That led Carrey to seek studio tentpoles worthy of his asking price, from 'Liar, Liar' ($302.7 worldwide) to 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' ($345 worldwide) and his career peak, 'Bruce Almighty' (485 million worldwide). Unusually, Carrey doesn't like to repeat himself on sequels: 'The Mask,' 'Dumb & Dumber' and 'Bruce Almighty' sequels all went ahead without him. Career Watch is a new bi-weekly column by veteran film reporter and Moviefone guest-blogger Anne Thompson. Every other week, Thompson will look at the career of a major Hollywood star, analyze the moves they've made thus far and offer career advice on where they could or should head from here. This week: comic star Jim Carrey.
Signature line: "Somebody stop me." In 1994, Jim Carrey shot out of 'The Mask' like a cannon -- and while the bouncy physical comedian has lost velocity, he's still airborne.
Career Peaks: From the start, Canadian Carrey boasted boyish charm, rubber limbs, energy to burn and a nasty streak, all in evidence on TV's 'In Living Color' and 'Ace Ventura: Pet Detective' and its sequel, 'When Nature Calls.' Carrey earned $7 million and delivered another surprise hit with the Farrelly brothers' $15-million comedy 'Dumb & Dumber.' After his cackling Riddler in 'Batman Forever,' he scored a controversial first-ever $20 million payday for 'The Cable Guy,' which opened to almost $20 million -- but dropped like a stone, topping out at $102 million worldwide. That led Carrey to seek studio tentpoles worthy of his asking price, from 'Liar, Liar' ($302.7 worldwide) to 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' ($345 worldwide) and his career peak, 'Bruce Almighty' (485 million worldwide). Unusually, Carrey doesn't like to repeat himself on sequels: 'The Mask,' 'Dumb & Dumber' and 'Bruce Almighty' sequels all went ahead without him.
Awards Attention: Carrey has been nominated for six Golden Globes, and won two back-to-back, for 1998's 'The Truman Show' and, a year later, 'Man on the Moon.' Both earned the star glowing reviews, but still no Oscar nomination -- nor did the Academy come through for Michael Gondry's success d'estime 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.'
Latest Misfire: Carrey's attempt to go indie, the $13-million romantic comedy 'I Love You Philip Morris,' set off no rockets at Sundance or Cannes in 2009; a year later the gay-themed rom-com about a con man who falls for fellow inmate (Ewan McGregor) in prison had been delayed indefinitely; its backer, Luc Besson's Europa Corp, is seeking a new distributor. "This has another Jim Carrey bomb written all over it," wrote one blog commenter.
Biggest Problem: Carrey is too old to play the goofy adolescent and seems loathe to abandon big-budget star vehicles, even though stars aren't driving the gravy train anymore. Carrey's attempts to stretch in dramatic roles haven't connected with moviegoers, from the Capra-corny 'The Majestic' to the horrific 'The Number 23.' Becoming Tom Hanks or Jack Lemmon didn't work for Carrey, who just isn't beloved in the same way. Romantic leads are not his forte either; 'Fun with Dick and Jane' and 'Yes Man' earned modest returns. Carrey took a serious cut in his rate to get the latter film made, moving from a $20 million salary when Twentieth Century Fox put the film in turnaround because it was too pricey to a ground-breaking zero upfront vs. cash break back-end deal masterminded by his managers. Carrey also gave up his fee for Tim Burton's 'Ripley's Believe it Or Not' at Paramount, but then scotched the deal by demanding script changes. Carrey's still attached with director Chris Columbus, but the project isn't moving.
Biggest Assets: In great shape at 48, Carrey is the most gifted physical comedian of his generation. He bungee-jumped off a bridge on 'Yes Man,' and played multiple roles in Robert Zemeckis's performance-capture film 'A Christmas Carol,' which followed a familiar pattern of more than doubling its domestic gross overseas. Much like Eddie Murphy these days, Carrey does best behind a mask, transformed by makeup or animation in such family films such as 'Horton Hears a Who!' or 'Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.' He popped as Ronald Reagan in Funny or Die's reunion of 'Saturday Night Live' presidential impersonators.
Current Gossip: Oddly, no sooner was Carrey gaining weight to play Curly in a 'Three Stooges' movie (that later stalled) and sharing that he was a grandfather on Twitter, than on April 6 he and five-year-girlfriend Jenny McCarthy both tweeted their break-up. Then @jimcarrey got into hot water for defending Tiger Woods. "No wife is blind enough to miss that much infidelity," tweeted Carrey. "Elin had 2 b a willing participant on the ride 4 whatever reason. Kids/lifestyle." He added: "I want 2 make it CLEAR that I do not condone infidelity at all, but 2 some degree the responsibility 4 it is shared by both people." Soon he was being told to "tame my tweets a little," and asking his 778,000 followers to cut him slack as he was "a little on edge." As someone who confessed to bouts of depression on '60 Minutes,' Carrey's Eckhart-Tollish spirituality spills into his tweets. This week @jimcarrey tweeted: "In a world where 'sane' often means 'inauthentic,' I'd prefer to be called madman!"
Next Step: Carrey is announced for one movie after another that falls apart, from 'The Three Stooges' to a remake of the musical 'Damn Yankees.' He's still attached to play the Ray Walston Devil role opposite ball player Jake Gyllenhaal; Adam Shankman exited, replaced by writer-director Todd Graff. 'Butter' is going ahead without Carrey: 'Daily Show' alum Rob Corrdry is in, opposite Jennifer Garner and Kate Hudson.
Career Advice: "All Carrey has to do is step back into a role where he does that funny thing and he's back," says one producer. "He doesn't have to do leading men. Audiences would welcome him." He could also take notes from George Clooney: play his own age, look for strong comedy scripts and stop worrying about star vehicles with a big payday. (Because Clooney takes $1.5 million upfront in exchange for a piece of the gross, he can take more risks on a wide range of movies of varying budgets.) "Jim is very funny," says one talent agent, "without being juvenile and making the crazy faces. He should look for smarter stuff with a bit of edge, with appeal to both teens and adults. Let him go do his thing and have a great second act to his career being brilliant at what he's brilliant at doing."
Anne Thompson -- who has served as Deputy Editor of Variety.com and The Hollywood Reporter, West Coast Editor of Premiere and Senior Writer at Entertainment Weekly -- writes a daily blog on indieWIRE, Thompson on Hollywood. You can check out some of her latest posts here:
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