This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Up until 2014’s Dumb And Dumber To, Jim Carrey had almost always declined the opportunity to appear in sequels to his own movies. He had taken sequel roles on in franchises – Batman Forever and Kick-Ass 2 – but he’d resisted making follow-ups to The Grinch, The Mask and – for a long time – Dumb And Dumber as well.
I wonder if part of the reason for that was the bumpy behind the scenes story of Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, the one direct sequel that he did opt to make. It was a fast follow-up to his breakthrough movie, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, that was only released itself early in 1994. Following that, The Mask landed in cinemas in the summer of that year (by which time he was also knee deep in making Dumb And Dumber), and within six months, Carrey had gone from relative obscurity to global megastar.
Morgan Creek and Warner Bros wanted to cash in, and cash in quickly. It thus put the wheels in motion for Ace Ventura 2, and quickly went about tying Carrey into the project. Carrey was in a much stronger negotiating position this time around, and as a consequence, he took advice and asked for a $15 million payday. That was at the suggestion of Carrey’s friend, Steve Oedekerk, and Morgan Creek quickly paid up. Just a few months later, incidentally, Carrey would become the first actor to receive $20 million up front for a single film role, for taking on the title part in The Cable Guy. That’s a film worth an article in its own right.
Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls had an overall budget of $30 million, and Carrey had been allocated half of that. And with his new superstar status came fresh influence. He was given director approval and settled on Tom DeCerchio to make his directorial debut. He wasn’t the only candidate in contention. The Farrelly Brothers, who had just wrapped Dumb And Dumber at the time, declined the opportunity to direct the film, for instance, through a mix of scheduling – they were prepping the terrific Kingpin at the time – and feeling the material wasn’t quite for them. Just last year, meanwhile, Carrey confirmed that he’d spoken to a then-young Spike Jonze about taking the job on, but that he wasn’t convinced by him at that stage. “I’ve been kicking myself ever since,” Carrey said, unsurprising given that Being John Malkovich was just a few years away at the time.
It’s worth noting that Carrey was reportedly not keen to embark on making Ace Ventura 2, but with a director and script in place, filming began in late March of 1995, with a Christmas release date on the horizon. There was not much time to waste. As it turned out, a lot of time was nonetheless wasted.
Georgianna Robertson, Ian McNeice and Simon Callow were cast in supporting roles, but problems soon started to mount up. Robertson, as reported in Premiere magazine back in its July 1995 issue, was quickly released from the film, with the magazine’s report suggesting that she “never made it to rehearsals” and “reportedly couldn’t get her lines right.” It looks like her role was the one that Sophie Okonedo ultimately took.
Carrey, too, wasn’t happy on set. Simon Callow talked about this in his memoir, Shooting The Actor, in which he recalled how he arrived on set to quickly sense that all was not right. Carrey, he noted, “was at war with the director and the producers.” After a few days of filming, Callow took a quick trip back to England. When he returned, there had been a significant change in personnel.
DeCerchio had not had the easiest of times. Going back to that Premiere report, it noted that “Carrey would come to the set and find that he would have to reblock many of the scenes,” and crucially, not the scenes he was in. The scenes that Carrey was watching in the dailies apparently “dismayed him.” Tom DeCerchio’s side of the argument was never put across in that article, though, nor does he appear to have spoken about it publicly since.
A change of director was quickly arranged (DeCerchio would go on to direct Celtic Pride not long after), with Steve Oedekerk – who had co-written the script – offered the chance to make his directorial debut instead. Oedekerk, incidentally, had already earned Morgan Creek a fine on the first film from the Writers Guild of America, for being credited as “creative consultant.”
Oedekerk and Carrey went away for a weekend to work out what needed to be done, and – notably – what needed to be redone. Work began again on the movie, but Carrey apparently wasn’t a happy figure on set.
In Callow’s words, “[Carrey] believed, rightly or wrongly, that having paid him a sum of money beyond computation to make this sequel, they were stinting on everything else—props, studio, time. The atmosphere was somewhat strained. Jim was often ill. We shot reaction shots to scenes we had never played. Whenever Jim returned, he was possessed of a manic comic energy many times beyond what you see on the screen.”
But then Carrey was struggling to come to terms with his new-found celebrity whilst the film was being shot, and had a deadline to hit as he was needed to do promotional work for Batman Forever too. As delays began to mount, one or two wags on set began calling the film they were working on Ace Ventura Forever instead. It was not a happy shoot. To the point where everything was six weeks behind.
Callow noted that he had a commitment in the UK, and the production company behind Ace Ventura 2 encouraged him to go back and forth as required to meet it. He wouldn’t discover until later that the price of the first class flights he’d had booked were being deducted from his salary. It cost him money to make the film, not helped too by the production company also failing to reimburse him for an extra scene they asked for, that Callow broke off his holiday in Italy to film. Under contract terms, Carrey’s illnesses and thus the production overruns were decreed ‘Acts of God’, which meant there was no liability to pay overtime or extra expenses. This wasn’t, it seems, declared upfront however, although an expensive lawyer presumably insisted it was all written into the deal.
The film did hit its deadline in the end, but it didn’t seem to be a happy ship. By the time it arrived in cinemas, Carrey was done with the Ace Ventura character, and so was Steve Oedekerk. Arriving to lesser reviews than the original – although there is one gloriously funny, brilliantly crude scene in it involving an animal’s backside – the film was a big hit though, and Carrey’s star continued to shine.
But this was still a film that Carrey seemed not to like. He was reportedly uncomfortable with the depiction of native characters in the movie, nor did he apparently understand why the character of Ace would be afraid of bats. He’s not outright declared that he didn’t like the film, but tellingly, he’s not involved at all in reported plans for an Ace Ventura reboot. Nor would he make a sequel to one of his movies again for nearly two decades.
Still, as Simon Callow would note, “the very expensive Ace Ventura, Pet Detective Two was held to be less enjoyable than its very cheap predecessor.” He might just have a point there…