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Behind-The-Scenes Stories From 'Dumb And Dumber'

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Vote up the most entertaining tales from the making of the 1990s comedy classic.

High on the list of moviegoing guilty pleasures is the Farrelly Brothers' 1994 hit Dumb and Dumber, the last of three films that year (after Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask) that catapulted Jim Carrey into the stratosphere of movie stardom. Along for the ride came respected actor Jeff Daniels; he had already been making movies for more than a decade, but opened a new dimension in his career with his portrayal of Lloyd Christmas's sweet, dim-witted sidekick, Harry Dunne.

With a rookie director, a modest budget, and a co-star whose agents were begging him not to take the part in the first place, Dumb and Dumber could have been a recipe for chaos. Instead, it became a hit for the ages. Here's how it all happened.

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    1,379 VOTES

    The ‘Big Gulp’ Guys Were Not Paid Extras

    One of the odder bits of improv occurs when Christmas walks out of a convenience store and notices two men standing outside drinking Big Gulps. He cheerfully says, "Hey, guys! Oh, Big Gulps, huh? All right. Well, see ya later!" The men just look back at him, rather bemused.

    Some have speculated that Carrey was trying to goad the guys into speaking because they were extras, and if they said anything, they would have to be paid more. But this theory is wrong, because the men weren't extras at all. They were just two guys hanging out by the location where the scene was filming. Drawing upon guerrilla-filmmaking instincts, director Peter Farrelly decided to put them in the scene.

    “One line that was definitely ad-libbed is the Big Gulp line,” Farrelly wrote in a Reddit Ask Me Anything thread. “In fact, the two guys he was talking to weren’t even extras, they were just hanging out, watching us shoot and I decided to pull them in. They happened to have Big Gulps and Jim just ran with it. True story.”

    Evidently, the guys weren't paid, but at least they achieved comedy immortality.

  • Although the Farrellys encouraged actors to try different things over multiple takes, thus developing the comedy organically, improv tended to be collaborative. But Jim Carrey (as Lloyd Christmas) found moments to sneak in some ideas all his own.

    According to actor Victoria Rowell, who played FBI agent Beth Jordan, one such moment occurred in the scene where Christmas walks out of the lodge with a "Man Walks On The Moon" headline on the wall. The joke - Christmas is so dumb that this is the first time he's heard of the moon landing, and he excitedly says "No way!" - was unscripted. Rowell recalled:

    There was a scene where we're at the bar, and the POV is now Jim walking out of the bar, the lodge. And as he walked out he stopped and he looked at this framed newspaper article - it was a prop, up on the wall - and he ad-libbed. It required great restraint, again, for everyone not to crack up laughing. It was just a genius moment. It was pure Jim Carrey.

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    A Week Into Filming, Jeff Daniels Realized He Was Still Auditioning

    Jeff Daniels filmed the scooter scene with Jim Carrey on the very first day of filming, but for the rest of that week, Carrey was nowhere to be seen. Gradually, Daniels came to understand that although he'd been offered the part, he still had something to prove:

    Jim didn't work the rest of the week. We went to the lodge, we did the chairlift on the pole with the tongue on the pole; we did the tongue sitting there getting pulled off; we did going into the ski lodge, crashing the skis. Jim's not working. Now we do the snowball in the head. Now we get to Thursday and Friday, and Jim hasn't worked yet. And I may be in Dumb and Dumber, but I'm not stupid. The audition is still going on.

    Fortunately, Daniels's work in those early scenes persuaded everyone that he was the right man for the job. The following week, he got the final seal of approval:

    [I] go into makeup Monday morning... Jim walks into the makeup trailer, pats me on the shoulder, leans in, and says, "Just keep doing what you're doing. They love you." [...] Jim Carrey's a friend to this day.

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    Jim Carrey Wanted An Actor, Not A Comedian, As His Co-Star

    Although Dumb and Dumber is a comedy, it's also a buddy movie. Jim Carrey understood that - or, less charitably, he didn't want to be upstaged - so he pushed for a dramatic actor to play the role of Harry Dunne.

    Jeff Daniels, the dramatic actor who got the part, explained it to Lola Ogunnaikeon on People TV's Couch Surfing:

    Look who I get to react to... Jim is a comedic genius.... [He] wanted an actor. There were comedians that wanted it, and he wanted an actor that would make him listen, 'cause he knew it was ping-pong, it was back-and-forth. And so I just let him lead, and Harry Dunne was like on a half-second delay to whatever Lloyd would do.

  • John Hughes Came Up With The Idea, But Warned The Producers Not To Credit Him Or They’d Have To Pay $1 Million
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    John Hughes Came Up With The Idea, But Warned The Producers Not To Credit Him Or They’d Have To Pay $1 Million

    Dumb and Dumber had a long and tortuous journey to the big screen. It actually began as a concept by director John Hughes (pictured), the comedy giant who brought the world hits like The Breakfast Club, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and Home Alone. Screenwriter Bennett Yellin, who at the time worked with the Farrellys to rewrite other peoples' scripts, recalled:

    [Hughes] called us to his office and started telling us about this idea he’d had while at Warner Bros. These two guys had come to his mind - Harry and Lloyd - and he ended up writing like 50 pages about them. But there was no plot. It was just these two idiots running around a ski resort. When we met with Hughes, he gave us the 50 pages and told us, “Come back and pitch me a movie.” We went away, came back and pitched the entire plot of Dumb and Dumber to him. He loved it, so he told us to go write it.

    They wrote the script, but by the time it was finished, Hughes's deal with Universal Pictures had fallen through, and all of his projects were dumped. Dumb and Dumber languished in "development hell" for a time, but Yellin and the Farrellys still loved it and wanted to try to make it:

    [W]e finally went to him and asked him if we could try to do something with it. He said yes, but that we couldn’t use his name; otherwise we’d have to pay him a million dollars. Because of that, we never talked about how it came from John Hughes, but he’s the one who set it in motion.

  • Peter Farrelly Was A Total Directing Rookie, But Quickly Learned Two Rules Of Filming Jim Carrey
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    Peter Farrelly had never directed a feature before Dumb and Dumber, and had to learn the job as he went along. Bobby Farrelly speculated that the duo's inexperience may in fact have contributed to the fun, improvisatory feeling on set:

    Maybe we were fresher then, maybe we were doing something then that we’d love to recapture now. We know a lot more about filmmaking now, but it was our naivete and our willingness to go for it - that was the magic, and I don’t know if we’ve ever beaten it.

    We didn’t really know what we were doing. We gave a speech on the first day to the crew: "We know the script, but we don’t know a lot about moviemaking. If anyone is thinking, 'Why are they doing that?' come over and tell us."

    Farrelly was a quick study, though, and soon developed two key rules for directing Jim Carrey:

    Rule #1: "Don't ever do a closeup of Jim after lunch, 'cause he's always asleep."

    Rule #2: "Never cut a scene when you think it's over. Let it run, because he's gonna come up with the best stuff."