After his passing on Tuesday, April 12, beloved comedian and actor Gilbert Gottfried was remembered by the director of “Problem Child,” one of Gottfried’s breakout films.
Before the 1991 film, Gottfried also starred in “Beverly Hills Cop II,” “Bad Medicine,” and “The House of God” in the 1980s. But “Problem Child” really put Gottfried on the map, showcasing his hilarious quips and explosive nature.
Director Dennis Dugan hired Gilbert Gottfried after watching him perform stand-up comedy in Los Angeles. In the film, Gottfried played Mr. Peabody, an overwhelmed adoption agent. Mr. Peabody helps a couple adopt the titular “problem child” and happily washes his hands of the troublesome seven-year-old.
But Dugan remembered that Gilbert Gottfried’s rowdy characterization was actually the opposite of the actor’s even-tempered nature in real life.
“He was the sweetest guy,” Dugan told The Hollywood Reporter. “You’d think that maybe he was a guy who worked in the back of a library, putting books onto the racks. He was just the nicest, quietest little guy, and then you’d say action, and like an atomic bomb, he would just explode.”
That “explosion” of comedy caused Dugan to remember Gilbert Gottfried as “one of the funniest guys I ever worked with, for sure.” And this from a director who later helmed several Adam Sandler films, like “Grown Ups.”
Dugan thought Gottfried was so funny, in fact, that he went to the mat to defend him when Universal complained.
‘Problem Child’ Director Dennis Dugan Remembers Gilbert Gottfried’s Impact on the Film
The Universal Studios president wondered why Dugan was shooting thousands and thousands of feet of costly film for a low-budget film.
“So they were yelling: ‘What are you doing there? You’re way over budget on film,'” Dugan explained. “I go, ‘Well, we’re doing a comedy, right?’ And they go, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘Well, we got Gilbert Gottfried. And when I’d say action, Gilbert Gottfried does the script, and then he just starts going. You don’t say cut. You just let him go. Don’t look at how long it is — watch the film, and see what you think.’ And so they called me back, and they go, ‘All right. You’re OK because he’s that funny.’”
Few actors can get away with angering a studio present and being forgiven because their comedy is just that good. But Gilbert Gottfried wasn’t like many actors or comedians.
“He was just a wonderful guy to work with — completely committed,” Dugan continued. “And when he started acting, you’d think he should be committed because he would just go as crazy as you possibly can.”
Despite the craziness, Dugan is truly thankful to Gottfried. The comedian really shaped how the director would handle other films, especially comedies.
“Working with him really helped me later on,” Dugan admitted. “Going to Grown Ups was a great example. Because we’d shoot a scene with those five guys and then start rolling, and then they would just start yakking. I knew from working with Gilbert, if there’s a fire going, just throw kindling onto it. Because you can shout out stuff to them in the middle of it — ‘Try this, try that’ — and that was the same with him. He would do anything you asked, plus 3,000 times more.”