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The Untold Truth Of The Mask

"You can't make the scene if you don't have the green," said Jim Carrey's transformed Stanley Ipkiss in "The Mask." It would prove to be somewhat prophetic words as New Line Cinema only saw green in the bank after the unsuspecting film became a certified smash-hit in 1994. Plus, playing the character that was an expert at wedgies and all-round mayhem all but cemented Carrey as a bona fide A-list player in Hollywood. Stephen Wigler of The Baltimore Sun reserved the highest praise for the actor, though, writing, "Carrey may be the finest comic to come along since Robin Williams."

Yet, the feature film about a green-faced rascal with the winning smile wasn't always envisioned to be the runaway success that it was. In fact, the script took several shapes and forms along the way, going from a planned horror in the same scary vein as "A Nightmare on Elm Street" to the slapstick and over-the-top comedy that everyone is familiar with. At the same time, there was the hot debate about the lead roles and whether the filmmakers would strike gold with unproven actors. So, in the immortal words of the brash titular hero, "let's rock this joint" and discover the untold truth of "The Mask."

Nicolas Cage was eyed as Stanley Ipkiss

The world has been blessed with a movie where Nicolas Cage plays Nicolas Cage in "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent," proving that Christopher Nolan's "Inception" was entirely possible in the real world. However, the blessings could have arrived earlier had he been cast as Stanley Ipkiss in "The Mask." According to director Chuck Russell, Cage's name was mentioned as a strong possibility before he decided that Jim Carrey was the only smokin'-hot choice for the part.

"People have asked me who I would have used if I didn't use Jim," Russell told XFINITY (via Trailer Addict). "I looked at my old list recently, and I had Matthew Broderick and Nic Cage as possibilities at that time, but it was really Jim that inspired it. I felt there was no one else that could help me successfully make a comedy out of that except Jim." Even though Cage didn't secure the role, we did get to see him wearing voodoo-inspired face paint in the behind-the-scenes footage for "Ghost Rider" and pulling the sort of funny faces one would expect for "The Mask."

The director thought of The Mask as a musical

"The Mask" wasn't shy of breaking out into several musical numbers throughout its running time. While it was far from "Hamilton” or "The Sound of Music," it certainly snuck in a few earworms that have had fans whistling (and secretly dancing) along for decades now. Seriously, who could ever forget the "Cuban Pete" song and the infectious line of "everything goes chick-chicky-boom, chick-chicky boom"? In the years since the film's release, Chuck Russell admitted that the musical angle was entirely intentional.

Speaking to The Hollywood News, Russell recalled fond memories of working on the 1994 comedy film. "I do think of 'The Mask' as my musical and I think I may revisit that at some point," he said. "That film was definitely a secret musical." Choreographer Jerry Evans revealed to Variety that Russell confided in him and the producer that he was going to make a musical, and he would only tell the others when he thought it was time they knew. Undoubtedly, the movie's dance routines were aided by the fact that Jim Carrey brought his experience from combining music and comedy in "In Living Color" and performed all the numbers himself.

The film was in development hell for a few years

As per The Los Angeles Times, New Line Cinema was approached about the possibility of making a film about the viridian-faced master of slapstick as early as 1989. Remember, though, "The Mask" comic book wasn't exactly on the same popularity level as other characters such as Batman and Superman, but the property still drew enough interest from the studio.

Screenwriter Mark Verheiden revealed to the now-defunct Starlog Magazine how the first draft of the screenplay was actually completed in 1990. "They had one draft done and I think the feeling was they wanted to take it in a little more comedic direction," he explained. "Mike [Richardson] and I were friends and I had a couple of credits at that point, so he suggested me for it. I did the second draft. It went into 'development hell' and that ended up being the only work I did on 'The Mask.'" Fortunately for Verheiden, enough of his work survived the subsequent rewrites for him to receive a story credit on the movie.

