"Bedtime Stories" is an adventure comedy starring ADAM SANDLER as Skeeter Bronson, a hotel handyman whose life is changed forever when the bedtime stories he tells his niece and nephew start to mysteriously come true. When he tries to help his family by telling one outlandish tale after another, it's the kids' unexpected contributions that turn all of their lives upside down.
From director Adam Shankman ("The Pacifier," "Hairspray," "The Wedding Planner"), "Bedtime Stories" features an all-star cast, including Adam Sandler ("You Don't Mess with the Zohan," "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry"), Keri Russell ("August Rush," "Waitress"), Guy Pearce ("L.A. Confidential," "Factory Girl"), Russell Brand ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall"), Richard Griffiths ("History Boys," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"), Jonathan Pryce, Courteney Cox ("Friends"), Lucy Lawless ("Xena: Warrior Princess") and Teresa Palmer ("Kids in America," "Grudge 2").
From a screenplay written by Matt Lopez ("Race to Witch Mountain") and Tim Herlihy ("The Wedding Singer," "Saturday Night Live"), and a story by Matt Lopez, "Bedtime Stories" is produced by Andrew Gunn for Gunn Films, and Adam Sandler and Jack Giarraputo for Happy Madison Productions. Adam Shankman, Jennifer Gibgot, Anne Marie Sanderlin and Garrett Grant serve as executive producers. The film is a Happy Madison Productions, Gunn Films and Offspring Entertainment production.
The film's behind-the-scenes talent includes cinematographer Michael Barrett ("You Don't Mess with the Zohan"), costume designer Rita Ryack ("Hairspray"), production designer Linda DeScenna ("The Pacifier"), editor Tom Costain ("You Don't Mess with the Zohan"), editor Michael Tronick, A.C.E. ("Hairspray," "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert"), and composer Rupert Gregson-Williams ("You Don't Mess with the Zohan," "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry").
ONCE UPON A TIME… Telling "Bedtime Stories"
"Bedtime Stories" provided a unique opportunity to combine classic Disney storytelling with Adam Sandler's signature brand of comedy. At the helm is director Adam Shankman, who came to the project with successful films for the Studio like "The Pacifier" and "Bringing Down the House." Sandler and Happy Madison Productions were drawn to the project, particularly since Sandler had recently become a father for the first time. "I wanted to make a movie that my child could watch someday and actually look me in the eyes afterwards," he says. "I read 'Bedtime Stories' and I thought it would be really fun for everyone.
"When I was a kid our family used to go on the road," Sandler continues. "We'd drive into New York from New Hampshire a lot and we would stop at Howard Johnson's on the way. There were six of us in one room and it would be the best time of our life. I always liked the idea a guy who lives in a hotel and he gets to do that every day."
Skeeter Bronson, Hotel Handyman
Sandler plays hotel handyman Skeeter Bronson. "He's a hard-working fella," Sandler explains. "Skeeter's father owned the hotel when my character was a little kid. The father wasn't a great businessman and had to sell, but he made a deal with Mr. Nottingham, the new owner, that Skeeter might eventually run the hotel. So my character has been working and working and waiting for it to happen and the day that he thinks it's gonna happen, the job is given to another guy."
Setting the story in motion is Skeeter's sister Wendy (COURTENEY COX), who calls on the handyman to look after her two children while she heads off on a job hunt. "I'm a principal at a school that's being shut down," says Cox. "So I go off to find a job and all the madness starts."
On hand to try to curb the madness and help with the children is Wendy's responsible friend Jill (KERI RUSSELL). "I take care of the kids during the day until Adam's character finishes his shift at the hotel," says Russell. "Somehow I end up in these crazy adventures that Skeeter creates with the kids."
The crazy adventures are the bedtime stories Skeeter tells to entertain the kids at night. Dissatisfied with their book selection, he decides to make up his own stories, allowing the kids to get into the game and contribute to the crazy tales. The stories--with settings ranging from the Old West and Outer Space to Medieval Times and Ancient Greece--are brought to life throughout the movie… with some familiar characters. Explains director Shankman, "The fun thing is that Skeeter casts characters from real life as the characters in all of the stories. So everyone from Adam to Keri to Russell Brand gets to play all these crazy characters throughout the movie."
The twist, says Shankman, is that the stories Skeeter tells actually come true. "Whatever the kids kick into the story ends up coming true the next day in real life," says the director. "Between their crazy newfound reality and the outlandish fantasy sequences of the bedtime stories, there's a lot of visual candy.
"This movie has an enormous amount of heart," continues Shankman. "It's incredible for the family. It's just magic."
MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES… Casting Characters for Reality and Fantasy
Casting "Bedtime Stories" meant that the filmmakers had to imagine each actor in a variety of roles. Says director Adam Shankman, "I think what attracted a lot of the actors to doing 'Bedtime Stories' was the fantasy element, the idea of playing different characters. They knew they would be in a lot of crazy costumes and get to do a lot of crazy characters alongside Adam Sandler."
