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Inside "Reign Over Me" with the Cast and Writer/Director Mike Binder

Adam Sandler, Don Cheadle, Liv Tyler and Jada Pinkett Smith Talk "Reign Over Me"



Don Cheadle and Adam Sandler in "Reign Over Me."

© Columbia Pictures
In the dramatic movie Reign Over Me, former college roommates Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) and Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) run into each other on the streets of Manhattan a few years after Charlie's family was killed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America. Charlie doesn't seem to remember Alan, the man who was once his closest friend, and has totally withdrawn from the world since the tragic loss of his wife and children.

Meanwhile, successful dentist Alan is struggling to recapture the relationship he once had with his wife. Fortunately for both men, Alan and Charlie reunite at a time in their lives when they each need someone to talk to. Their rekindled friendship sets the former friends on a journey of recovery.

Adam Sandler, Don Cheadle, Jada Pinkett Smith and Liv Tyler joined writer/director Mike Binder at a press conference to discuss the film.

Can you talk about the themes of Reign Over Me?

Director Mike Binder: “To me the whole movie boils down to a piece about communication and kind of the restoring powers of having someone to talk to, and the flip side of the damage that can slowly accumulate of not having someone to talk to.”

Don Cheadle: “I personally liked that my character went from - and there was a lot of debate between Jada [Pinkett Smith’s] character and my character in the movie - that it went from a very selfish standpoint to growing and being real concerned about someone who was friend. At first it was just a way to get out of the house and escape and a great excuse. Really, it was about I want to have some fun and play some video games and play drums. I thought it was a great progression from someone who was completely selfish and was really vampiring off of his needs and to realize, ‘No, this is something that’s actually important.’”

What emotional state were you in while you were shooting the film and how did you get into that mode?

Adam Sandler: “I prepared for a long time and I tried to stay as focused as I can be. It was painful to do. I know it was very important for the part to feel as much as I could, so I tried to just be prepared for everyday. It wasn’t like movies I’ve done in the past where I’m laughing and having a great time on the set. It was definitely heavier.”

How did you manage to make the issue of post traumatic stress something we could see in the film, but not to the point where it was overboard?

Mike Binder: “I was talking to my wife about it this morning because the job at hand for what Adam had to do was so layered in the complexity. At the same time, he had to make it very simple. What I was so impressed with, right from the beginning in the early days when we started breaking down, was his work ethic. His ability to just completely dive into the water and do what it took to get on the other side of this character so that he could just become this character. He would call me late at night and go, ‘Would my guy do this? Does my guy think like this?’ And I’d go, ‘Well when I’m up tomorrow I can probably answer that question.’

There was a focus. Even with all of the research there was just a focus. I think that my sense of Adam as an actor was that he had done so much footwork that by the time he got on set it wasn’t so much about, ‘Okay today’s scene I have to get in this place.’ The footwork was there that he had to just be in each scene. It wasn’t so much about, ‘Okay, this is the level of PDST this day.’ He just put the work into it so the guy felt very real to him.”

Adam Sandler: “I was terrified. Once I agreed to do it, I was the most scared I’d ever been. I remember talking to Don. We would rehearse on our own and at the end of our rehearsals I would say to Don, ‘Do you have any idea who your guy is yet?’ He’d say, ‘No, no.’ I was so afraid.”

Mike Binder: “You guys were both calling me. ‘I don’t know who my guy is.’”

Adam, why did you want to do this part?

Adam Sandler: “I read the script a while ago. The first time I read it, I thought it was a pretty incredible movie, but I was afraid of it so I just put it away. I told my guys, ‘Tell that guy thank you, but I can’t do it.’ I was kind of scared of it. Then one night like a month later it was next to my bed and I read it again. It was very moving to me and I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wanted to challenge myself so I talked to my guys and said, ‘Can you ask Mike Binder if he’s still interested in doing it?’ I can’t articulate why I like it so much, but it hurt my heart when I read it. It also made me laugh. I just wanted to accept the challenge of doing that role.”

Liv, did you research therapy at all?

Liv Tyler: “I was really excited to be playing a doctor and therapist because I’d never in my career had not been the girlfriend or ingénue. I was very nervous as well. I know it’s a small part, but it was something I took very seriously. The story as a whole touched me so much and I thought that it was so important that it was very real and not the caricature of what that would be like.

I actually have a shrink in New York who I love. I spent a lot of time with her, hours on end. It was weird because I was actually learning some of her tricks and it suddenly made it very weird for me. Yeah, I really enjoyed it. She actually told me once that if I ever wanted to quit my day job I would be an okay shrink. I was like, ‘I think there something wrong with you saying that, but thank you so much.’”

Adam, did you talk to people who lost their families?

Adam Sandler: “I met a lot of people, yeah. Through therapy sessions and what people were going through. I did that, yep.”

They let you come into these therapy sessions?

Adam Sandler: “Yeah, dealing with this issue - just one on one stuff. It’s actually post traumatic stress disorder or something that these people were going through and they wanted it to get out into the public more. It wasn’t easy for them. I would only come inside if they were okay with it. If they needed me to leave, I would leave. But normally they would just let me sit with them and listen. They just wanted to get the word out about what they were going through.”

Page 2: On Relationships and Music

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