Readers of The Hollywood Reporter and lovers of Hollywood backstage intrigue just received another helping of awesome when details of a countersuit between would-be producers of a sequel to the 1994 cult comedy classic Dumb & Dumber emerged. Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey)’s path toward reuniting on-screen together is going to have go through an army of lawyers first. Basically, the guys who produced the original film are being sued by two new guys who want to produce the sequel, and now there is a countersuit alleging these young upstarts are gigantic douchebags (an obscure legal term, I’m told).
But, wait, what? They’re going to make a sequel to Dumb & Dumber? Let’s back up a couple of steps.
The original Dumb & Dumber was released upon an unsuspecting public in 1994, the same year that everyone was being delighted (or assaulted, depending on your point of view) by Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask. It was the directorial debut of The Farrelly Brothers (who also co-wrote the screenplay), and featured most of their signature touches: dumb but ultimately sweet protagonists, crude, non-PC jokes, gross-out humor, plenty of over-the-top physical comedy, and a love of middle-of-the-road rock for the soundtrack (remember The Crash Test Dummies?). It also featured a scene that respected dramatic actor Jeff Daniels will never be able to live down. He’s now Emmy nominated as just the latest mouthpiece for Aaron Sorkin to lecture America about how the way things should be on HBO’s The Newsroom, but for the majority of the 90s Jeff Daniels was the guy who did this:
Although Dumb & Dumber is now considered a cult classic regularly quoted by those of a certain comedic persuasion, unlike many cult classics it was a ginormous hit upon its release. It made an astounding $247 million worldwide on a $17 million budget, which if you adjust for inflation would roughly equate to making $482 million now (that’s more than Star Trek Into Darkness and World War Z have made). It was the 6th highest grossing film of 1994 (behind Forrest Gump and The Lion King but ahead of Speed), and it is in the Top 20 highest-grossing comedies of the past 20 years.
So, of course there was going to be a sequel, right? Well, not so fast. First, they did an animated series in 1995, and no that is not a misprint. They did an animated series [pause for dramatic effect] of [paused for further dramatic effect] Dumb [pause again] & Dumber! It mostly featured Harry and Lloyd driving around in their dog-like car named Otto, having adventures with their pet beaver named Kitty. It…was…horrible, airing on ABC in America as part of Saturday morning cartoons while lasting only 13 episodes across 1 season. If you are a brave soul, check out this clip (there are a TON of clips for the cartoon available on YouTube):
However, Jim Carrey’s much-touted ascension to a star demanding a $20 million paycheck for each film as well as a general disinterest on the part of all involved parties made any kind of live-action continuation of the Dumb & Dumber story a non-starter for approximately the next decade.
New Line Cinema gambled that maybe they could simply make a quick buck off of the Dumb & Dumber brand and related nostalgia, distributing a prequel in 2003, Dumber & Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd. Eric Christian Olsen stepped in for Jim Carrey and Derek Richardson for Jeff Daniels. Pretty much nobody from the original Dumb & Dumber was involved, except for Brad Krevoy who was among the credited producers for both the original film and the prequel. Critics hated it, fans didn’t seem to care, and it made a meager $39 million worldwide on a $19 million budget.
Of course, time has a way of humbling directors, producers, and actors. Ever since 2001’s Shallow Hal, The Farrelly Brothers’ filmography is mostly films which have done okay but not great (Stuck On You, Fever Pitch, Hall Pass, The Three Stooges) with one genuine hit (The Heartbreak Kid). Producers Brad Krevoy and Steve Stabler have been incredibly active independent film producers through Motion Picture Corporation of America, typically existing in a land of thinner profits margins with smaller budgets giving many directors and actors their first big break. The massive success of Dumb & Dumber is actually a weird outlier in their respective filmographies. Jim Carrey can still usually turn a profit with his films (Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Yes Man), but 2010’s I Love You Philip Morris was the lowest grossing film of his career to date and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone bombed earlier this year.
Jeff Daniels has largely toiled in independent film (The Squid & The Whale, Looper), erasing the memory of Dumb & Dumber and re-gaining his status as a fantastic dramatic actor. He’s the one for whom doing a Dumb & Dumber sequel makes the least sense.
However, then it happened – in late 2011, the Farrelly Brothers announced they would be writing and directing a sequel to Dumb & Dumber, and only a couple of months later in early 2012 both Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels were confirmed as returning for the sequel. It was going to be independently financed outside of the studio system with a targeted budget of around $30 million, but Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema (who independently produced the first film in 1994 but have since merged with Warner Bros.) would distribute.
It’s been a bit of a rocky road since then. A mere three months after having been announced as attached to the sequel, Jim Carrey reportedly exited the project in June of 2012 due to a perceived lack of sufficient support from Warner Bros./New Line Cinema. Undaunted, the Farrelly Brothers conducted a Q&A via Twitter and gave interviews to outlets like Digital Spy in which they confirmed both the title and basic plot of the sequel as well as stating that Carrey was back onboard.
