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Quentin Tarantino Reveals Adam Sandler Was a Top Choice for ‘Inglourious Basterds’

Samantha Franco
Photo Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images and The Weinstein Company / CozlCan / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images and The Weinstein Company / CozlCan / MovieStillsDB

Director Quentin Tarantino has been friends with the Happy Madison gang for a long time, so when he was writing the script for Inglourious Basterds, he had Adam Sandler in mind for one of the ‘basterds.’ However, fellow director Judd Apatow put a stop to that dream when he needed Sandler for a different project.

Tarantino was inspired while hanging with Sandler and the gang

Quentin Tarantino and Adam Sandler posing for a photo together.
Adam Sandler and Quentin Tarantino during Adam Sandler’s Footprint Ceremony at Mann Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo Credit: Chris Polk / FilmMagic / Getty Images)

Tarantino had a short cameo in Little Nicky (2000), and from there he began to hang out with Sandler’s group of friends. He explained, “I was like hanging out with that crew for a while. We went to a bunch of different things together.” That is actually how Tarantino first met Judd Apatow- through Adam Sandler.

When Tarantino was imagining the cast for the film he finished writing in 1998, Inglourious Basterds, he decided on Sandler to play Sergeant Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz. He wrote the role for Sandler. The character is the American ‘basterd’ who killed German soldiers with a baseball bat.

Tarantino’s desire to cast Sandler in the role has been rumored as far back as 2009, and on Bill Maher’s podcast, he finally confirmed it. “But yeah, the Bear Jew was going to…I wrote the Bear Jew for Adam Sandler,” he explained.

Sandler was really excited about it

Headshot of Adam Sandler wearing a overshirt, t-shirt, and baseball cap
Adam Sandler during the City Slickers II: ‘The Legend of Curly’s Gold’ New York Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo Credit: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection / Getty Images)

Tarantino described Sandler’s reaction upon hearing about the role. “When I was doing ‘Little Nicky,’ he’s telling me like, “Oh man, I get to [explicit] beat up [German soldiers] with a bat? [explicit] script! [explicit] awesome! I can’t [explicit] wait! I can’t [explicit] wait!” He was like telling every Jewish guy, “I’m going to [explicit] play this guy who beats up [German soldiers] with a [explicit] bat.’”

Apatow felt bad for stopping Sandler from being in the film

Judd Apatow talking to Adam Sandler somewhere behind the scenes of filming
Judd Apatow had already signed Adam Sandler to star in Funny People when shooting Tarantino began production on Inglourious Basterds. (Photo Credit: Universal Studios / dldcolumbus / MovieStillsDB)

As we all know, Sandler did not end up playing the role of “The Bear Jew” when the film was shot and released in 2009. This was because he was already committed to a different project. He’d agreed to star in Apatow’s film Funny People a year and a half before the start of production. He starred alongside other celebrities like Seth Rogan and Jonah Hill.

“I feel bad because when I did ‘Funny People’ with Sandler, I wasn’t aware that that was the exact time you were trying to use him for ‘Inglourious Basterds,'” Apatow admitted to Maher in the same podcast interview. Tarantino had trouble finding a replacement because of Apatow’s film.

“Here’s the problem. [Judd] wrapped up all the good Jews [for ‘Funny People’],” Tarantino said. “That was the problem. Seth Rogen and all the good Jews were doing ‘Funny People.’ I’m killing [the Führer] with baseball bats and there’s no good Jews available! David Krumholtz, nobody! All the good Jews were all wrapped up! I’m doing the Jewish male fantasy!”

More from us: Meet Hal Needham, The Stuntman Who Inspired Brad Pitt’s Character in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’

In the end, Tarantino found an excellent match for the role, ultimately casting his friend Eli Roth as “The Bear Jew.”

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!