By the time she first played one in the line of hotties who end up with the sweet man-child types he usually plays in his comedies, Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler had already known each other for upward of 20 years.
They were practically still kids—"We were, like, 14," Aniston quipped on Jimmy Kimmel Live, exaggerating only a bit—when they first met in Los Angeles when she was dating one of his buddies (who has always remained nameless). Adam and Jen sat down at Jerry's Deli, bonded over pickles and started a friendship that's still going strong decades later.
"She crunched too loud," Sandler quipped to E! News' Will Marfuggi about his late-'80s lunch companion.
There was no mystery when it came to their instant connection, though Sandler admitted it never occurred to him that they'd become two of the most successful entertainers of their generation, let alone their respective high school classes.
"I knew I was going to be friends with her," Sandler added. "I didn't know I was going to be making movies with her. We both didn't know that, we were young and we didn't have jobs quite then."
Aniston wasn't surprised that they gravitated to each other, either—or, for that matter, that her pal blew up in a big way.
"He's such a mensch and you just love each other, he takes you in, and I'm very much the same way," she explained, "and then you become family. It's like second nature."
Sandler added, "And Jen has a family of friends and I have a family of friends, and we all hang."
"We all know each other," she agreed.
"[Jen's] like, 'George and I would love for you to come over for pizza, but you have to dress right...You can't show up in your shorts,'" he cracked to Marfuggi, mimicking an exasperated voice. But Clooney "wears T-shirts, just like the Sandman," he noted. "They lay on him a little better. That's the only difference."
And with that, he had Aniston laughing for the umpteenth time that day.
Their camaraderie was palpable as they finished each other's sentences like brother and sister, but their friendship was primarily under the radar up until Sandler recruited the Friends star for Just Go With It, which hit theaters Feb. 11, 2011 (also Aniston's birthday), playing his character's best friend whom he eventually realizes he's totally in love with after chasing Brooklyn Decker around for most of the movie.
After they first met, Sandler ended up back in New York in 1990, first as a writer and then as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, while Aniston got Friends in 1994, so their journeys geographically diverged early on. Even when Sandler was fired from SNL in 1995, a turn of events that he never fails to poke fun at these days, he started making at least a movie a year, starting with Billy Madison, and has barely slowed down since—his type of downtime coming more in the form of producing films that he can have all of his friends be in too.
Aniston, of course, became a huge star and then married Brad Pitt in 2000 (there's no mention of Sandler being at their Malibu nuptials, but Spade was—and Sandler also tied the knot with wife Jacqueline Titone in Malibu, three years later). She got divorced in 2005 and we know she was leaning on her tight circle of friends in the aftermath. Meanwhile, Sandler's first daughter, Sadie, was born in 2006 and his second, Sunny, arrived in 2008.
Perhaps distance made the heart grow even fonder, because Aniston called it "heaven" and a "dream" when she and Sandler finally worked together on Just Go With It, which was filmed primarily in Hawaii, one of her favorite vacation destinations.
"It was a really nice time," Sandler agreed, nodding, during a joint sit-down with ScreenSlam in 2011, "hope to do it again."
"And we're going to," she swiftly added.
But their previous connection was so unknown at the time, that they were asked if they ever hung out when the cameras weren't rolling. (They've also been the subject of are-they-romantic rumors here and there over the years, also precisely because it wasn't always a given that they were longtime friends.)
"We would wrap, we'd go have dinner together," Aniston described their routine. "There was this corner we'd call the Magic Corner because the sunset was really beautiful. Then weekends, we'd hang by the pool."
Sandler cracked that he couldn't bring his kids to the adult pool that Jen preferred, so she'd hold up an extra-long middle finger she had the makeup department craft for her to flash at him from the far sexier swimming area.
So even 10 years ago, these two were just in a rhythm, effortlessly weaving together a joint nonsensical anecdote to both entertain and maintain their privacy. No surprise, then, that Just Go With It involved a fair amount of improvisation. Reviews were, you know, whatever, but audiences flocked to theaters to see these two in action and the movie made $215 million worldwide.
The following year, Sandler paid tribute to Aniston when she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, first taking gum out of his mouth and sticking it to the top of the podium for safe-keeping while he talked. He also did not dress up for the occasion, but it's not as if she would have expected anything less from the Sandman.
"That's for you, Aniston," he said, "nothing but respect, the best T-shirt I had. Here's a little speech I wrote last night.
"Gather around, people of Hollywood" he began, in his best signature-Sandler whoop-de-di-do voice, causing tears of laughter almost immediately, "because it's fairy tale story time. Once upon a time, there was a poor little Greek girl, growing up in Manhattan by the name of Jeneefer Anistuffelupagus..." Etc.
Approaching his regular voice, he concluded, "I love this girl, my wife loves this girl, the entire world loves this girl...the girl who put the grace in Office Space, put the jolly in Along Came Polly, put the 'hor' in Horrible Bosses, put the good girl in The Good Girl and took her naked boobs out of Wanderlust. For god's sake, let the girl have one thing she can keep to herself, you greedy bastards out there."
But back to the part about his wife loving her, too—yes, by then they had seamlessly melded circles back in Los Angeles. Aniston would host pizza nights and the Sandlers would be among the guests, shooting pool and watching big games.
"She has a lot of nice TVs. I hide in one of her rooms," Sandler explained to ScreenSlam, "she hangs out with my wife and all her other friends. I tend to hide"—"No you don't," she protested. "I have some fun," he acknowledged. "By the way, my favorite image [from one of those parties] is when a good song comes on and I look across the room, I see Aniston hear a good song and start dancing. She's a great little dancer."
Needless to say, joint publicity has never been a problem for these two.
They were back at it in 2019 for Netflix's Murder Mystery, what turned out to be a years-in-the-making reunion for them, in which they play a long-married couple who get tangled up in some international intrigue that the title has no qualms giving away.
And just as before, they had a blast, this time filming on location in Italy (hence pizza night with the Clooneys on Lake Como). Aniston also shared with E! News that she advised Sandler on how to groom the mustache he grew for the movie, so that his wife wouldn't mind touching his face.
"We must have been real family in another life," she said of their bond when they sat down together on Jimmy Kimmel Live to promote the film. Alas, she had a previous commitment that had prevented her from attending Sadie's Bat Mitzvah that past weekend, so she missed the command performance by Adam Levine, but "she sent one of the best gifts Sadie received out of everybody," Sandler gushed. "$1.8 million."
Once again, he had Aniston in stitches.
In November 2019 they took to the stage together to accept the People's Choice Award when Murder Mystery was named Comedy Movie of 2019. Two months later Aniston unexpectedly gave a shout-out to Sandler and his critically lauded but mostly unnominated turn in Uncut Gems when she won a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama for The Morning Show. (You know, in the speech Pitt was watching backstage.)
After thanking a list of friends and colleagues involved with the Apple TV+ series, she remembered before she left the stage, "Oh, Adam Sandler! Your performance is extraordinary and your magic is real, buddy, I love you."
He was not in the room, but he got the message.
On Instagram he shared a pic of his pal accepting her SAG Award and wrote, "Congrats to the great @jenniferaniston for her SAG award and her just being the best."
Just Go With It is streaming on Peacock and Murder Mystery is streaming on Netflix.
(Originally published May 22, 2020, at 7 a.m. PT)
(E! and Peacock are both members of the NBCUniversal family.)