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As far as missed opportunities go, blowing off Adam Sandler is the “Big Daddy” of all regrets for David Seth Cohen.
Cohen has spent 22 years beating himself up over a missed bro-date with Sandler — especially after a restaurant hostess went viral for failing to recognize — and turning away — the “Murder Mystery” star at a Long Island IHOP in April.
“The IHOP thing is nothing,” the Brooklyn native and New Jersey transplant told The Post. “She thinks she has pain? This girl didn’t let him sit at a table. Imagine passing up a drink with your hero. I’ve been kicking myself since 1998. I never forgave myself.” (The hostess, by the way, did eventually get to meet the Sandman after striking TikTok gold.)
Flashback to November 1998: Cohen was a production assistant on the comedy classic “Big Daddy” when its star Sandler invited then-22-year-old Cohen to have a drink with him at his NYC apartment.
Cohen was star-struck as Sandler “started messing” with him by launching into some of his trademark goofy voices while making the offer.
But for Cohen, now 45, “It was one of those angel-devil moments,” he said, as he was still working and on the clock at the time. He said he considered it — telling himself, “Do it, man, he’s one of your heroes” — but then reluctantly passed, with his work ethic winning out.
It’s a missed opportunity that has plagued the filmmaker, especially knowing that Sandler is famously loyal to those close to him. To contend with his long-simmering regret, Cohen even made a documentary about the experience, titled “Finding Sandler,” and — 15 years after starting the film — he still hopes for a happy ending: actually having that drink with the star.
The filmmaker is now convinced that some one-on-one time years ago could have changed the trajectory of his entire life.
“This was my opportunity to get into the inner circle of a comedy legend,” said Cohen. “Adam helps out people he likes and always works with his friends.”
At times, Cohen’s ongoing self-flagellation has even been eclipsed by the scorn of his loved ones, who never let him live down the missed opportunity of a lifetime.
“My mom said, ‘You’re an idiot. What were you thinking?’ and my 10-year-old cousin said, ‘Someone should hit you with a barstool.’ ” Cohen’s sister, a school teacher, even used the experience as a cautionary tale to her students around the theme, “When opportunity knocks, answer.” The students sent a hopeful message to Cohen: “We hope you get to have that drink with Adam.”
When he turned 30 in 2006, he decided to document his pursuit to reconnect with the “Uncut Gems” star in a film, launching a project that he hopes will give his career the jumpstart it never got back in 98. Cohen zigzagged the country — from New York to Los Angeles to Sandler’s native New Hampshire and his favorite joint there, the Red Arrow Diner.
But Cohen’s obsession may have ruffled some feathers along the way. He claimed that Sandler’s manager called Cohen in 2007 with a plea to rethink his project.
“He got my number and basically said, ‘I think you should stop production … [but] we’re not going to stop you from doing anything,” Cohen said.
When contacted by The Post, a representative for Sandler stated that his manager “never asked him to stop production on his project.” However, Cohen insisted that conversation did happen.
As far as jump-starting a get-together with Sandler, Cohen only envisioned a casual meeting — involving, say, hoodies, sweatpants and some Budweisers. But he even tried to sweeten the deal, aiming to make it “the coolest drinks ever.” At separate events in 2006, he approached celeb chef Emeril Lagasse about making them appetizers and Billy Joel about serenading them on piano — with both requests captured on film for the documentary — to no avail.
The long-ago missed opportunity even haunted Cohen’s dating life. In 2019, his Hinge profile noted that blowing off Sandler was his biggest regret in life. Cohen got married last year, but the first time his now-wife wrote to her future husband on Hinge, she wrote: “I can’t believe you passed up a drink with Adam Sandler!”
While Sandler’s team has been “ducking” him for 15 years, Cohen said he is ready to accept whatever fate brings him. He is shopping “Finding Sandler” on the film festival circuit, but he isn’t holding his breath for a fairytale Hollywood ending — with the pair finally clinking glasses.
“He’s Goliath and I’m just David,” he said.
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