Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler on Finding Big Laughs in Deadly Conspiracies for ‘Murder Mystery’
“Murder Mystery” is that rare film perfectly true to its title. It’s a goofy, rowdy comedy that uses the murder mystery premise of countless pulp stories, games and thrillers to showcase Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler. Forget the recycled rom-com gimmicks and oddball supporting roles, what gives this Netflix romp some joy is watching two comedy stars have fun indulging in all the above mentioned shenanigans.
Sandler is Nick Spitz, a New York City cop married to Audrey (Aniston). He’s the kind of stingy husband who gets gift cards as presents for important dates on the calendar. Sensing Audrey is not happy with his lack of effort, and terrified of telling the truth about his supposed job promotion, Nick pays for a trip to Europe. On the flight they meet a rich guy named Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans), who invites them aboard his yacht, the Mediterranean Queen. His purpose is to annoy his overbearing uncle Malcom Quince (Terence Stamp), who stole his former fiance Suzi (Shioli Kutsuna). Once on the yacht the Spitzes meet quite the gallery of guests, including Malcolm’s godson, a race car driver named Juan Carlos Rivera (Luis Gerardo Méndez), Malcolm’s pampered son Tobias (David Walliams), a former lover and aspiring actress named Grace Ballard (Gemma Arterton), Maharajah Vikram Govindan (Adeel Akhtar), whose family is locked financially to Malcolm and Colonel Ulenga (John Kani) of the Namibian Defense Force and his bodyguard, Sergei (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson). Why mention all these names? Because they will become prime suspects after Malcolm drops dead, a dagger originally belonging to Marco Polo stabbed into his chest by a mysterious killer. When the blame is put on Nick and Audrey, they go on the run and on the prowl for the real assassin.
Directed by Kyle Newacheck from a screenplay by James Vanderbilt, “Murder Mystery” is ludicrous, but not without charm because of Sandler and Aniston. They have an almost loveable chemistry between them, combining Sandler’s slapstick with Aniston’s more straight-faced humor. As they run through Italian streets, find dead bodies gurgling poison and hurtle towards an ending worthy of daytime soaps, what shines is how they make this couple work. The murder mystery theme is combined with romcom energy, complete with an upfront nod to Agatha Christie in the final shot.
Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler recently shared with Entertainment Voice on the fun and laughs of making “Murder Mystery,” which is the first movie the two have done together since 2011’s “Just Go With It.”
“Actually, it was just like no time had actually passed, because we’ve seen each other over the years. And it’s something that just comes sort of extremely naturally to us. I think just because we’ve known each other for so long. And it’s kind of what we do. So it just felt very natural. But he is a lot older now,” said Aniston with comic affection about reuniting with Sandler.
“I did age. I did age. I saw ‘Just Go With It’ the other night. I was going to sleep and I said let me watch one of my movies tonight,” added Sandler. “It holds up great. My part holds up strong. Have you seen it in a while? [to Aniston] Incredible. You look incredible in that movie… and I think I’ve become softer.”
On their work process in this film Aniston shared that, “Every night, we would go back and sort of tweak the scenes.”
“Jennifer worked harder than me for sure,” opined Sandler. Aniston, however wanted to make clear that this was a real team effort between the two screen comedy veterans.
For Aniston a key ingredient in good comedy is that the material have heart to it, even as it seeks to entertain it should always offer a little more. “For me, it’s really important that it’s grounded, comedy. There’s great like balls out comedy and then there’s comedy when it’s broad thing to find some level of truth in it in order to find the organic laugh as opposed to the ‘bedump bump’ laugh. So I think that kind of work as we went along really was fun and it made it better as we went.”
Sandler loved the camaraderie all around on set. “We did get comfortable with each other. Like day two or three, we all became pretty tight. And everybody felt comfortable with the script. Everybody felt comfortable with coming up with stuff on the day.” An established star with a lot of movies behind him, and before that his legendary days on the Saturday Night Life cast, Sandler is keen to point out that this movie in particular has a uniquely strong cast. “There was nobody in the movie that doesn’t score. Nobody in the movie that isn’t fresh and funny. This is something that doesn’t happen a lot where everybody gets a nice moment, loads of moments.”
“It was like summer. It really was like summer camp,” said Aniston, reminiscing how even co-star Dany Boon, who plays the required lawman investigating the murder of Malcolm, Inspector Laurent Delacroix, brought his family to visit the set.
The Spitzers are believable because they feel like the perfect couple where the two are just different enough to be perfect for each other. On his actual connection on set with Aniston, Sandler said, “I think she’s incredibly funny. When we work together I feel so relaxed. I’m like, if I don’t know what’s happening right now, I know Jennifer will. I feel very safe. And she’s funny as hell. And I really have a great time every scene.”
“It’s like a weird language that we sort of speak. I have no idea what it is. But it’s the most abstract, weird jokes. It never goes over his head,” said Aniston on their comedic bond. “Everyone else, it’s over their head. But as long as I can make Adam laugh, I know that I’ve done good.”
Sandler admits that even now he remains star-struck by being in the presence of such a personality. “I still get butterflies around Jennifer. Yeah. She knows it. She knows it. I’ve met a lot of people over the years.” Although Sandler also shared how meeting Jack Nicholson and being offered a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at his house was also a moment where he found himself nearly at a loss for words. “I was like this isn’t Jack Nicholson. There’s no way. And I was talking about ‘I think maybe if you have Jif, I would have Jif.’ He was like ‘get the guy some Jif.’ And I was like, he’s really making me a peanut butter sandwich?”
Well-known for her comedy, particularly in films like “Along Came Polly” and her time as Rachel in the universally beloved sitcom “Friends,” Aniston has also been in several dramas like “Cake” and “Marley and Me.” On balancing both tones, Aniston said that, “They both come with the difficulty. There are challenges. I wouldn’t say one is easier than the other. I’ve been doing comedy. I always like to breathe some kind of reality into my comedy. So I feel like it’s just a different form of behavior and existing. One makes you laugh and one just doesn’t.”
Sandler added to that, “And Jennifer has the discipline to make sure that it all comes from a true place with both comedy and drama. And it has to be real and make sense to her and to the audience, right?” But Aniston made sure to mention that Sandler himself has also been impressive when dabbling in drama.
Scripts tend to go through many rewrites. For “Murder Mystery” Sandler and Aniston admit that the story kept changing, adding to the vibe of an unsolved case. Sandler remembers, “Yeah. Every rewrite, we were like, oh he did it this time?”
“It was really tricky actually because there’s so many characters and there’s so many twists that you have to really kind of comb through it with a fine tooth comb making sure there are no holes in the canoe. Which was kind of a fun challenge,” said Aniston. “I still don’t know who did it.”
For the two it was also refreshing to play heroes who are a couple not necessarily old, but not the usual 20-year-old action stars either. “That was the best thing. Just being a couple, having the ups and downs,” said Sandler.
To which Aniston added, “Being in a rut. And a lot of couples just fall into ruts. You kind of freshen that up.”
“Murder Mystery” begins streaming June 14 on Netflix.