[This story contains spoilers from Netflix’s Murder Mystery 2.]
Adam Sandler just expanded his coterie of comedic filmmakers with Murder mystery 2.
The new Netflix action comedy is a sequel to the streamer’s 2019 Kyle Newacheck-directed film, starring Jeremy Garelick. Sandler and Jennifer Aniston reprise their roles as Nick and Audrey Spitz, now working as private investigators, who become embroiled in a case that leads them to Paris after their friend, the Maharaja (Adeel Akhtar), is kidnapped at his own wedding. Mark Strong, Mélanie Laurent and Jodie Turner-Smith also star.
Garelick is known for directing movies like 2015’s The wedding ringan early lead for Kevin Hart, and 2020 teen comedy The bingeBut Murder mystery 2 definitely features its biggest action sequences to date, which makes sense when a movie is about someone being thrown off the Eiffel Tower. Also known for his script work over the years, Garelick had worked with Aniston on her 2006 comedy The break up, which he co-wrote but had previously only briefly become acquainted with Sandler, who is known for bringing back comedy directors from his past projects. But, as Garelick explains, it didn’t take long for the pair to bond.
During an interview with The Hollywood ReporterGarelick discusses why he landed on Aniston to help her prove a point, how he and Sandler approached the rare sequel for the actor, his surprise when he learned that Charlize Theron is being credited as an executive producer, his take on the comedy film landscape and why he has complicated feelings about working on the script The hangover.
I know you’ve done uncredited writing The hangover, and I remember reading the original draft and comparing it to the finished film, and they’re just so different. I’ve always been impressed with the additions and surprised you didn’t get credit. So I had to start with that.
That means so much to me. [Director] Todd [Phillips] didn’t get any writing credit for it either. We put so much of our lives into that. That was definitely both a high and a low point. So thank you – I appreciate you saying that.
Of Murder mystery 2was the director of the first film, Kyle Newacheck, ever possibly on board, or how did you get involved in directing?
To be honest, I started this production company called American High, where I bought a high school in upstate New York, and we’ve probably been doing low-budget high school comedies for five years. I think we did almost 17 movies. And this came out of nowhere. I got a call from my agent who said, ‘Hey, would you like to direct Murder mystery 2 with Adam and Jen?” And I was like, “Of course.” I went through some meetings with producers, and then Jen, and then Adam, and I got the job. I was so excited for the opportunity. In terms of Kyle, I don’t know what’s happening, and I never want to ask those things.
Adam Sandler is known for being loyal to directors and collaborating with some of the same filmmakers on a number of projects. Since this was your first movie together, how did it work to build that trust?
It was really the first time he called me after reading some pages I wrote, and he laughed. That’s when I felt the confidence for me where I was like, “OK, Adam Sandler is laughing at something I just wrote, so I feel good about it.” And once we started shooting, I actually got COVID two days early. The preparation for this was insane. We were preparing in Hawaii and Paris, and they’re 12 hours apart, and we had two crews. For the first three days, I had to FaceTime from my hotel room to a monitor. That was not good for confidence. But after I got healthy, we started having fun.
What kind of involvement did you and Sandler have in the writing process?
James [Vanderbilt] wrote a draft that got everyone to say, “Okay, let’s see what we can do.” And then I got that draft, and I did a few passages of the script, and once we got the green light, Adam and [frequent collaborator] Tim [Herlihy] many jokes added. We all kind of worked together, and it was a really fun process.
Sandler has proven resistant to sequels over the years, with one exception Adults 2. Was there a process to make it feel different from the first?
When Todd and I sat down to brainstorm Hangover 2, we started by just saying, “OK, what good comedy sequels have there been?” It’s a very short list – almost zero if you don’t count animation – and it’s hard to make a quality sequel. When I saw this opportunity and read the script, I really wanted to approach this as a new movie for me and say, “You can watch this movie whether you’ve seen the first one or not.” I try to keep the structure of a movie without too many references to the original movie, and only later, after we did several drafts, did we go back and add some references to the original movie. You can enjoy it anyway.
What is involved in shooting on location at the Eiffel Tower?
That was so much fun, so challenging. The big action sequence was in the original script. Then we just went through endless amounts of storyboards. I developed animations so that we can just watch the movie in cartoon form and make edits with music, sound and the actors’ voices. So I was able to really cut, re-edit, re-write, re-shoot before we started shooting on the Eiffel Tower. Once everyone agreed, we had to figure out how to get permits to shoot the Eiffel Tower, which is crazy. Perry Blake, our incredible production designer, built an almost exact replica of the top three floors of the Eiffel Tower on stage in Paris. And we had an incredible visual effects team and an incredible stunt team. I think we were the first movie ever to do a stunt on the Eiffel Tower, and the stuntman, Kelly Phelan, was the first woman ever to go down the Eiffel Tower.
What was it like directing these two big stars?
I’ve worked with Jennifer before on a movie called The break up. She’s just amazing – and Adam. They are so professional; they are so fast. Adam is such a perfectionist. He worked so hard. He’ll outsmart everyone and he’ll stay on set, even when he’s done shooting, to take notes. He’s a filmmaker and I just learned so much from him and from Jen. It was a film school with two of the best teachers of all time.
They have such great chemistry. How did rolling them together in duct tape work?
I’m always so protective of those two because of course if they get hurt we’re closed. They were having fun and constantly trying to push to do their own things. And Jen says, “Adam can just roll.” I’m like, “No, we’re using the stunt people.” And she was like, ‘No, I could hold him. Come on, lie down.” So she let me lie on her back. She was so strong. I’m probably 200 pounds, and I thought, “Okay, she can hold it.” (laughs.) She is small, but she is strong. So it was really fun to watch them roll over each other.
You’ve worked on comedies that have gone theatrical and others just for streaming, like this one and Hulu’s The binge. I love seeing comedies in theaters because it can be such a communal experience. What do you think the current landscape for comedy films looks like?
I share the feeling. I have three boys – 11, 11 and 13 – and I watched them Nude pistol, and I relived the first time I saw it in the movie theater, where we literally – and not even jokingly – had people roll down the aisle, like they’re spitting out popcorn. You can’t possibly gain that experience while sitting at home. That said, more people will see the movie. But I’m with you. It takes one studio with a really funny movie to say, “We’re going to put this in theaters.” People will come and everyone will follow. One is needed Hangover.
It was nice to see the self-roofie moment Murder mystery 2maybe as a nod to The hangover.
(laughs.) I only have six jokes in my repertoire. So I just repeat them until I get credit in the movie. (laughs.)
You mentioned the Hangover process. With such a hugely successful movie, I’m sure a credit means a lot more money. Is that process frustrating in the business in general?
I can’t speak for every process, but when you have several people working on a movie as screenwriters, it’s hard to set the rules. I don’t necessarily have a salve or an answer to it. Is it frustrating when you dedicate your life to something and end up not seeing your name on film? A hundred percent. But every professional writer has experienced this. So many people are doing work that is not mentioned. It’s a challenging question and I don’t even know what the rules are at this point. But when you’re a director of a movie, it’s challenging to get credit if a script already existed. That rule is there to protect the writers from directors coming in and taking credit for you.
Speaking of credits, Charlize Theron is credited as an executive producer on this movie, just like in the first one. Why is that?
To be honest, I don’t really know. I saw her credit right before we locked the movie. I’m like, “Oh, wow! Charlize is – This is great. Maybe she’ll be a villain in the next one.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
Murder mystery 2 currently streaming on Netflix.