The Weeknd on 'SNL': Why 'Uncut Gems' Fans Were Stoked About His Performance

The Weeknd's appearance on Saturday Night Live this weekend included a performance of his new song, "Scared to Live" with composer Onehitric Point Never. The new song appeared to reference the composer's score for Uncut Gems, the acclaimed thriller starring Adam Sandler from last year, sending fans into a frenzy. The Weeknd appeared in the film, playing a pivotal role as himself.

Oneohtrix Point Never, whose real name is Daniel Lopatin, appeared on stage with The Weeknd during the performance, which only seemed fair since "Scared to Live" sampled his Uncut Gems score. The song also interpolated Elton John's "Your Song."

"Scared to Live" is expected to be included on The Weeknd's next album, After Hours, which will be released on March 20. The record also includes the singles "Heartless," "Blinding Lights" and the title track.

In a Variety interview ahead of Uncut Gems' debut at Telluride last fall, Uncut Gems co-director Josh Safdie praised The Weeknd as a true cinephile.

"He's a friend of ours, and he's a real cinephile, Abel," Safdie, who directed the film with brother Benny Safdie, said. "Real cinephile. Like, one of his favorite filmmakers is (David) Cronenberg, and that makes sense, because he's from Toronto. But he watches a lot of movies."

The Safdies asked The Weeknd to play himself in the film, which is set in 2012. The movie finds Sandler's gambling addict jeweler Howard Ratner running into several real people, including NBA legend Kevin Garnett, as his own life spirals out of control. The Weeknd had a very specific idea of how he wanted to play himself, the Safdies said, and he performed "The Morning."

"Originally we were going to maybe do an original song," Safdie explained. "He and Dan (Loptatin), our composer, went into the studio and made like four or five amazing tracks. One of them we were going to use in the movie. Then we were like, you know what, this should be a time capsule. And he agreed.

"We vacillated between 'The Morning' and a few others, but that was really the one. And then we had to go through the rights because he wrote it with another person — that was seven years ago."

"That's a real, live performance," Benny said of The Weeknd's performance. "That was something that he didn't have to do, but he's like, 'I want this to be real.' It added to the energy of the whole room. Everybody was so excited. You can just feel it bleeding out of the screen."

The Weeknd was only on screen for a few moments, far less than Garnett, but he did get a memorable fight scene with Sandler. Benny said there were no body doubles and the singer was really fighting with Sandler.

"Everybody wanted to get into it, really get down and dirty with us," Benny told Variety. "It was heavily choreographed, but still, none of that stuff is easy... We had to make a thick foam version of the floor in this nightclub that was the size of the whole floor. Of course the floor is zigzag black and white.

"It was a very difficult thing to do, because we like to show violence in wide-ish shots so that you can actually see people falling to the floor and stuff."

Uncut Gems was released to critical acclaim in December and earned Sandler some of the best reviews of his career. The National Board of Review included it on the list of the best 2019 films, and Sandler picked up the Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead. Unfortunately, Sandler was not nominated for an Oscar, but the film is destined to be a cult classic.


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