Peter Segal

50 First Dates

Interviewed by Jamie Russell

“He'd take out his sexual frustration on us ”

After cutting his teeth on The Naked Gun 33 1/3, Peter Segal has become one of Hollywood's hottest comedy directors, teaming up with stars Chris Farley (Tommy Boy), Jack Lemmon (My Fellow Americans), and Eddie Murphy (The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps). He's also got a soft spot for Adam Sandler, helming Anger Management and short-term memory romantic comedy 50 First Dates.

How did you get involved with the project?

Drew Barrymore gave the script to Adam Sandler because she thought it was a great film for them to team up on again after The Wedding Singer. Then Adam gave it to me while we were in post-production on Anger Management and I said yes before we'd finished post. It was nearly the death of me because I had literally 48 hours off before we started shooting. I wouldn't do it again, but I wanted to see if I could because I'd heard about other directors like Spielberg who started Schindler's List while finishing off Jurassic Park. Thanks a lot Steven, my hair is now white!

Did you receive lots of kudos for doing that?

No, Hollywood couldn't care less. They're just like "Good, he's a workaholic". I just got lots of grief from my family.

Were you worried about making fun of a real-life affliction?

We did a lot of research and spoke to brain specialists and neurosurgeons and discovered that this condition [Drew Barrymore's character's memory loss] can exist. The only licence we took was with Ten Second Tom - his name says it all, he's just there for comic relief. We've had letters from people who are disabled saying thank you for showing disability not as a fantasy that can be cured, but as something that has to be dealt with responsibly every day. I feel very proud about that.

What was it like working with walruses?

The walrus is a beautiful animal, but don't turn your back on it and never get between him and the water. Why? Well, because he's 4,000 pounds and you're not, and when he wants supper you're in the way. It was certainly an experience getting a kiss from one. It almost sucked my cheek off my face. The walrus we worked with would get angry if we kept him away from his harem for too long and he'd take out his sexual frustration on us. We'd have to get out there real fast, and I showed off my high school track training lots of times! It was like working with a 4,000 pound blubber bomb just waiting to go off.

Tell us about your remake of The Longest Yard...

It's gonna be great. Adam's playing the Burt Reynolds character. Chris Rock is already cast, and Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent might be in it. It's much more dramatic than anything I've work on... it's more of a 'dromedy', with less emphasis on the comedy.

Will it be as cynical as the original?