Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Untold Truth Of Bruce Almighty

The early 2000s were a very different time for the film industry from today. Franchise movies were still relatively rare, and the box office was ruled by A-list stars capable of getting audiences to theaters based on their names alone. One of the biggest stars of the time was noted comedian Jim Carrey, and one of the last major hits of his career as an A-lister was 2003's "Bruce Almighty."

The actor played the central role of Bruce Nolan, a middling television reporter thoroughly dissatisfied with his lot in life. After one too many complaints against God for never giving him a break, Bruce finds himself face-to-face with the Almighty Creator Himself (Morgan Freeman). God offers Bruce all His powers and responsibilities so the latter can understand how difficult it is to be in charge of making everyone happy.

"Bruce Almighty" was a giant success at the box office, netting close to half a billion dollars around the world. The film also developed into somewhat of a cult classic in later years and is fondly remembered by fans as one of the best parts of Carrey's entire filmography. Here are some lesser-known facts about "Bruce Almighty" that fans might not be aware of.

The film was based on a novel (sort of)

A decade before "Bruce Almighty" arrived in theaters, a novel by Robert Bausch with a very similar premise was released in 1991, "Almighty Me!" The book tells the story of a used car salesman named Charlie who has been experiencing a bad patch of luck. After bitterly haranguing God for his misfortunes, Charlie is offered the chance to use the former's powers for one year to make the world a better place.

Despite the plot of "Bruce Almighty" bearing a striking similarity to "Almighty Me!," right down Charlie trying to win his wife back, neither Bausch nor his novel were credited by the movie in any form upon its release. This led to friction between the makers of the movie and Bausch, who contended that his ideas had been stolen without him being adequately compensated by the producers of "Bruce Almighty."

"Everybody was laughing around me," Bausch said of his experience of watching "Bruce Almighty" in theaters (via VFH Radio). "I wanted to stand up and say, 'They stole that from me. That was my idea.'" Bausch ended up suing the makers of "Bruce Almighty" over the claims of plagiarism of his novel, which the movie producers did not publicly comment on (via VFH Radio).

Morgan Freeman was not a God of comedy

One thing that made "Bruce Almighty" different from most previous Jim Carrey movies was the fact that the actor was not working as the story's sole source of comedy. Many of the funniest scenes in the movie belong to Morgan Freeman in his memorable role as God. God places Bruce on the backfoot throughout the movie, first by endowing the latter with all His power and later by showing Bruce how making people happy is not as simple as giving them everything they ask for. From making Bruce's hand grow extra fingers to pretending Bruce has died, God's dry humor in the movie are almost as entertaining as Carrey's physical comedy. But Freeman himself did not see his role as a particularly funny one while making the movie. 

Instead, he saw his version of God as playing the "straight man" to Carrey's comedic turn as Bruce. "Jim's flat out, straight-up [an] incredible comedian," Freeman stated in an interview. "And I'm not. At all. But ... probably [that] makes me the perfect 'straight man.' All I have to do is try not to laugh." The central pairing of God and Bruce works in "Bruce Almighty" because Carrey is paired opposite a serious actor who will work against him, whereas films like "Liar Liar" or "Yes Man" isolate Carrey as the zaniest person in an otherwise sane world.

They gave God a real phone number

Near the start of "Bruce Almighty," Jim Carrey's character gets a phone number on his pager with instructions to call the number if he wants a job. The number turns out to be connected to God's personal phone line that Bruce uses to set up a meeting with the Almighty. In movies, usually, when a phone number needs to be shown on screen, the filmmakers use a fictional sequence with a 555 prefix (per CBC). But "Bruce Almighty" decided to use a real-life number. That number extension happened to belong to one Dawn Jenkins, who told CBSNews.com that she had been getting 20 calls per day since the release of the movie from people hoping to talk to God one-on-one.

Jenkins was not the only person to field calls directed at Morgan Freeman's God. Turner's Chapel Church in North Carolina was also inundated with similar queries after the release of "Bruce Almighty." The pastor of the church stated that while most callers dialed the number as a joke, he offered to have a full discussion with a caller about God if they were actually serious about getting to know the Almighty better.

Jim Carrey missed Jack Sparrow for Bruce Nolan

Hollywood is full of stories of what-ifs when it comes to iconic roles. You rarely know for sure which movie is going to turn out to be successful while it is still being made, which makes actors hesitate to pick up projects that look ear-marked for failure on the basis of being too risky. One such project was Disney's bid to make a movie out of their "Pirates of the Caribbean" theme park ride back in the early 2000s. The project was not seen as a very promising one, given the failure of previous pirate-themed movies at the box office. That might be why when Jim Carrey was offered the weird role of Captain Jack Sparrow in the movie, he turned down the offer to play the lead in "Bruce Almighty" instead, since the filming dates conflicted.

