party report

The Safdie Brothers Explain John Amos’s Uncut Gems Cameo

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

On the way home from Passover dinner with his in-laws, Uncut Gems’ desperate protagonist, Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), stops at his own midtown apartment to make sure his mistress has moved out. The scene has a surprising cameo: Howard’s son needs to use the bathroom, so he knocks on a neighbor’s door to ask if the kid can take a dump there. Who opens the door but … John Amos! “Originally, it was Phylicia Rashad,” Josh Safdie, one of the Gems directors, told Vulture Tuesday night at the New York Film Critics Circle awards, where the brothers accepted the award for Best Director. “That was the original written [cameo] in the script for many, many years. We tried to think of the most wholesome person who was on television, and she was it. Yeah, she didn’t want to do the movie. And then we thought of another wholesome person, and James Evans’s character, played by John Amos, seemed to be it.”

Said Benny Safdie, “It was also a question of who would actually live next to Howard, kind of a question of the economics of it. Al Goldstein was up there at one point, like, who would live next to him?” On set, Amos did one take in which he was downcast, closing the door slowly and solemnly as a guy who doesn’t get out much. “I was like, ‘Very interesting, John. Let’s do it where this is your moment to be angry!’ And then he got it,” Josh said. “Johnny Aranbayev, who plays Sandler’s son in the movie, says, ‘What a dick!’ And Howard goes, ‘Hey! He’s a legend!’ That’s the beauty of Howard: He can get snubbed by somebody but also recognize them.”

Per the brothers, Sandler and Amos were supposed to work together once before. “I don’t know if anyone knows this, but John Amos was originally supposed to play Chubbs in Happy Gilmore,” Josh told Vulture.

“Sandler and [Tim] Herlihy wrote it for John Amos!,” Benny said.

“And then the studio is like, ‘Love John Amos, but what about Carl Weathers?’ Sandler and Herlihy were like, ‘Well, we love Carl Weathers, but we kind of wrote it for John Amos.’ The studio is like, ‘It’s gonna be Carl Weathers.’ It was very brief in time, but they talked to Amos about it,” Josh said. “So when Amos came on set, we were talking, he asked if Sandler was there yet, and I said he’d be there soon. He said, ‘We were gonna work together a long time ago. Whatever happened to that golf movie?’”

The Safdie Brothers Explain John Amos’s Uncut Gems Cameo