Israelis and Arabs Walk Into a Film …

Dave Itzkoff in the New York Times:

Screenhunter_01_may_25_1039About eight years ago Mr. Sandler conceived of the Zohan character, an Israeli assassin who has been trained to hate and kill Arabs; exhausted by the ceaseless bloodshed, he fakes his own death and flees to New York to become a hairdresser. There he finds Jews and Arabs living together in grudging if not quite harmonious tolerance.

At the time, Mr. Sandler (who rarely if ever gives interviews to the print news media) delegated the script to Mr. Smigel, who had frequently written for him on “Saturday Night Live,” and Judd Apatow, a former roommate of Mr. Sandler’s, who was not yet the one-man comedy juggernaut of “Knocked Up” and “40-Year-Old Virgin” fame.

Both writers found “Zohan” a subversive, somewhat improbable assignment. “There was always this question of, can you make this movie?” Mr. Apatow said in a phone interview. “Because it is making fun of the fact that people are so mad at each other.”

After the 2001 terrorist attacks, Mr. Sandler and his screenwriters shelved the first draft of the script, which so mercilessly sent up stereotypes of its characters that, Mr. Apatow said, “it’s like a Don Rickles routine: no one doesn’t get hurt.”

More here.