Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Adam Sandler is now a serious Oscar contender and even he's surprised

It’s so sublime and strange that Adam Sandler — the king of ‘90s slapstick comedies who built his empire on fart jokes — is the subject of 2020 Oscar buzz for Uncut Gems, the excellent Safdie brothers’ thriller that opened in wide release on Christmas.

Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a New York diamond dealer juggling multiple high-stakes schemes that could wind up being his salvation — or his undoing. Sandler is electrifying in the role, and he embodies “Howie” entirely.

When Sandler was a guest on The Howard Stern Show in early December, the host recounted a weird run-in they had at Nobu, while Sandler was still filming Uncut Gems. The actor came into the restaurant in costume, wearing a prosthetic mole and transition lenses, and walked right by Stern and his wife without saying hello. Sandler came back later to apologize, but he explained he didn’t think anybody would recognize him that deep in character, which is hilarious, because Ratner looks exactly like Sandler does in real life, with an extra mole and diamond studs.

So will the newly-celebrated dramatic actor win an Oscar for his stunning turn in Uncut Gems? It’s too early to wager bets, but Sandler himself sounded deeply skeptical during an interview on The Bill Simmons Podcast. “I’ve never been talked about like this,” Sandler responded to the awards prodding, adding he’d be “deeply lucky” to take home a gold statue this season. This is a more subdued stance than Sandler took on Stern’s show, where he joked he’d go back to making movies “so bad on purpose” as punishment if the Academy doesn’t recognize him.

But Sandler also told Simmons he’s already received the praise that truly matters: while Sandler was shopping at Macy’s in early December, Daniel Day-Lewis — one of the greatest actors of all time — called him up to say how much he loved Sandler in Uncut Gems. The two are buddies, apparently; Sandler calls Day-Lewis, “Danny.”

According to Sandler, his pal “Danny” was literally on the edge of his seat throughout the film. “He starts talking about grabbing the seat in front of him. ‘I couldn’t let go of the seat in front of me,’ and just saying how much he dug the movie, he dug [Kevin Garnett], he dug the guys. But it was the best call ever,” Sandler told Simmons.

It’s amazing imagining how Day-Lewis and Sandler might’ve met and why they became buddies. They both worked with director Paul Thomas Anderson — but 15 years apart. Punch-Drunk Love, from 2002, was one of the first films to make people realize that Sandler had more talent to offer than his early movies belied. Maybe Day-Lewis predicted then and there that Sandler was destined for the big leagues and was like, “I’ve gotta get to know this guy.” If that’s what happened, it was a good bet. Now everybody wants a slice of Sandler.