A Mouseketeer Returns to Her Roots
With Sandler in place as leading man Skeeter, the filmmakers tapped Keri Russell for the role of Jill--in addition to a host of fantasy characters including Jillian Queen of Fairies, Raven Jillian and a Mermaid. Her performance marked a return to her Disney roots. "I think it's funny that I'm doing this movie now because I was a part of the Mickey Mouse Club when I was growing up," says the veteran Mouseketeer. Russell starred in the all-new "Mickey Mouse Club" from 1991-1994.
According to Shankman, Russell was chosen to complement Sandler's comedic sensibilities. "She's a really great match for Adam because they make each other laugh and that's a real blessing," says the director. "They really seem to enjoy working together."
"Keri's incredibly likable and smart," adds Sandler. "Our characters don't really like each other at first, so it was fun to bicker back and forth."
"At first, my character thinks Skeeter is really immature and irresponsible and annoying, which he is," says Russell. "But after spending more time with him, she starts seeing him involved with the kids and starts to think he's not such a bad guy. He starts to charm her."
"The two of them are just fireworks," says Shankman of the twosome.
Newcomers Jonathan Heit and Laura Ann Kesling were cast as Skeeter's nephew Patrick and niece Bobbi. Says Sandler, "They're both very hard working. Jonathan is really smart and Laura makes you smile all the time. They both had a great time on the film."
Says Heit, "Adam Sandler plays my uncle in the movie. It's actually hard not to laugh during the scenes 'cause he's so funny."
One example was when Sandler first sat down to tell them a bedtime story and is surprised to find a guinea pig on his head. Bugsy, the children's pet--so named for his shockingly big eyes--was portrayed by two previously unknown guinea pigs, Stitches and Thimbles. With carefully trained behaviors ranging from running on a makeshift treadmill to tucking himself into bed, Bugsy contributed his own style of comedy to the film.
Courteney Cox was called on to play Skeeter's uptight sister Wendy. The actress was drawn to the part because of her on-set brother Adam Sandler. "I just love him and he makes for the most fun set. He surrounds himself with fantastic people," she says. "The story is heartfelt, whimsical, adventurous, funny. I was blown away."
The filmmakers turned to Guy Pearce for the role of Kendall Duncan. Says Pearce, "I play the manager of a hotel and Adam Sandler's character wants my job."
"He belittles Skeeter a lot and makes him feel like a loser," adds Sandler. "So through the bedtime stories, Skeeter fights back a little which starts to connect with his real life. But Pearce is committed. He enjoyed hurting me. He's a funny guy and a great actor."
"I first saw Guy in a comedy with intensely dramatic undertones, 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,' and he was brilliant in it," says Shankman. "He has great comic instincts and I thought it would be fun to have an actor's actor play the part."
"This is a broad comedy and it's not my normal fare," admits Pearce. "But I'm a fan of Shankman's and a fan of Sandler's and it seemed fortuitous that I find something that's a bit light."
Pearce, in particular, liked what the bedtime stories brought to the role. "Every time Skeeter tells a story to the kids, all of the characters are incorporated--whether it's the Wild West or Ancient Greece or Outer Space or Medieval Times," he says. "I'm generally the nemesis in each story and really quite pompous and ridiculous."
Sandler first came upon Russell Brand while traveling in London and immediately found the British comedian to be uniquely funny and original. Brand ultimately won the role of Skeeter's friend and sidekick Mickey. His character carries over into the fantasy sequences, portraying Mickus The Satyr in Ancient Greece, Lieutenant Mik in Outer Space and Friar Fred in Medieval Times. The actor, who played all of his scenes opposite Sandler, says he learned a lot from him. "It's good to watch how he handles physical stuff. He's always subtle, and look at his charisma. I think he's one of the great comedy actors of all time."
Richard Griffiths plays the germaphobic head of the hotel. "My character is a chap who's a very rich and powerful hotelier," says Griffiths. "He's making a flagship mega-hotel outside of Los Angeles and there's a competition among the characters to be the one to choose the theme. I'm the guy they have to persuade."
With titles like King Barry, Emperor Germicus and Supreme Leader Baracto, the character's power extended to the fantasy sequences inspired by Skeeter's stories.
"Richard Griffiths playing Barry Nottingham was kind of heaven sent," says Shankman. "His comic ability is unsurpassed and he brings this delightful texture to every scene without trying to be funny."
Shankman adds that Griffiths was a bit of a wild card. "He's always doing something unexpected so we never knew what he'd do next. But it was always great."
Playing Barry Nottingham's spoiled daughter Violet is Australian actress Teresa Palmer. Sandler's Skeeter and Pearce's Kendall both lobby for her affections, believing it will help them earn a place in her father's heart--and hotel.
