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Jim Carrey on the long, strange 20-year trip to 'Dumb and Dumber To'

Jim Carrey on his new comedy sequel "Dumb and Dumber To: "This movie got done despite a lot of cowardice."

In December 1994, when the Farrelly Brothers comedy "Dumb and Dumber" grossed $247 million worldwide and was quickly branded a cult classic, the idea of bringing dimwitted best friends Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) back for a sequel seemed like the ultimate no-brainer. But it would take a full two decades of twists and turns involving two studios, a dead-on-arrival prequel and an untold number of false starts before the follow-up fans had craved would finally come to fruition. With "Dumb and Dumber To" opening this weekend, nearly 20 years to the day after the original hit theaters, Carrey reflected on the comedy sequel's long and sometimes dumbfounding journey to the big screen.

When the first "Dumb and Dumber" came out and was a huge hit, was there any part of you that considered trying to do a sequel right away?

I was going fast and furious at that time. I didn’t really have sequels in my mind. To me, it was always like, “That’s going to be valuable time I could be doing something else or creating another character.” Since then I’m a little more open to it. When characters are good and they make people feel great, why not go see them again?

There was talk of making a sequel about 10 years ago, but New Line ended up making the prequel “Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd” instead with different actors as Harry and Lloyd, and it proved a huge flop.

The businessmen basically went, “Well, it’s not really him, is it? We can cast this with anybody!” They were all talented people but I'd hate to step into the shoes of an actor who's made an iconic character. That's a tough one. So I felt bad for them but I also felt like it was a very odd thing to do.

Then there was a period over the past few years where the sequel was on-again, off-again. At one point Warner Bros. passed on it and you dropped out. Did you think it might never happen?

For years I wanted to re-up with the Farrellys and we would talk about [a "Dumb and Dumber" sequel]. It’s been a constant feeling of, “Why isn’t anyone making this movie?” We really couldn’t figure that out for a long time.

We went through probably a six-month period where every week someone at Warner Bros. would say, “We’re going to have a greenlight meeting about it.” It was week after week after week. Finally I said, “You’re not serious. Goodbye.” And then finally someone came with a serious idea.

This movie was obviously meant to be done, because it got done despite a lot of cowardice all around. It happened because people love “Dumb and Dumber,” period.

What did it feel like that first day on the set of “Dumb and Dumber To”? Is it hard not to feel self-conscious stepping back into a character you played 20 years ago?

That’s how I felt on “Ace Ventura 2” — I was like, “Am I impersonating myself now?” [laughs] But it was a blast. I was surprised at how good it felt to be that character again and be with Jeff again. There really was a feeling of re-upping an old friendship. There’s a lot of love between those two characters.

One of my great thrills ever was, after “Dumb and Dumber” came out, I got a call from Dustin Hoffman, who said it was the most real buddy relationship he’d seen in decades. I said, “Really?” He said [slipping into Hoffman impersonation], “Yeah, I totally believed that you guys have loved each other your whole lives. It was incredible.” Then he said, "Are you on your way to the studio?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "Those big buildings where they shoot – you'll come to see them as tombs." [laughs] He was joking. He's a weird guy.

At the time, the original “Dumb and Dumber” was a pretty risky movie – for one thing, the Farrellys had never directed a film – and now this sequel is a whole different kind of gamble. Do you feel a lot of pressure to meet fans’ expectations after all these years?

I feel so lucky to have stepped into something in my life that keeps reintroducing itself to new generations. Every movie I've done that's important to somebody is important to me – and "Dumb and Dumber" is one that means a lot to people. Some people use it like medicine.

So you want to honor [the original], and you also have to react to what's happening in the world. You know, the world has lost a few IQ points here and there, so you've really got to be dumb to look dumb. [laughs]

I want it to be a huge hit. I want it to be a success for everybody: for me, for the Farrellys, for Jeff, for the audience — and oh, OK, for the executives too. I hope they’re thrilled to pieces. I want it to win on all fronts. 

And if it does really well, you can come back in another 20 years and do the next one.

I’m game. I told the Farrellys we should do a "Dumb and Dumber" once every 20 years – and the next one should be called “Gum and Gummer.” [laughs] You’ve got to beat people to the joke.  

Twitter: @joshrottenberg

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