The role of Jack Sparrow went to Johnny Depp instead, and the rest is history. "Bruce Almighty" was a huge hit at the box office but received mixed reviews from critics. On the other hand, "Pirates of the Caribbean" became of the most critically and commercially successful franchises in history, and Depp's take on Captain Jack Sparrow is widely considered one of the most iconic movie heroes of all time.

The film's scariest scene got cut

While "Bruce Almighty" has the main character being granted the powers of God himself, the movie does not delve deeply into the darker aspects of such a premise. Beyond setting locusts on a gang of bullies, Bruce Nolan does not do anything too reprehensible with his new reality-warping powers. But Godly Bruce almost ended up being a much scarier dude if a deleted scene from the movie had been kept intact. The scene involves Bruce dealing with Steve Carell's character, Evan Baxter, his enemy at the news station. In one scene in the film, Bruce makes Evan speak unintelligibly to embarrass him in public. But Bruce almost ended up doing something much more horrific to Evan in the deleted scene.

"The part they cut out was when Jim Carrey makes my nose start to bleed profusely," Carrell revealed on The Graham Norton Show, "which they thought [was] too mean of him to do as a character... and then my head burst into flames." Carrell explained how the crew rigged a gas line to his head to actually set it on fire for real. It's a good thing the scene was deleted, since such actions would have made Bruce look like a straight-up psychopath and completely changed the feel-good tone of the movie.

The film wasn't actually shot in Buffalo

Despite being a story about man's relationship with God via miracles on a personal and planetary scale, "Bruce Almighty" manages to be a remarkably grounded movie. The town of Buffalo that the story takes place in also looks like just any other town you might see in a mid-budget movie. And that is because you have seen major parts of it in many, many other movies.

"Bruce Almighty" was not filmed in Buffalo, but rather made heavy use of Universal Studios Hollywood backlots. Brownstone Street, where Bruce's house is in the film, first appeared on film in 1967 and can be recognized in "The Sting," "Home Alone 2: Lost In New York," and "Gone Girl." Courthouse Square, where the final scene takes place, was initially built in 1948, and since then had been used for filming many famous movies, including "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Back to the Future," "Gremlins," and "The Nutty Professor."

That monkey gets around

Arguably the darkest scene in "Bruce Almighty" that gets played for laughs is when Bruce meets a gang that had assaulted him earlier. Using his new powers, Bruce puts the fear of God in the gang by releasing locusts from his mouth and making a monkey crawl out of (and return to) the posterior of one of the gang members. If you saw the monkey crawling out of a man's butt and your first thought was that the monkey looked very familiar, you were right. According to Radio Times, the monkey used in the scene was the same monkey that had become a television sensation around the same time in the role of Marcel, Ross' pet monkey on "Friends."

In real life the monkey's name is Katie, and it's a white-headed capuchin that has since appeared in a number of other projects, including "30 Rock" and "Sam & Cat" (via The Independent). So the monkey you saw acting opposite Jim Carrey had also acted opposite his "Bruce Almighty" co-star Jennifer Aniston on "Friends," where it seems not everyone on the show was a fan of the simian thespian and its method of working. Matt LeBlanc said on Jimmy Kimmel Live that David Schwimmer, who worked with Katie a lot, loathed working with the animal.

The film was banned in some countries

"Bruce Almighty" is just about as light-hearted a comedy as you can think of. Other than the whole "endowed with God's power" thing, the film is a simple story of an ordinary man who feels trapped in his ordinary life and must experience a set of epiphanies in order to learn to fully appreciate the blessings bestowed upon him. And yet, this harmless movie where Jim Carrey's character teaches his dog to use the bathroom and grants his wife a boob job was considered something far more sinister in certain countries that frown upon the film's casual depiction of God. One such country was Egypt, which actually banned "Bruce Almighty" (per The Guardian) when it was first released in theaters.

Another country that found the content of the movie offensive was Malaysia, where a section of the Muslim community demanded that the government ban "Bruce Almighty" from playing in theaters (via The Guardian). According to the country's religious affairs minister at the time, Abdul Hamid Zainal Abidin, "We cannot equate ourselves with God Almighty, even as a joke." In both cases, the ban on the film was lifted after some time. 

Lots of religious references

Since "Bruce Almighty" is a comedy built along religious lines pertaining to the Christian faith, it is not surprising that the story carries many references to the Bible. Some of those references are extremely obvious, like Bruce parting the contents of his coffee cup like a discount Moses, then parting traffic in the same manner, or walking on water. But other references are more subtle. 

