Dennis Dugan
Dennis Barton Dugan

(1946-09-05) September 5, 1946 (age 77)
EducationGoodman Theater School (BFA)
Occupation(s)Film director, actor, comedian
Years active1968–present
Notable workProblem Child
Brain Donors
Beverly Hills Ninja
National Security
Happy Gilmore
Big Daddy
I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry
You Don't Mess with the Zohan
Grown Ups
Just Go with It
Jack and Jill
(m. 1973; div. 1987)
  • Sharon O'Connor (present)

Dennis Barton Dugan (born September 5, 1946) is an American film director, actor, and comedian. He is known for directing the films Problem Child, Brain Donors, Beverly Hills Ninja and National Security, and his partnership with comedic actor Adam Sandler, for whom he directed the films Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, The Benchwarmers, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, You Don't Mess with the Zohan, Grown Ups, Just Go with It, Jack and Jill and Grown Ups 2. Dugan is a four-time Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director nominee, winning once.

Early life

Dugan was born in Wheaton, Illinois, the second of four sons of Marion, a housewife, and Charles Dugan, an insurance executive. He graduated from The Goodman School of Drama at the Art Institute of Chicago (now at DePaul University) and started his acting career in 1969 in New York City.


He moved to Hollywood in 1972 and appeared in his first TV show, The Sixth Sense. Later, he played in the 1973 TV movie The Girl Most Likely to.... Other early film appearances include Night Call Nurses (1972), Night Moves (1975), Smile (1975), Harry and Walter Go to New York (1976) and Norman... Is That You? (1976). In 1979, he was cast as the time-displaced hero in Unidentified Flying Oddball, Disney's very loose adaptation of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. In 1981, he appeared in Joe Dante's The Howling.

Dugan made guest appearances on several TV series during the 1970s including The Mod Squad, The Waltons, Cannon, Columbo, The Rockford Files, and Alice. He also appeared in the mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man, as well as two episodes of M*A*S*H and in 1978 starred in the short-lived series Richie Brockelman, Private Eye, a spin-off from The Rockford Files.

He took on a recurring role as an aspiring caped crusader who called himself "Captain Freedom" on Hill Street Blues.[1] He also appeared on Empire (1984) and Shadow Chasers (1984). He played Walter Bishop, briefly the husband of Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) on Moonlighting.[2] Dugan's other film credits of the 1980s include Water (1985), Can't Buy Me Love (1987), She's Having a Baby (1988), The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking (1988) and Ron Howard's Parenthood (1989).

Dugan launched a career as a television and film director, making cameo appearances in many of his films. Ones he directed include the comedy Problem Child (1990), Brain Donors (1992),[3] the comedy Saving Silverman (2001) (in which Dugan plays a football referee), the comedy National Security (2003), and the Adam Sandler comedies Happy Gilmore (1996) (in which Dugan plays Doug Thompson, the golf tour supervisor) and Big Daddy (1999) (with Dugan as a man who reluctantly gives candy to a trick-or-treating Julian). Dugan has directed episodes of such television series as Moonlighting (was also a guest star in some episodes), Ally McBeal, and NYPD Blue.

Dugan directed The Benchwarmers (2006), a comedy co-produced by Sandler, about a trio of men who try to make up for missed opportunities in childhood by forming a three-player baseball team to compete against Little League squads. Dugan himself has a bit part as Coach Bellows in that film while his dad Charles portrayed the Video Stop boss Marty. He then directed two more Sandler vehicles, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007) and You Don't Mess with the Zohan (2008).

Dugan directed Grown Ups (2010), which follows a group of high school friends who are reunited after thirty years for the Fourth of July. The film again stars Sandler, along with Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, and Maya Rudolph while Dugan had a bit part as a basketball referee; it was released in the summer of 2010 with major box office success.

Dugan's Just Go with It (2011) was his sixth film with Sandler; it also starred Jennifer Aniston and Brooklyn Decker. Dugan directed Jack and Jill (2011), again with Sandler, and Grown Ups 2 (2013), with Sandler, James, Rock and Spade, all reprising their roles while Dugan had a bit part as Dr. Larry. Schneider was unable to reprise his role due to scheduling conflicts.

