Five years ago, Peter Farrelly received a phone call, out of the blue, from Jim Carrey.
“He said he was on the road, at a hotel, and Dumb and Dumber was just beginning,” Farrelly remembers. “He said he sat there and watched the whole thing. And then he tells me: ‘God damn it, we gotta do another one.'”
And with that, Dumb and Dumber To was born.
Over the years, filmmaker siblings Peter and Bobby Farrelly had mulled over the idea of making sequels to some of their classic comedies. A Kingpin followup was on the table at one point, as was There’s Something Else About Mary.
“We didn’t want it to be Dumb and Dumber Lite. We wanted it to be as good as the first one.”
“It felt like a money grab. We could make a lot of money doing that, and people would go, but for what reason?” says Peter. “We told the studio that unless it turns out Mary has balls, we won’t do it. If they wanted to do that, then there is something else about Mary. There’s a good story there.”
Needless to say, we live in a world where Mary Jensen/Matthews does not have balls, which is all the same to the Farrelly brothers. All along, Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne were the two characters they were most interested in revisiting.
“We left them exactly where we found them,” says Peter. “In the first movie, they had zero growth. They were the same people; nothing changed, they weren’t married, they didn’t have new jobs. They were still unemployed. They were heading home from Aspen. It made sense to us that if we were going to do a sequel to something, this is it. Just put them on another adventure.”
The new adventure did not come easily. The Farrellys didn’t want to make a Dumb and Dumber sequel too soon after the original, for one thing. (“We didn’t want to be known as the Dumb and Dumber guys only,” says Peter.) And while Jeff Daniels frequently and eagerly checked in about making another one, Carrey was another story.
“Jeff always checked in,” says Peter. “He would ask, ‘When are we doing a sequel?’ And we would say, ‘Whenever Jim’s ready.'”
Cut back to Carrey’s phone call five years ago. It was the secret password, the magic words the Farrelly brothers needed to hear to move forward.
“When Jim Carrey becomes Lloyd, he’s not Jim Carrey. He’s Lloyd.”
With Carrey fully on board, Warner Bros. paid the Farrellys to write a script, alongside collaborators Bennett Yellin, Mike Cerrone, Sean Anders, and John Morris. The result was a home run with Carrey and Daniels, but the studio? Not so much.
“We didn’t hear from Warners for days,” says Peter. “When they finally got back to us, they were like, ‘Well, it’s a good start.'”
According to Farrelly, the studio was concerned with how much Dumb and Dumber To relied upon viewers’ memories of the first film. “Nobody will remember Billy in 4C,” they said, according to Peter. But Peter and his brother argued that Dumb and Dumber had “been on TNT and TBS every day for 20 years.” The two sides couldn’t come to an agreement, casting doubt on the sequel’s progress.
“But to their credit, and it’s important, Warners was about as standup as a studio can be in this town,” says Peter. “They told us from the beginning, ‘Look, if we don’t make it, relax. We’ll let it go. We’ll let you make it somewhere else.’ And they don’t have to do that. They could just say, ‘We’re not making it and we’re keeping it, because maybe we’ll make it later.’ They could give you a million reasons. They didn’t do that.”
Instead, Dumb and Dumber To wound up in Universal’s hands. Once the wheels were in motion, and filming actually began, the entire crew released a collective sigh of relief.
“To me, it seems like a trilogy; there should be a third one.”
Soon, it became easier, as the Farrellys settled back into the Dumb and Dumber universe, helped along by how readily Carrey and Daniels returned to their ridiculous roles.
“When Jim Carrey becomes Lloyd, he’s not Jim Carrey. He’s Lloyd. He doesn’t think like Jim Carrey. He thinks, ‘What would Lloyd do?'” says Peter. “When he’s playing Lloyd Christmas, he’s in a good mood. He’s a happy, happy man.”
As for the other Dumb star, Farrelly describes Daniels as “the most underrated actor working today,” with range that stretches from the lunacy of Dumb and Dumber to something as serious-headed as The Newsroom.
“Jim has a more method approach,” says Peter, “but with Jeff, he doesn’t need anything. There’s no method. He just understands his character. He gives his head a little shake, and then he’s Harry.”
Even if their approaches are different, it’s Daniels and Carrey’s chemistry that carries Dumb and Dumber, and made all the effort that went into creating the sequel well worth the cost.
“This took a long time. It was a high bar,” says Peter. “We didn’t want it to be Dumb and Dumber Lite. We wanted it to be as good as the first one, for it to be the type of movie where two or three years after you’ve seen it, the two movies blur together; like you don’t know which joke came from which movie.”
Put simply, he says, “we worked our asses off.” And while it was an exhausting experience, it was a fun one, too. So much so that the Farrellys aren’t closing the door on making a third Dumb and Dumber — one that won’t take 20 years to make, if they have it their way.
“I wouldn’t say we’ll do it next year, but I would love to do it. To me, it seems like a trilogy; there should be a third one,” says Peter. He even has a title: “Dumb and Dumber For.”
Dumb and Dumber To is in theaters this weekend.