For instance, in one scene, his boss is surprised to find how much Bruce has accomplished in one day, to which Bruce replies, "Imagine what I can do in seven," referencing the time the Bible says it took God to create the world. Similarly, the cloud of insects Bruce spews at the gang that had harassed him earlier echoes the story of the plagues visited upon the people of Egypt in the Old Testament. One scene later in the film shows Bruce leaning against a statue that looks like a golden calf. This is a reference to the statue erected by the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai when they had begun to lose their faith in God and Moses, symbolizing Bruce also losing his path from his initial desire to make the world a better place instead of engaging in purely selfish pursuits.

One scene made Jim Carrey laugh the most

At the time of its release, excitement surrounded the well-known stars of "Bruce Almighty." Jennifer Aniston, Morgan Freeman, and particularly Jim Carrey were household names, and producers were able to sell the movie to international audiences based on those names alone. But now, two decades later, "Bruce Almighty" has also become famous for featuring "The Office" star Steve Carell in his first major film role. Carell plays the role of Evan Baxter, the guy who has everything Bruce wants at his job. Despite the movie being Carrey's comedic playground, arguably its funniest scene belongs to Carell, when Baxter is mind-controlled by Bruce in the newsroom to completely wig out in front of his TV audience.

Some lead actors might have resented being shown up by their supporting cast, but Carrey has nothing but appreciation for what Carell managed to do with the scene. "I don't laugh a lot either at my own stuff and stuff like [the newsroom scene]," Carrey stated in an interview with a fan site, "but that scene made me laugh." You know you're something special in terms of comedy when you manage to impress a master comic like Carrey with a single scene. 

One deleted scene has Jim Carrey jumping out of a plane

Comedy stars generally don't have to do a lot of scary stunts. Unless you happen to be Jackie Chan, who has built his career out of expertly mixing action and comedy. But during an interview with a fan site with the film's main creative team, it was revealed that a sequence was shot in which Bruce jumps out of an airplane pursuing a news story. The scene involved Carrey being shot directly in the face with an air gun to simulate wind rushing in a free fall. "The whole time I'm speaking, you see my whole skeleton under there. It's really frightening," Carrey recalled.  "And when they said cut, all this stuff went off and the fans and everything shut down and I couldn't see anybody because everybody was on the floor just losing their minds."

Despite pulling off the stunt in a reasonable manner, the sequence was excluded from the final cut of the film because the filmmakers didn't think it fit the overall tone of the movie. As bad as the bit with the air gun must have been, the experience probably paled in comparison to when Carrey had to play the Grinch with a full-body prosthetic suit.

A Lance Armstrong reference got axed

"Bruce Almighty" was directed by Tom Shadyac, who had previously worked with Jim Carrey on "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" and "Liar Liar." When Shadyac got together with Carrey to create the world of "Bruce Almighty," the filmmaker felt a personal stake in the story's telling due to his own strongly Catholic background (per Christianity Today).

One line that did not make the final cut of the film was about Lance Armstrong. It was supposed to demonstrate God's approach to suffering and victory against adversity. At the time, Armstrong was best known as the super-athlete who beat testicular cancer and went on to win the Tour de France cycling race five consecutive times. "There was a line that I cut from the movie where God was showing Bruce some footage of Lance Armstrong," Shadyac revealed to Christian Spotlight. "And [God] says, 'To paint a picture like that, you've got to use some dark colors.' You know, the most powerful stories we tell are about people ... who've been challenged by addictions or abuse."

Perhaps it's a good thing the scene was cut, given the doping scandal that derailed Armstrong's professional career less than a decade later. 

A proper sequel might yet happen

"Bruce Almighty" cemented Jim Carrey's stardom, has aged fairly well, and remains popular all over the world thanks to being shown on repeat on cable television, on streaming services, and probably at a lot of Sunday schools. Naturally, many fans want to see Carrey make a sequel to "Bruce Almighty."

A poorly received sort-of sequel did indeed get made with 2007's "Evan Almighty." Although Morgan Freeman returns as God, the film does not reference Carrey's Bruce Nolan. Instead, Steve Carell's Evan Baxter, a breakout from the first film and a rising star since, gets chosen by God to create a new ark in preparation for a cataclysmic flood. The movie was the most expensive comedy film ever made at the time (per NPR) and did not succeed like its predecessor. Fans want to see Carrey make a proper "Bruce Almighty" sequel by returning to the franchise.

Unfortunately, the actor is notoriously reluctant to make sequels to his hit movies (per ComicBook). One guy willing to return to the fold is Morgan Freeman. "I think I would have to if they did it," Freeman told the press. "If Jim Carrey plays his character, and if I was called on, I would feel obligated." With Carrey having already broken his rule of "no sequels" a couple of times through "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" and "Dumb and Dumber To," old rumors surrounding "Bruce Almighty 2" might yet come to fruition, though Carrey has mused about retiring.