Gilbert Gottfried’s Problem Child Director Recalls Standing Up for Him – The Hollywood Reporter

Although Gilbert Gottfried had beforehand made small movie appearances, together with in 1987’s Beverly Hills Cop II, it was shock hit Problem Child that served as a breakout position.

The 1990 film, which is credited as Universal Pictures’ most worthwhile movie of the yr, starred John Ritter and Amy Yasbeck as a pair experiencing ups and downs after adopting Junior (Michael Oliver). Director Dennis Dugan employed Gottfried as a flustered adoption agent after seeing him carry out stand-up in Los Angeles, and the filmmaker discovered that the performer’s boisterous on-stage persona was fairly totally different from his real-life demeanor.

“He was the sweetest guy,” Dugan, who had beforehand helmed episodes of Moonlighting however by no means led a function, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “You’d think that maybe he was a guy who worked in the back of a library, putting books onto the racks. He was just the nicest, quietest little guy, and then you’d say action, and like an atomic bomb, he would just explode.”

Dugan, who would go on to direct quite a few movies for Adam Sandler, together with Happy Gilmore (1996), Big Daddy (1999) and each Grown Ups motion pictures, praises Gottfried as “one of the funniest guys I ever worked with, for sure.” He additionally remembers a time when he needed to defend the comic to Universal brass.

“I got yelled at — this was early on in shooting,” Dugan says. “I got called by the vice president of Universal at the time, going, ‘What are you doing? You’re shooting so much film!’ If you normally shoot 6,000 feet of it — this is when you had film — one day, I shot 18,000 feet, and the next day, I shot 20,000 feet. Now it doesn’t matter, but at that time, film cost, and it was a low-budget film.”

Director Dennis Dugan on set of Problem Child (1990).
Universal Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

He continues, “So they were yelling: ‘What are you doing there? You’re way over budget on film.’ And I go, ‘Well, we’re doing a comedy, right?’ And they go, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘Well, we got Gilbert Gottfried. And when I’d say action, Gilbert Gottfried does the script, and then he just starts going. You don’t say cut. You just let him go. Don’t look at how long it is — watch the film, and see what you think.’ And so they called me back, and they go, ‘All right. You’re OK because he’s that funny.’”

Dugan, whose newest challenge was the 2020 movie Love, Weddings & Other Disasters starring Diane Keaton and Jeremy Irons, quips, “He was just a wonderful guy to work with — completely committed, and when he started acting, you’d think he should be committed because he would just go as crazy as you possibly can.”

The director, who emphasizes {that a} key to creating a superb comedy is to get a superb script after which rent humorous individuals to ship it, shares that his expertise with Gottfried had an influence on future motion pictures.

“Working with him really helped me later on,” Dugan admits. “Going to Grown Ups was a great example because we’d shoot a scene with those five guys and then start rolling, and then they would just start yakking. I knew from working with Gilbert, if there’s a fire going, just throw kindling onto it. Because you can shout out stuff to them in the middle of it — ‘Try this, try that’ — and that was the same with him. He would do anything you asked, plus 3,000 times more.”

Dugan additionally remembers Ritter having a simple time connecting with Gottfried. “Ritter was as funny and good a partner as you could imagine,” the director says. “If you’re on the set with Gilbert, and you’re around a shooting star, you just go, ‘Great, let me take the ride,’ and Ritter loved him.”

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