1994 was a very good year for Jim Carrey. When the year started he was making $350,000 for Ace Ventura — definitely not peanuts, but nothing compared to his $7 million Dumb & Dumber paycheck. In between those two movies we had The Mask, which is 20 years old this week. The success of Ace Ventura helped make The Mask the second highest-grossing movie based on a comic book after Batman and launched Cameron Diaz’s career. It also picked up an Oscar nomination for “Best Visual Effects” — Forrest Gump won — and a Razzie Award for Jim Carrey. (Some awards are better than others, but something is better than nothing, right?)
The movie didn’t start out as comical live-action cartoon, it was largely Carrey’s rubber-faced persona that pushed it in that direction. More on that later though, we’ll kick things off with some trivia on how Carrey adapted to his green alter ego.
1. The Mask’s over-sized teeth were meant to be a visual only. The giant teeth that Stanley Ipkiss has when wearing the mask were only meant to be a visualization prop. Carrey liked the way they looked though and learned to speak his lines while wearing them, giving producers freedom to use them more often.
2. Jim Carrey’s elasticity saved the special effects team some cash. Working with an actor that has a face and body movements as rubbery as Jim Carrey’s has its advantages. The special effects team was able to cut back on some of the digital effects and save a little cash because Carrey could contort his body and face naturally.
3. The Mask’s yellow zoot suit was inspired by Carrey’s mother. The bright yellow suit that Stanley Ipkiss wears was based on a similar-looking suit jacket that Jim Carrey’s mother made him when he had his first stand-up TV appearance.
4. There was a $6,550,000 difference between Carrey’s paycheck for The Mask and Dumb & Dumber. Jim Carrey only took home $450,000 for his role in The Mask, mere peanuts compared to the $7 million dollar paycheck he banked for Dumb & Dumber just a few months later. The way the New Line Cinema was able to snag Carrey for such a cheap deal was because they secured him for the movie before Ace Ventura: Pet Detective came out and annihilated the box office, making $107 million. Nobody in Hollywood — including New Line Cinema — expected Ace Ventura to be a hit and when it was Carrey’s price tag of course skyrocketed.
5. It helped change movie critics’ opinions of Jim Carrey. Ave Ventura made the movie industry realize that Jim Carrey was a commercially viable star, but it didn’t do squat for him with the critics who for the most part, HATED the movie. The Mask was Carrey’s best reviewed film of 1994 and changed Roger Ebert’s opinion from calling him “a hyper goon” in his review of Ace Ventura — he gave it only 1 star — to declaring that Carrey delivered a “joyful performance” in The Mask.
6. Anna Nicole Smith almost had Cameron Diaz’s role. The Mask was Diaz’s first movie part and it happened purely by chance. During the casting process, the casting directors were looking at the late Anna Nicole Smith for the part of Stanley’s love interest, Tina Carlyle. One of the casting directors noticed Diaz leaving her modeling agency and brought her in for the project, sending Anna Nicole back to her 89 year-old millionaire hubby. The audition process wasn’t a shoo-in for Diaz though, producers made her read for the part 12 times before giving the role to her.
7. Nintendo Power Magazine was ready to give a fan a part in the sequel. Long before the dreadful Son of the Mask — 8 Golden Raspberry Awards — there was a sequel in the works that would bring back Jim Carrey. Nintendo Power ran a contest that would have given the winner a non-speaking walk-on role in the movie. Carrey decided not to reprise his role in the end of course, and the contest winner’s dreams were forever crushed. (I’m sure they got a free t-shirt or something.)
8. A sequel with Carrey isn’t completely dead in the water. Back in 1995 Carrey had changed his mind about doing a sequel even after he was offered $10 million, but time and career decline has a way of igniting stars interest in reprising their popular roles. A few years ago Carrey told Extra that he would be open to taking part in a sequel for The Mask:
“I think I should be a part of one of my sequels, finally. I am in the mood to revisit a couple of things that I did. Kids are coming up to me about The Mask and Ace and all these things constantly. You know, [it’s a new] generation [of fans].”
We’ll find out if there’s any chance at all for a Mask 2 come November 14.
9. The Mask’s personas are based on classic cartoon characters. The main thing that attracted Jim Carrey to the project was the chance for him to act out some of his favorite cartoon characters. The Mask various personas reflect different cartoon characters: the Tasmanian Devil when he does the whirlwind spin down the street, Pepe Le Pew when he’s putting the moves on Tina, Tex Avery’s nighclub wolf when he first sees Tina, and Bugs Bunny when he’s pretending to die in the gangster’s arms.
10. The movie’s script started off much darker and more violent. The Dark Horse comics version of The Mask was based partly on the Joker and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide and those who wore the mask became “dangerous and cruel antiheroes with ultraviolent tendencies” regardless of the wearer’s personality. New Line’s early attempts followed the comic’s darker and violent theme and the studio saw it as a possible replacement for the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. The problem was developing it into a project that balanced out the comedy and horror evenly. And when Jim Carrey was brought in it shifted completely over to a comedy.