Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels aren’t exactly Abbott and Costello. But when it comes to the success of the Dumb and Dumber series, you would assume that each was of equal importance to the success of the comedic equation. Well, not exactly – at least, not initially.
In a lengthy conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Dumb and Dumber To co-directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly have been speaking in interviews about the creation of the original film – which faced a rocky road through production. The siblings claim they had to fight with the studio over multiple factors they wanted in their comedy – starting with the inclusion of Jeff Daniels as Harry Dunne. At the time, the Newsroom star wasn’t exactly a household name. It was his performance in 1986’s Something Wild that caught the Farrelly’s attention. But as the duo recalls, Carrey wanted Daniels following a successful script reading together, and the studio turned him down. Bobby Farrelly recalls:
The studio didn’t want him. They said, ‘Please, anyone but [Jeff Daniels]. Get a comedic actor.’ So they offered him, if I recall, [$]50 grand, which was, you know, Jim’s getting seven million, they offered him 50 figuring he’ll say, ‘No, I’m not taking that.’ But he took it."
And the rest, as they say, is history. Were the studio heads wrong? Not exactly. "Comedians," in 1994, were defined by the likes of sitcom stars – from Tim Allen in The Santa Clause to John Goodman in The Flintstones. Jim Carrey did his part to correct that, releasing Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber in the same year (!!) But no, studios weren’t willing to take a risk on character actors on the off chance they might be hilarious.
The studio miscalculations also led to Jim Carrey’s massive payday. As the Farrelly’s remember it, the studio initially could have had Carrey in the role of Lloyd Christmas for $400,000. They kept hedging their bets, though, and with each passing week, Ace Ventura kept succeeding – driving up Carrey’s asking price.
In hindsight, you realize that these two had such incredible (and bankable) chemistry that a studio would be wise to hand them a blank check, then wait to see what they come back with. At least, that’s what has led to the sequel, Dumb and Dumber To, which opens in theaters on Friday. Do you think Jeff Daniels earned more money to appear in that one?