The actress originally eyed for Tina

"The Mask" wasn't only a breakout role for Jim Carrey as it elevated him to superstar status in Hollywood, but it was also a major turning point for Cameron Diaz, who played Tina Carlyle. As Chuck Russell explained to Variety, Diaz's modelling agency had submitted her for consideration. She hadn't starred in any production at that point, but everyone was impressed by her talent at the reading and noted her natural chemistry with Carrey. The producers did take some convincing to cast an unknown, so Diaz was called back eight times before they made a final decision and offered her the role.

Casting director Fern Champion revealed that Russell had originally considered Anna Nicole Smith for the role of Tina. While Russell admitted that Smith was mooted as a potential candidate for the character, it never went past the discussion phase and he didn't ask her to read for the part. "We met," Russell said. "Anna was charming and bubbly but did not have other qualities needed for the role. I never took the next step to run scenes with her."

Dark Horse accepted a lower offer for the film rights to The Mask

The origins of The Mask can be traced back to comic book creator Mike Richardson, who came up with the concept in 1982, as per CBR. However, the Dark Horse comic book run of "The Mask," which was helmed by Doug Mahnke and John Arcudi, was where the more recognizable version of the character was fully developed. Richardson knew he had something special on his hands, so he and his business partner, Todd Moyer, shopped the idea around Hollywood to potential suitors. Eventually, New Line Cinema bought the rights to make the movie.

Richardson revealed to The Los Angeles Times that there were several big offers on the table, but he and Moyer chose a smaller one from New Line for a specific reason. "Warner Bros. wanted it, but [former New Line president of production] Mike De Luca guaranteed us that he would make the movie," he said. "We didn't want to take the chance of selling it and never see it made." While it took a while for "The Mask" to finally spin its way into cinemas, De Luca stayed true to his word and made the film.

The creator has a female lead in mind to become the new Mask

Despite "The Mask" making over $350 million from a $23 million budget (via Box Office Mojo), it took forever for a sequel to happen. Eventually, in 2005, "Son of the Mask" arrived — sans Jim Carrey and the lightning-in-a-bottle effect of the first film. Starring Jamie Kennedy as a new lead named Tim Avery and Alan Cumming as Loki, the movie also drastically underperformed at the box office, only recouping just under $60 million from its reported $100 million budget (via The Numbers).

Considering the special place that "The Mask" has in many fans' hearts, there has been a call for another film starring Jim Carrey or even a reboot. Mike Richardson confirmed to Forbes that there are plans and discussions taking place behind the scenes, including one that involves a female comedian. "I'd like to see a really good physical comedian," he said. "I have one in mind, but I'm not gonna say her name. We have to do a lot of convincing for this particular actor, but we'll see."

Jim Carrey worked through sickness

"The Mask" was many people's first introduction to Jim Carrey's high-energy approach to acting. From the word go, the actor accelerated off of the blocks, putting on an energetic performance as the titular character and begging somebody to stop him. With so many dance routines and physical comedy moments in the film, it may come as a surprise that Carrey was actually ill during the production and still knocked it out of the park.

Producer Bob Engelman told Forbes about how Carrey pushed through when the crew needed him the most. "I remember one night when he was sick as a dog," Engelman said, "and he was throwing up and he said, 'I can't do this.' I said, 'Look, Jim, they won't let us shut down. If we don't get this, we don't get this.' We dragged him out of the trailer and he was a trooper and got it in there delivered and was fantastic." Chuck Russell added that Carrey always found energy in reserves, especially when the production needed a lift during the long and grueling hours on set.

The original plans for the unmade sequel

"Son of the Mask" was the official sequel to the first film. Suffice to say, it wasn't what fans were expecting at the time. The audience had hoped to see Jim Carrey return as Stanley Ipkiss in another rip-roaring comedic adventure — not to see a baby put on the mask and star in an expensive comedy film that's commonly cited as one of the worst of all time. However, Carrey never showed up since the studio didn't put a sequel option in his original contract, as revealed by Mike Richardson to Forbes. At that stage in his career, Carrey was an in-demand superstar and wasn't interested in returning, so no one could force him to do it.