To date, Dugan's films have grossed over $1.8 billion worldwide.[4]

Personal life

Dugan's first marriage was to actress Joyce Van Patten in 1973. They divorced in 1987, and he later wed Sharon O'Connor, to whom he is still married.

In June 2009, Dugan's son Kelly was drafted with the 75th overall selection by the Philadelphia Phillies in the Major League Baseball Draft. A graduate of Notre Dame High School of Sherman Oaks, California, he played for five of the club's minor league teams through 2015, followed by shorter stays in the Chicago Cubs (2016) and Arizona Diamondbacks (2017) organizations before moving on to independent baseball (2018–2023).[5]




Year Title Notes
1990 Problem Child
1992 Brain Donors
1996 Happy Gilmore
1997 Beverly Hills Ninja
1999 Big Daddy Nominated- Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
2001 Saving Silverman Also known as Evil Woman
2003 National Security
2006 The Benchwarmers
2007 I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry Nominated- Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
2008 You Don't Mess with the Zohan
2010 Grown Ups
2011 Just Go with It Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
Jack and Jill
2013 Grown Ups 2 Nominated- Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
2020 Love, Weddings & Other Disasters Also writer

Acting roles

Year Title Role
1976 Norman... Is That You? Garson Hobart
1979 Unidentified Flying Oddball Tom Trimble
1981 The Howling Chris Halloran
1987 Can't Buy Me Love David Miller
1988 She's Having a Baby Bill
The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking Mr. Settigren
1989 Parenthood David Brodsky
1996 Happy Gilmore Doug Thompson
1999 Big Daddy Reluctant Trick-or-Treat Giver (uncredited)
2006 The Benchwarmers Coach Bellows
2010 Grown Ups Basketball Referee
2012 That's My Boy School janitor
2013 Grown Ups 2 Dr. Larry
2020 Love, Weddings & Other Disasters Eddie Stone


Year Title Notes
1973 The Waltons Episode: "The Theft"
1974 Cannon Episode: "The Deadly Trail"
1976 Columbo Episode: "Last Salute to the Commodore"
1978–79 The Rockford Files 3 episodes
1978 Richie Brockelman, Private Eye 5 episodes
1979 Supertrain Episode "Superstar"
1982 Hill Street Blues 4 episodes
1987 Hunter 2 episodes
1988 Wiseguy Episode: "Phantom Pain"
1988–89 Moonlighting 5 episodes
1985–86 Shadow Chasers 14 episodes
1975, 1983 M*A*S*H 2 episodes
1993 Doogie Howser, M.D. Episode: "What Makes Doogie Run"
Columbo Episode: "Butterfly in Shades of Grey"
1993–94 L.A. Law 2 episodes
1993–2004 NYPD Blue
1994 Burke's Law Episode: "Who Killed Nick Hazard?"
1994 Traps
The Byrds of Paradise 2 episodes
1994–95 Picket Fences 2 episodes
1995 Marker Episode: "The Pilot"
Chicago Hope Episode: "Freeze Outs"
1998 Love Boat: The Next Wave Episode: "Smooth Sailing"
Ally McBeal Episode: "Alone Again"
1999 Shasta McNasty Episode: "Pilot"
2004 The Mullets Episode: "Silent But Deadly"
2005 Hope & Faith Episode: "Wife Swap" (Parts 1 and 2)

TV movies


  1. ^ Weisman, Jon (December 3, 2010). "Remembering Dennis Dugan and Captain Freedom on 'Hill Street Blues'". Variety. Retrieved May 22, 2020.
  2. ^ Kaufman, Joanne; Sheff, Viki (March 28, 1988). "Moonlighting's New Groom, Dennis Dugan, May Be Tv's Most Hated Hubby". People.
  3. ^ Maslin, Janet (April 18, 1992). "A Night At the Ballet Run Amok". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Heisler, Steve (December 3, 2010). "Dennis Dugan: A quiet hitmaker". Variety. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
  5. ^ "Kelly Dugan Minor League Statistics & History". Sports Reference. Retrieved September 26, 2022.