Moviestore/Shutterstock Bridgette Wilson-Sampras and Adam Sandler in Billy Madison (1995)
"When Billy Madison came out, me and my friend who wrote it [Tim Herlihy], we were just like, 'Oh yeah, they're going to write about this in New York!' " said Sandler, now 56, during a recent conversation with Netflix surrounding his basketball drama Hustle, per Entertainment Weekly. "We grew up reading the papers, we were going to NYU."
But after he and Herlihy, 56, read the first review they saw, "We were like, 'Oh my god, what happened? They hate us,' " Sandler said.
Initially, the two thought it was just bad luck to see a negative critique first.
"But then 90% of the papers are going 'This is garbage,' " he said, admitting the negative feedback "stung," mostly due to the fact that "you know your grandmother's reading it."
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Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock Billy Madison (1995)
The film, released in 1995, follows Sandler's titular Billy, a spoiled slacker who agrees to return to school and repeat all 12 grades in exchange for becoming manager of his father's company over the slimy company executive vice president, Eric Gordon (Bradley Whitford).
Billy Madison currently holds a 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes but boasts a higher Audience Score of 79%. The comedy was moderately successful in theaters, raking in more than $25 million at the box office worldwide on a $10 million budget, according to Box Office Mojo.
"When I was 17 and I got into [the industry], I didn't think about critics," Sandler said in his conversation with Netflix, per EW. "I didn't even realize that stuff was coming. I just thought you made movies, people go see it."
He also said that he and Herlihy thought of the reviews, "Maybe we shouldn't read this stuff because it's so harsh."
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Sandler added that he and his writing partner "would still kinda hear about it" during the time they made their next few comedies that would — like Billy Madison — go on become cult classics, including Happy Gilmore (1996), The Waterboy (1998), The Wedding Singer (1998) and Big Daddy (1999).
"People would call us up [like], 'Can you believe they said this about you?' I'd be like, 'I didn't read it, man,' " said the actor and comedian.
But "everything has turned out excellent" for the Saturday Night Live alum, whose decades-spanning career has included comedy, heartstring-tugging roles and more.
"And it's okay, I get it," Sandler added. "Critics aren't going to connect with certain stuff and what they want to see. I understand that it's not clicking with them."