Rob Schneider: The return of the Fil-American 'Gigolo'

() - September 17, 2005 - 12:00am
The son of an American real estate broker father and Filipino kindergarten teacher mother, Rob Schneider grew up in San Francisco, California and became the Coastside Cut-Up, always clowning around high school with his sleepy eyes, wild hair and irreverent sense of humor. Graduating in 1982, he was immediately on his way: first a fortuitous stand-up gig on the David Letterman show, then a stint as writer-performer on "Saturday Night Live" (1991-94).

And then, after years of supporting roles in movies and a vital working friendship with fellow comedian Adam Sandler, Schneider's dream came true: stardom in the movies, with three feature films (which he also co-wrote) released from 1999 to 2002.

Now the Fil-Am kid at 41, stands poised for the release of his fourth, "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo," a sequel to his box-office smash "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" (1999), an outrageous sex comedy that earned more than $65 million theatrically in its initial release and was the second highest selling DVD/VHS of that year.

In the sequel, someone is murdering the gigolos of Europe, and Deuce is drawn into the mystery as he dates a number of "typically unusual Janes," including one whose mother was contaminated at the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Schneider has also thrown in a satirical element - the gigolos have a kind of union that provides a health care plan.

The only other actor returning from the original is Eddie Griffin, who portrays T. J. Hicks, an experienced gigolo who continues to tutor the greener Bigalow in the art of becoming a "man whore." One of Schneider's recurring motifs is to make fun of male sexuality by becoming the film's reverse sex symbol. "If I were in perfect shape like a male stripper at Chippendale's, it wouldn't be funny," he says. "But a man trying to entertain a woman without the body for it, to me, that's funny. As long as Deuce is not mean-spirited, has a good heart and his intentions are honorable, I'm not bothered by nudity. It's all part of the humor."

Co-producing the film is Happy Madison, the company owned by Sandler, who has been a compatriot of Schneider's since they met early in their careers, as mutually struggling stand-up comedians in Los Angeles. They ended up co-stars on "Saturday Night Live," sharing a dressing room and forging a friendship with "a non-handshake agreement to help each other." Schneider first worked in Sandler's "The Water Boy," borrowing a character (named Townie) they had created in a "Saturday Night Live" sketch who repeated the line "You can do it." Townie turned up again in "Little Nicky" and in Sandler's 2005 hit, "The Longest Yard."

I also did 'Big Daddy' with Adam," Schneider says. "I was supposed to have a minor role as a Chinese delivery guy but we turned it into a big role as Nazo, a Russian delivery guy. It got laughs and Adam said to me, 'Rob, write your own movie.'" And that brings him to the origins of "Deuce Bigalow."

"So one night, after making 'Big Daddy,' I'm watching TV. Richard Gere in 'American Gigolo.' And I think, now that's a ridiculous idea, a beautiful woman (Lauren Hutton) hiring a guy to make love to her. But then I thought: If there was such a thing as a gigolo, his girls would have to have physical or mental problems - or why date a gigolo?

So I created a guy inept at romance who direly needs money and decides to date women for profit. I felt the story had to be a teeter-totter - a balance between potentially shocking and gross things and sentimental and sweet things - and I think that's why it worked."

Right now, Schneider has three films in postproduction in which he will appear ("American Crude," "Nana's Boy" and "The Benchwarmers") and he is in the pre-production stages of his next personal film, "Hard R," a series of comedy vignettes that he compares to 1974's "The Groove Tube," noting that Bill Murray wants to do one of the bits.

"I have been on the edge of a cliff for a while," Schneider muses. "Jay Leno once told me if you've been around 10 years you've still got to worry. But if you've been around 20 years, then you've made it. I'm letting that advice sink in because, until now, I've never felt I've really made it. But this - a chance for 'Bigalow' to be an international hit, maybe - just maybe I'm finally in that place where I've wanted to be all my life."

Opening soon across the Philippines, "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

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