really. I always look out for you, and you look out for me—yeah, we look out for each other. I mean, years and years of friendship help. But you can’t really talk about what it is because you can’t put a finger on it. “I just respect the sh*t out of Adam, who makes me laugh so hard. He’s just one of the funniest human beings around.”
Interjecting, Adam looked at Jen and said, “So are you! And you are one of the hardest working people I know. So, we have that in common.”
While they have both become fixtures in the world of comedy for decades now, Jennifer and Adam said that there’s something about humor that can transcend the passage of time.
“Of course you want everyone to laugh,” Adam pointed out. “Certainly, you want anyone who’s going to see your movie to have a good time. So we think about who’s going to see it … know who your audience will be. We want to generate laughter and, if possible, not hurt anybody while we’re at it.”
‘More rules now’
Jen agreed, “Yes, we do. But at the end of the day, what makes people laugh is pretty universal, isn’t it? Humor is timeless. It’s not like fashion.
“Lately, however, it’s been getting harder to do comedy because there are a little more rules now. That’s the hard part about it … you have to navigate what you can and cannot say anymore.”
Adam and Jen were even funnier when we asked them what they do when a scene that’s supposed to be funny isn’t as funny as intended.
“Which scene are you talking about … ?” Jen asked us. Adam seconded, “Yes, which scene isn’t funny (laughs)?”
“No particular scene,” we clarified. “But surely, there must have been moments like that—after all, you’ve been at the top of the comedic ladder for decades now.”
Jen disclosed, “I’ll tell you what happens when something isn’t working—Adam punishes himself for days! He looks in the mirror and yells at himself.”
Adam concurred, “Yes, when something isn’t going well, I lock myself in the room and start screaming, ‘What happened to you?!’ Then, Jen would knock [on] my door and say, ‘Adam, they need us now. Let’s go!’”
Jen did share her effective solution to that dilemma: “If it’s not that funny, we usually cut it. Either that or … ”“We rewrite it a little bit, jam on it and come up with something that works,” Adam said, finishing Jen’s explanation. “We don’t give up … we never give up.”
Jen added, “Never! Well, should we? And there’s usually the ‘alts’ (alternatives), as we call them, to choose from. We try it this way or that way. Whatever joke that lands best, wins.” Our conversation then shifted to the eye-catching sequence from the wedding ceremony in the movie that shows the cast clad in glorious Bollywood-inspired outfits.
“It was amazing,” Jennifer recalled, gushing. “That was really fun! We shot it for five days because it involved a lot of people doing so much choreography. It was a really tough week for us, but it looks so beautiful in the movie, don’t you think?”
Working in ParisWhile they had a lot of fun bringing that energy-driven scene to musical life, they said they had an even greater time working in Paris.
For Adam, the trip to the Monet Museum was a highlight. But he added, “I also loved visiting Aniston’s hotel (laughs).”
Turning serious, Jen said, “Honestly, just walking through the streets of Paris is one of the most beautiful things you could do. There isn’t a neighborhood that isn’t lovely. Adam really got addicted to walking because of it … ”
“Yeah, going for a walk in the morning, afternoon and nighttime is amazing,” Adam mused. “I love walking now. I never did like it before this!”
Looking at Adam restlessly stepping out of frame from the video chat, Jen turned to us and said, “See? Adam just can’t stand still anymore (laughs). And he’s not being picked up by the microphone because he’s moving so much. Actually, that’s probably because Adam has a beautiful new hip … ”
Adam answered, laughing, “Yes, my left hip is new and is now always ready to go. So, you just have to listen closely. Watch out for the clues of what I’m saying.”Jen asked us, “Can you hear him at all? He’s now speaking so loud[ly] it could mean anything … ”We answered, “Yes, they’re probably clues that could lead us to ‘Murder Mystery 3.’ And we’re so ready for it!” INQ
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