Violet lives a bit of an heiress life, chased by paparazzi. Says Sandler, "She's daddy's little girl. She gets into trouble sometimes and hasn't grown up 100 percent yet."
"Violet loves to have a good time," adds Palmer. "She's fun and crazy and loves to dance."
Shankman says he was taken by Palmer's appearance. "She's so beautiful on film it almost scares me," says the director, who credits the actress with enhancing the role of a spoiled daughter.
Sandler explains. "Her character is actually very likable," he says.
Lucy Lawless was cast as Aspen, the hotel's eccentric concierge. "I'm yet another foil to Adam Sandler's character," says Lawless. "I help Guy Pearce's character in his efforts to ruin Skeeter's life."
"Getting Lucy Lawless to do crazy stuff is like getting somebody thirsty to drink water," says Shankman. "She'll do anything to make you laugh."
Lawless had a lot of fun extending her character into the fantasy sequences, despite the fact that Skeeter's stories didn't cast her in the best light: Nasty Innkeeper Troll, Aspenazon and Alien Aspenzoid Crab. "When I'm the crab lady, I've got this insane headpiece on and the most incredible special effects makeup and prosthetics," says Lawless. "Everything in this movie is really A-grade."
CUE THE CHARIOT… Bringing "Bedtime Stories" to Life
With worlds ranging from Ancient Greece to Outer Space, filmmakers had to strategize how to tackle the different fantasy bedtime-story sequences. Shankman recalls, "We wanted to go for classic sketches of what people think of when they imagine these different themes because the stories are told through the eyes of children."
Medieval: The first bedtime-story fantasy that Skeeter, Patrick and Bobbi create is a medieval story. Skeeter kicks off the story, working bits of his real life into a medieval setting. He casts himself as a peasant named Sir Fixalot, hotel owner Barry Nottingham as the King, Nottingham's daughter as Princess Fashionista and nemesis Kendall as Sir Buttkiss. "So it ends up connecting to Skeeter's real life in the movie," says Sandler.
The kids contribute key details to the story--details Skeeter doesn't always embrace. The ongoing debate leads to three unique characters for Keri Russell. Russell explains, "Adam's character doesn't think very much of Jill so my character enters the story because of the kids--who suggest she's a beautiful fairy--then I appear as this beautiful fairy. Skeeter objects and I turn into an ugly raven until one of the kids says 'she should be a mermaid' and then I turn into a mermaid and dive down into a moat."
Old West: In the Old West story, Jeremiah Skeets is a southern farmhand who is looking to make a name for himself but feels that his shabby appearance and his old horse might be a disadvantage. Skeeter decides Jeremiah Skeets should get a brand-new horse--a red one that whinnies like a Ferrari--for free.
The kids don't like the idea and suggest that he do what a real gentleman would do and save a damsel in distress, portrayed in the fantasy by hotelier Barry Nottingham's daughter Violet, who Skeeter has hoped to win in real life.
"In the Old West story Skeeter wants a Ferrari and he wants the girl," says Shankman. "He thinks he controls the stories, but realizes after this particular story that it's the kids' contributions that really matter."
To prepare for his role as Jeremiah Skeets in the Old West scene, Sandler took riding lessons. "I used to ride horses when I was young and fearless, but riding a horse at my age is not something you want to do unless you know how to do it."
Ancient Greece: The Ancient Greece story opens with Skeetacus, a cocky, toga-clad hero, entering a Greek Coliseum at the helm of a high-speed, horse-drawn chariot. The crowd roars as he jumps the chariot over a long line of elephants.
Shankman explains, "I thought it would be funny if Skeeter was the first one to do the Chariot X-Games. I wanted it to look like motocross, but on a chariot."
Presiding over the games from his Royal Box is Emperor Germicus, his lovely daughter Princess Violetus, Senator Kendallius and Aspenazon. In the stands among the spectators is Jillius, Patrickus, Bobbius and Skeetacus' manservant Mickus who is a Satyr.
Outer Space: The final bedtime story takes the cast to Outer Space for a battle scene between Skeeto and Kendallo. The scene reflects the real-life battle to run the hotel. Shankman explains, "In the story, they battle to see who's going to be the one to run the new planet of Nottinghamia."
Guy Pearce says the no-gravity battle takes a while to get off the ground--so to speak. "We're floating around desperately trying to get to each other and can't… so a Booger Monster comes out."
Shankman explains, "The Booger Monster is a space character that looks like a weird blowfish with tentacles and teeth. He seems ferocious while he's chasing Kendallo and Skeeto around, but ends up being a sweet little thing that just wants to kiss General Kendallo."
"I was Baracto, Supreme Leader of the Galaxy," says Richard Griffiths. "The Space fantasy is my favorite fantasy sequence to date."
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