Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: This week, Jack Giarraputo has been telling associates at studios like Sony and Paramount that he will retire after he finishes producing the Warner Bros comedy Blended, and after that the Chris Columbus-directed Pixels for Sony. The 46-year old Giarraputo has been Adam Sandler‘s partner in Happy Madison since the company’s inception in 1995. So why would a young guy step out of a dream job at a company that continues to thrive, and which just saw Grown Ups 2 turn in a $113 million foreign gross to become the biggest offshore result for a Happy Madison pic?

Believe it or not, Giarraputo made a life decision that is based on making time for his sons, who at seven and four years old need a father who doesn’t spend all his time away on a movie set or working late developing scripts. And so Giarraputo told Sandler, his best friend since their days as NYU students, that he was going to step out in about about 18 months. Giarraputo will retire from movie producing. He will take on other ventures that he can do while making his family the main priority. That includes becoming a director at Jiaflix, a startup that will stream movies to China. He will also become involved in pursuits like private equity film funding and investing. But his main job title is going to be: Dad.

This wrestling match between career ambition and family is something that everyone here in Hollywood has to deal with, and I sympathize. I had the unique opportunity to work mostly from my home in Long Island and cover a great business at Variety and Deadline while also being able to be there to coach my kids’ soccer teams, and attend every ear-bleeding recital. Every call I took from an agent or studio exec, there was a screaming kid in the background. Now, I’m on the other side of that; my kids are almost grown up, and I will spend half my time in Hollywood as my colleague Nellie Andreeva and our team of reporters and editors put our own stamp on Deadline Hollywood. It has been harder to do it this way–covering Hollywood from Long Island is on its surface preposterous–but I wouldn’t trade a second of having been home with my family, all the time. It will probably be easier for Giarraputo, who has made a fortune producing Sandler-driven hits, to make this kind of choice. But he is still giving up a lot to be with his kids. I find it most laudable.

Giarraputo grew up in Patchogue, one town over from where I live in Holtsville. He served as a ferry boat captain as a teen (those were the guys who churned up a nasty wake for guys like me, standing in boats pulling a clam rake in the Great South Bay), and he went to NYU with the intention of being a lawyer. He met Sandler when they were at NYU. Then, Giarraputo went off to law school while Sandler struggled to make it as a comedian. Giarraputo found he hated law school, and on a lark, went to LA to visit Sandler, who by this time was living with other struggling comedians. Giarraputo slept on Sandler’s couch for three months, much to the consternation of Sandler’s roommate. That roomie was Judd Apatow, and perhaps in an attempt to compensate him enough so Giarraputo could get his own damn couch, Apatow hired him as his assistant on The Ben Stiller Show. Sandler, meanwhile, became a star on Saturday Night Live and transferred that to features with Billy Madison. Giarraputo and Sandler formed Happy Madison and have been together ever since.

They have presided over one of the most financially successful star-driven production companies over that time. While Sandler has been able to keep his kids around him and make them his priority while shooting movies, Giarraputo found himself being away for four months, working 15 hours a day, and missing his kids way too much. After producing more than 30 movies, he decided enough was enough. I bet that someday in the distant future when he’s an old man pondering his life choices, Giarraputo won’t be saying, I wish I had made one more sequel. More likely, he will be glad he had the luxury to put his family first, and that he took advantage of it.