So, the title? Dumb and Dumber To. The basic plot? One of the two has in the past potentially fathered a child whom they need to track down for kidney transplant purposes. The story takes place 20 years after the events of the original, which with an intended 2014 release window would be exactly how many years have passed between the two films. As of January this year, everything seemed like it was just waiting for the financing to figure itself out (easier said than done).
Then The Incredible Burt Wonderstone happened. It, too, was distributed by Warner Bros./New Line Cinema, and was supposed to be a safe bet to turn an easy profit with a manageable budget of roughly $30 million while starring likable leads Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey. Instead, it performed a magical disappearing act at the box office in March, and suddenly the studio wanted out of the dwindling Jim Carrey business. So, on June 10th Warner Bros./New Line completely dropped Dumb and Dumber To, essentially saying, “We’ve seen this project’s future and it is grim, but good luck to you if you can find some other sucker to distribute it.”
It took only 8 days to find the other suckers to distribute the sequel, with confirmation arriving on June 18th that 3-year-old film production company Red Granite Pictures would finance with a budget in the $35-40 million range and Universal Pictures would serve as distributor. A month later during a July 7th appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Jeff Daniels said the sequel was set to begin filming in September to be released next year during the original’s 20th anniversary year. Describing the plot, he said, “I’ve seen the script. It’s hysterical. We’re middle-aged, and we’re still that stupid.” However, he also said that he’ll kind of only believe it for sure when he’s on-set shaking Jim Carrey’s hand. Jim Carrey could “totally redeem himself” for Burt Wonderstone:
But can it really be that easy for a film like this to have been dropped by a studio one month, picked up by another 8 days later, and start filming a couple of months later? This is where the lawsuits come in.
On July 15th, Red Granite Pictures, Dumber and Dumber To‘s new financier, filed a lawsuit against the original film’s producers Brad Krevoy and Steve Stabler to prevent them from being involved in the production of the sequel. Red Granite claims it has attained all rights to the film through a deal with New Line, and that they have done all the work to make this sequel happen. It’s the legal equivalent of, “Geeze, those guys again? They won’t stop calling about wanting to be involved with the sequel. Is there any way we can make them stop?”
Now, Krevoy and Stabler have countersued, claiming essentially, “We’ll call as often as we want. We have a contract, you bunch of a-holes.” They claim there was a clause their original contract with New Line in 1994 which assured them “$600,000 in producer fees, at least 15% of net profits and a 25% royalty on video revenues” as well as a “right of first negotiation for sequels and remakes on terms at least as favorable as their terms for producing the Original.” Basically, if the studio goes with a new producer they still have to pay the old producer. Red Granite says their deal with New Line should preclude them from having to honor that contract whereas Krevoy and Stabler say Red Granite simply doesn’t want to honor it but legally has to.
So, who the heck are the people behind Red Granite? It was co-founded by Riza Aziz (the son of the Malaysian Prime Minister) and financier Joe McFarland, and to date it has produced 2012’s Friends with Kids along with a handful of others awaiting 2013 releases (Out of the Furnace, The Wolf of Wall Street, Horns). In their countersuit, Krevoy and Stabler describe Aziz and McFarland’s experience as producers as mostly consisting of “cavorting at nightclubs with Paris Hilton and making dinner reservations at posh nightclubs in New York and Los Angeles.”
This is actually the second such legal drama for Red Granite during its short existence. They went through a suit-countersuit process last year with Alexandra Milchan, an original producer of Martin Scorcesce’s upcoming The Wolf of Wall Street. She argued she had spent years developing the film, bringing writer, director, and key actors to the project, but Red Granite came in as financier, booted her out the door and refused to grant her contractually obligated financial compensation. The parties settled out of court, and Milchan will be credited as an Executive Producer on Wolf of Wall Street.
So, is there a potential quietly released statement in the near future announcing an out-of-court settlement resulting in Executive Producer credits for Krevoy and Stabler? Maybe, but it also seems apparent that those guys really, really hate the people at Red Granite. What does this mean for Dumb & Dumber To? If Krevoy and Stabler’s claims in their countersuit are to be believed, Red Granite could find it difficult to hire people for the film who will be fearful of not being compensated by the company at the agreed-upon rate. However, if Jeff Daniels was correct about the September start date for filming it would seem as if they are well underway in the pre-production process, and this thing is on schedule.
Prediction? This sequel happens and comes out to honor the original film’s 20th Anniversary next year. Will it be any good? The history of film comedy sequels is not on their side. However, even with his recent box office woes Jim Carrey is still capable of hilarity, e.g., I Love You Philip Morris is a fantastic film with an amazingly unhinged performance from Carrey. So, it’ll probably have some good laughs, while quietly acting as a slightly unwelcome, very grim reminder to us all that it’s been 20 years since Dumber & Dumber came out.
Geeze, way to end on such a down note, huh? Have any thoughts about the sequel, or this behind the scenes drama playing out a little too much in front of the scenes? Like Burt Wonderstone? Still peeved about the dig at Aaron Sorkin? Take to the comments and express yourself (and put yourself to the test).