Adam Sandler Was Gonna Quit 'Airheads' If They Didn't Cast Brendan Fraser

Sandler issued an ultimatum to get the 'Encino Man' star cast in a box office bomb
Adam Sandler Was Gonna Quit 'Airheads' If They Didn't Cast Brendan Fraser

Imagine telling someone from 1994 that, in 28 years, both Adam Sandler and Brendan Fraser would be Oscar frontrunners and the only thing they’d want to talk about with each other is the movie Airheads. It would sound like the setup for a bad joke, but, in the most recent installment of Variety’s “Actors on Actors” series, the two once-and-future stars shared precious memories from the making of a movie about loser rockers holding a radio station hostage.

Before Fraser was George of the Jungle and prior to Sandler’s blockbuster breakthrough Billy Madison, the two prolific icons made Airheads, a box office flop that attempted to piggyback on the success of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Now, as the date for the coveted Oscar nominations draws close, Sandler has one thing he wants to say to his potential competitor in the Best Actor category – “Remember when I discovered you?”

Sandler told the studio that if they didn’t cast Fraser opposite him in Airheads, then Sandler was going to walk from the project. Sadly for both of them, the studio acquiesced.

Airheads was the story of a mediocre rock band called “The Lone Rangers” who stuck up a radio station with water guns full of hot sauce in an attempt to force their music onto the airwaves. Fraser played the frontman, Sandler played the drums, and Steve Buscemi rounded out the trio on the bass. 

The film was a critical and commercial failure, but, three decades later, Sandler wants some credit for getting the band together. Fraser was coming off of a performance in the Pauly Shore vehicle Encino Man in which he played a caveman frozen in time who thaws out in 1992 Los Angeles, and The Sandman knew he had the right stuff to play a terrible rocker. Sandler said to Fraser, “You were just a kid. I stole you from Pauly and said, ‘Get over here’ … I was like, this guy shouldn’t just be a caveman – he should be in a band.”

Back in 1994, Sandler didn’t have quite the clout he has today which ensures his friends will always have a role in his films, and the decision makers were unsold on Fraser. Said Sandler, “The director, Michael Lehmann, was very against you. He was like, ‘I don’t get it. I don’t see the caveman being in the movie.’ And I just said, ‘He can do other s—, man.’”

But Sandler wouldn’t back down – Sandler told Fraser of the ultimatum he issued to Lehmann, explaining, “I eventually went to his house at like 4 in the morning, woke him up, and I said, ‘Just know Adam Sandler ain’t going to be in ‘Airheads’ unless old Fraser is in it.’ So he changed his little tune.”

Sandler secured Fraser’s place in the film, and, despite the project’s poor showing at the box office, Fraser is grateful for the grift as he fondly remembers his time as an amateur rocker. Fraser actually sang on the demo tape that The Lone Rangers tried to force into broadcast, and he’s kept a souvenir from his short-lived music career. Said Fraser, “I have the cassette at home, an actual cassette of the demo that we did. I found it in a box of crap at my desk.”

With the serious possibility looming that Sandler and Fraser will be at odds in an Oscar race for their respective roles in Hustle and The Whale, it’s great to see the former castmates reminisce over old times. However, if Fraser wins, Sandler might just exact revenge on his former bandmate by getting him cast in Airheads 2.

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