1994: The Year of Jim Carrey

140507b-jim-carrey-1994 (Yahoo Movies)
Credit: Yahoo Movies

Jim Carrey is synonymous with comedy. Over the last three decades, he has emerged as one of the biggest Hollywood stars of all time. His talent is matched by only a few and his unique style makes him standout among his contemporaries. In 1994, he achieved something no other actor had manage to do: Carrey had three films reach number one on the American box office. Not only was this his breakout year, but Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber are now considered classics of 1990s comedy.

Beginnings

Carrey Young (Pinterest)
Credit: Pinterest

Jim Carrey was born on January 17th, 1962, to a middle-class family in Ontario, Canada. He was an extrovert from the start, eager to perform for anyone who would watch. In school, each day teachers granted Carrey five minutes to impress staff and students. The compromise was he had to be quiet the rest of the time. Even at age ten he was confident enough to send a resume to the people at the comedy skit program The Carol Burnet Show (1967-1978) asking for work. He received a gentle rejection letter from the producers but was still very happy they wrote to him. Carrey’s parents supported him where they could. His father drove and picked him up from comedy clubs throughout his teens. Carrey dropped out of high school when he was sixteen years old.

jim-carrey-dangerfield (Celebrity Gossip)
Dangerfield and Carrey Credit: Celebrity Gossip

Carrey honed his craft at a Toronto comedy club called the Yuk Yuk’s. He was noted for having potential but still a lot to learn. Carrey continued to improve his unique style, but his impressions—celebrities such as Clint Eastwood and Elvis Presley—were already gaining attention. Legendary comic Rodney Dangerfield loved Carrey and asked him to come on the road to be his support act. Carry was thrilled with the experience but, after a year, decided to give Hollywood a shot in the early 1980s. The two remained good friends until Dangerfield’s passing in 2004. Carrey got small roles over the next few years, notably in Earth Girls Are Easy (1988) along side Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis and Damon Wayans. From 1990 to 1994, Carrey was a regular on In Living Color, a comedy variety show, and gained considerable exposure.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Ace (Weheartit)
Credit: We Heart It

The original character for Ace Ventura was a dopey idiot who was a Sherlock Holmes parody. When Carrey came on board, he rewrote a lot of the script to make Ventura more suited to himself. Some days Carrey spent anywhere from fifteen to sixteen hours on the set of In Living Color and then worked to the early hours of the morning on Ventura material. He received a credit for his screenplay contributions. Ventura’s iconic ‘alrighty then’ catchphrase was a saying Carrey had been using since his stand-up days.

Before Carrey was cast, producers considered Mike Myers, Alan Rickman, Rick Moranis and Johnny Depp for the role. At one point, they even thought about making the character a woman and naming her Alice Ventura. Whoopi Goldberg was their first choice.

Carrey found inspiration for the character’s movements and mannerisms in parakeets and cockatiels. Years later, he had the opportunity of asking Anthony Hopkins about his performance as Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs (1991). Hopkins had used the same technique basing Lector on animals also, a reptile in his case.

Lector 01 (iMDB)
Hopkins as Lector Credit: iMDB

On a budget of $12 million (no figures in this article have been adjusted for inflation), Ace Ventura made nearly $200 million worldwide.

The Mask

Mask Face (Amazon)
Credit: Amazon

The Mask began its life as a comic in the early 1980s. It followed the adventures of Stanley Ipkiss who, after putting on the mask, becomes an anti-superhero seeking revenge. With Warner Bros.’ success with Batman (1989), New Line Cinema wanted to copy the formula and were looking for comic book material that could be turned into a movie. They bought the rights to The Mask. The project made its way through several director’s hands before ending up with Chuck Russell. The studio was unsure about Russell’s ideas because he wanted to drastically shift tone. The comic was very dark and violent in nature while the film would be a comedy with cartoon elements. Russell told screenwriter Mike Werb to write with Carrey in mind for the part. The Mask would also have to rely heavily on CG effects that hadn’t yet been invented. Production pushed forward with an $18 million budget.

Russell 01 (iMDB)
Chuck Russel Credit: iMDB

It took four hours to apply the green makeup to Carrey. The character’s bright yellow suit was inspired by an outfit Carrey wore in his early stand-up career. He also helped to save money on effects in post-production because he could contort and stretch his face and body so naturally. He performed comedy between takes to keep the cast and crew’s stress levels down.

Other actors considered to play the Mask include Steve Martin, Matthew Broderick and Martin Short.

The film was the most expensive for New Line Cinema to make at the time. It grossed over $350 million worldwide and turned Carrey into a superstar. For a period, it was also the second highest grossing comic book movie of all time. Number one being Batman.

Its sequel, Son of the Mask (2005), which did not involve Carrey or any of the original creatives, is considered one of the worst films of all time.

Dumb and Dumber

Carrey and Daniels (iMDB)
Carrey and Daniels Credit: iMDB

The Farrelly Brothers (Peter and Bobby) had been writing and shopping scripts around Hollywood for near ten years without luck. They decided to rework an idea that would become Dumb and Dumber. The two main characters of the film were named after silent film comedian Harry Lloyd. The Farrelly Brothers had no prior directing experience and winged it most days on set. They kept waiting for producers to send someone to replace them. The two are now some of the biggest comedy directors of modern Hollywood, with films like There’s Something About Mary (1998) and Me, Myself & Irene (2001).

Bobby and Peter (iMDB)
Bobby and Peter Farrelly Credit: iMDB

Carrey was making The Mask when the script was sent to him. He liked it but insisted on Jeff Daniels playing Harry. Daniels had been acting in serious dramas and his agent said the film would destroy his career. Dumb and Dumber is his most successful to date.

Carrey had chipped a tooth when he was young. He removed the cap during filming to make his character, Lloyd, appear more idiotic.

Part of the movie was shot in the Stanley Hotel, made famous by The Shining (1980). Carrey requested to stay in Room 217 that was said to be haunted. A couple of hours after going to bed, Carrey was seen by a tour guide running and screaming from the hotel. To this date, Carrey has never gone into details about the incident.

Dumb and Dumber made $250 million worldwide.

Later Years

Carrey’s career continued to prosper in comedies such as Liar Liar (1997) and Yes Man (2008). He has also appeared in serious roles in The Truman Show (1998) and Man on the Moon (1999). He received a Golden Globe nomination for Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004). He is an avid painter and has a private studio in New York.

Carrey 01 (iMDB)
Credit: iMDB

Sources:

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective – iMDB (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109040/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_45)

Dumb and Dumber – iMDB (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109686/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_43)

Exploring The Mask – Video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qG2teHAFmKI&list=PLU0Cu1gVmh2ea7rbs3QZPI8S8hbN-kg1y&index=12)

Jim Carrey Biography (https://www.biography.com/people/jim-carrey-9542079)

Jim Carrey – iMDB (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000120/)

The Mask – iMDB (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110475/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_44)

Undercover Indies: Why ‘Dumb and Dumber’ is Smarter (and More Indie) Than You Think (https://www.filmindependent.org/blog/undercover-indies-dumb-dumber-smarter-indie-think/)