After the surprise runaway success of Billy Madison (1995), Saturday Night Live comedian Adam Sandler returned to theaters with Happy Gilmore on February 16, 1996.
The (way) off-the-green golf comedy proved to be an immediate hit and quickly became an all-time gut-busting favorite, putting shoulder-to-shoulder alongside cinema’s other ruling hole-in-one-of hilarity, Caddyshack (1980). Over the course of the next two decades, Happy Gilmore has aged into a true classic.
To celebrate 20 years of Happy Gilmore, then, here are 20 facts, figures, and inside stories regarding the movie that introduced us to Happy, Chubs, Shooter Gavin, and the brawling skills of Price Is Right host Bob Barker.
1. Happy Gilmore is about a frustrated hockey player who successfully channels that sport’s fury and aggression into golf. Adam Sandler says in real life he is “terrible” at both hockey and golf.
2. Carl Weathers, who plays Happy Gilmore’s mentor Chubbs, is most famous for his role as Rocky Balboa’s nemesis-turned-trainer Apollo Creed, as well as for the burly blockbusters Predator (1987) and Action Jackson (1988). Carl says he loves Chubbs and that Happy changed the course of his career by showing how great he could be at comedy.
3. When Chubbs reveals that an alligator bit off his right arm, it’s an in-joke to Predator fans: Weathers’ right arm gets blown off in that Arnold Schwarzenegger classic.
4. After Chubbs dies, he appears to Happy from Heaven in visions. Chubbs also makes a cameo in Adam Sandler’s son-of-the-devil comedy, Little Nicky (2000), still hanging out with the angels.
5. Kevin Costner was the producers’ first choice to play Happy Gilmore antagonist Shooter McGavin. He passed in order to make his own well-regarded (and very different) 1996 golf comedy, Tin Cup.
6. Christopher McDonald almost turned down Shooter McGavin as well, because he’d become tired of playing villains. After meeting Adam Sandler and realizing how funny the film would be, he came on board. McDonald has since said it was one of the very best moves of his career.
7. Ash vs. Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell had actually been gunning to play Shooter.
8. For their famous brawl on the links, Adam Sandler and The Price Is Right host Bob Barker won the very first MTV Movie Award for Best Fight. In 2015, Sandler and Barker reignited their Happy Gilmore "feud" on Comedy Central's Night of Too Many Stars.
9. Bob Barker is famously vegetarian and an active advocate for animal rights. He’s also an experienced martial artist who studied Tang Soo Doo karate as a student of Chuck Norris.
10. Initially, Bob wavered on doing Happy Gilmore, but when he saw how decisively he’d be depicted as winning the fistfight, he was in.
11. The Price Is Right experienced a ratings boost, particularly among young viewers, after Bob Barker’s throw-down in Happy Gilmore.
12. Happy’s gigantically intimidating boss Mr. Larson is played by 7-foot-2 cult star Richard Kiel. James Bond fans first fell in love with Kiel when he played steel-toothed super-assassin Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).
13. Audiences felt such affection for Kiel as Jaws that the character returned in the next 007 adventure, Moonraker (1979), where he switches sides and becomes James Bond’s ally. Jaws also appears in numerous James Bond video games.
14. Beneath a heap of scraggly hair and “Grizzly Adams” beard, Happy’s caddy Otto is played by Adam Sandler’s real life pal and frequent collaborator, Allen Covert. Sandler’s Happy Madison company produced Covert’s own star vehicle, Grandma’s Boy (2006).
15. Happy Gilmore director Dennis Dugan also made the Adam Sandler comedies, Big Daddy (1999), I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007), You Don’t Mess With the Zohan (2008), Grown Ups (2010), Just Go With It (2011), Jack and Jill (2011), and Grown Ups 2 (2013).
16. In addition to directing, Dennis Dugan is a highly regarded actor and was a frequent presence on 1970s and ’80s TV. He made a big impact on the acclaimed NBC cop drama Hill Street Blues as a crackpot who dressed up like a superhero and fought crime as “Captain Freedom.”
17. Francis Bay, who plays Happy’s beloved Grandma, is familiar to Seinfeld fans as the bakery customer who Jerry mugs for a marble rye while snarling, “Ah, shut up, ya old bag!”
18. Billed as “Jeering Fan,” the troublemaker who keeps calling Happy a jackass is played by SCTV great Joe Flaherty.
19. Happy Gilmore’s music score is by Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh.
20. Ben Stiller is uncredited as the evil retirement home worker, but his uniform name tag identifies him as “Hal L.”