That doesn't mean the ideas stopped all of a sudden. Richardson revealed the concept that was tossed around for the sequel had Carrey agreed to return. "The treatment that Mark [Verheiden] and I wrote and wanted to do was Tina went to Las Vegas and Stanley followed and mayhem ensues with the big shows and some mobsters and the introduction of John Arcudi's character, Walter, into the franchise," he said. "For whatever reason, we never got that made."

The Mask was meant to start a horror franchise

Reading "The Mask" comics, it's clear that it isn't all over-the-top goofy fun like the original movie. While it still possesses a sense of humor, it's much darker and violent than the live-action adaptation. In fact, there are a few moments when it veers into horror territory. Fittingly enough, that was the original angle used to sell the idea to New Line Cinema, as the studio sought out the next big horror hit.

Chuck Russell had already delivered a hit for New Line in the form of "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors," so the studio approached him with the idea to take "The Mask" and turn it into a horror franchise, as he revealed to The Hollywood News. Russell was familiar with "The Mask" source material but had seen Jim Carrey's work and thought he'd be excellent for the lead role if it were to be a comedy. "At that point New Line thought I was off my rocker and then I didn't hear back from them for about a year," Russell said. "When they eventually came back to me they said 'tell me how this story about a guy, a girl and a dog in a nightclub will work'. So then I completely changed the script and adapted it into a comedy rather than horror."

Jim Carrey didn't make blockbuster money for The Mask

They say all good things come in threes; Jim Carrey can certainly attest to this. The year 1994 was a breakout for him as he starred in "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," "The Mask," and "Dumb and Dumber." All three of these films proved to be huge successes and ensured that Carrey became one of the hottest stars in Hollywood. The fact that these movies are still often listed as some of the best comedies from the '90s is only further proof that it was an unprecedented and magical 12 months for the actor.

However, there was one big drawback here: All three films were filmed before Carrey's star had fully ignited. He was reportedly paid $350,000 for "Ace Ventura" and $450,000 for "The Mask," as per Rolling Stone. While that's certainly no chump change — and who wouldn't want to get paid thousands of dollars for dancing around on screen? — it was nowhere near what he would have commanded had the productions taken place a few years apart. That said, Carrey was able to claim a reported $7 million for "Dumb and Dumber" based on the success of "Ace Ventura."

Jim Carrey's facial expressions kept CGI costs down

Jim Carrey built up a formidable reputation as a rubber-faced comedian. He always possessed the ability to exaggerate and accentuate his facial expressions in the strangest contortions that his peers could only dream of. In many ways, he proved to be the real-life embodiment of Tex Avery's characters — some of the biggest influences for "The Mask" movie.

According to comments made by screenwriter Mike Werb to SciFiNow, Carrey's gifts ended up saving the production a lot of money in the long run. After all, it was a time when CGI wasn't as widely utilized in film as it is now, so every second of it cost an arm and a leg — something that studios weren't too wild about for obvious reasons. "I remember Chuck [Russell] saying that Jim Carrey saved us hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of dollars," Werb said. "Because of Jim's facial maneuvering and general comic timing, we were able to not have quite as many Industrial Light & Magic effects. It was remarkable."

Jim Carrey would be open to doing The Mask 2

After Jim Carrey failed to return for "Son of the Mask," many feared that would be the last chance for the actor to reprise his iconic role as the debonair prankster. However, hope glimmered on the horizon when Carrey surprised everyone and showed up for 2014's "Dumb and Dumber To," which was released 20 years after the original. If he could come back for that franchise, maybe he could be convinced to make the real "Mask" sequel as well, right?

In an interview with ComicBook.com, Carrey revealed what it would take to convince him to play Stanley Ipkiss once again. "'The Mask' I think, myself, you know, it would depend on a filmmaker," he said. "It depends on a filmmaker really. I don't want to do it just to do it. But I would only do it if it was some crazy visionary filmmaker. Sure."

That said, Carrey has said that he is walking away from the movie biz after "Sonic the Hedgehog 2." So if there are any plans for "The Mask" sequel, the interested parties should approach Carrey before he starts to enjoy retirement a little bit too much.