NEW YORK — No one was more surprised than congenial crooner Tony Orlando at being asked to appear in the new Adam Sandler movie "That's My Boy" — and as a rude and crude character, at that. Now he says he's caught the acting bug.
The 68-year-old Orlando says the idea to cast him in the film, which opens Friday, came about after running into Sandler at a birthday party for a mutual friend. Two days later, Sandler called him up asking if he'd want to appear in his next film.
'"I think you'd be a great character in this movie,'" Orlando recalled Sandler saying. "So I'm thinking he's just being nice. He said, 'In my opinion you have the part.'" Orlando was sent the script and asked to go in and read. The next thing he knew he got "a call from the wardrobe department asking my size."
"That's My Boy" isn't Orlando's first movie. He's played himself on the big screen. That's why it was even more of a surprise that Sandler didn't want him for a cameo but an actual role. "You know the people up in that studio were going, 'You want WHO? What was his last movie?'"
For the record, Orlando's last film was "A Star is Born," which he jokes was in 1874. It was really 1976.
In "That's My Boy," Sandler is a slacker who fathered a son as a teen and named him Han Solo. He raised the boy until he was 18. Now, years later, he's looking to reconnect with his grown son, played by Andy Samberg. Orlando is Samberg's boss in the movie.
"I'm not too nice of a guy," Orlando admitted in a recent interview. "(Sandler) has me playing this kind of very wealthy, self-indulgent, overweight billionaire who thinks the world revolves around him. People think he's a nice guy but he's really turning it on."
Not only is he a shady character but his dialogue was filled with obscenities, which the G-rated Orlando had initial reservations about.
"I've never used the F-word in my life onstage," he admitted. Sandler told him, "If you say that you're gonna get the biggest laugh of your life." Turns out, he was right.
"I went to the premiere the other night and I'm thinking, 'What's this audience gonna do?' The laughter was explosive. I walked up to Sandler afterward and said, 'How'd you know?' He said, 'Tony boy, I told you it was gonna work.'"
Orlando believes Sandler has an eye for finding interesting people to appear in his movies who will strike a chord with viewers. "He used Bob Barker in a fight scene in 'Happy Gilmore,'" Orlando noted. "Vanilla Ice and Todd Bridges are in 'That's My Boy.' He just has a way of taking people who are nostalgic, fitting them into the story and making them work."
Orlando hopes this will parlay into other acting opportunities, but he's realistic that not everyone has an open mind about casting like Sandler.
"I'm ready. I'm ready. I got the bug," he said. "I think producers and casting directors have a hard time breaking through the persona if you've made it with a certain imagery. Adam didn't care! That's rare. He'd say, 'You can do this, Tony.'"