Jim Carrey’s physical, over-the-top comedy was a staple of the sketch comedy show In Living Color. But it wasn’t until he starred as the titular pet detective searching for Snowflake, the Miami Dolphins’ mascot, in 1994's Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, that Carrey achieved super-stardom. Here are some facts about the film to read with the laces out.
1. IT WAS DIRECTED BY SOMEONE WHO ONLY HAD ONE (MADE-FOR-TV) MOVIE ON HIS DIRECTING RESUME.
Despite the belief it was a “Fletch for the ‘90s,” Morgan Creek could not come up with a way to get Jack Bernstein's script for Ace Ventura made. So the production company's CEO hired Tom Shadyac (Bob Hope's youngest-ever joke writer) to direct the film, despite his inexperience. (They had been impressed by a short film he had directed.) It was Shadyac’s idea to go after Carrey for the lead.
2. RICK MORANIS WAS MORGAN CREEK’S FIRST CHOICE FOR ACE.
Rick Moranis was approached about the lead, but turned the filmmakers down. In 1994, the year Ace Ventura was released, Moranis starred in The Flintstones and Little Giants.
3. CARREY WORKED ON THE SCREENPLAY AFTER IN LIVING COLOR TAPINGS.
The screenplay is credited to Bernstein, Shadyac, and Carrey, but writer Steve Oedekerk (who would later write and direct Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls) and Carrey would work on jokes for Pet Detective from midnight until 4 a.m. after working “15- or 16-hour” days on the Fox sketch comedy show. Oedekerk described himself and Carrey as “two giddy idiots tossing jokes around.”
4. THE ASS-TALKING STARTED AT IN LIVING COLOR.
Frustrated one day with Keenen Ivory Wayans’s constant rejection of his pitched sketches, Carrey stood up and read a sketch from his butt, in Wayans’s direction. The two almost fought before Wayans walked out of the room. "Later, we sat down, talked, and everything was cool," Wayans said.
5. THE MOVIE'S CATCHPHRASES WERE BY DESIGN.
Shadyac claimed in the DVD commentary that Carrey came up with “Alrighty then” and other lines specifically because he thought they might catch on. The hand gesture Ventura gave before leaving the police station was also something Carrey intended to become popular. It did not.
6. LAUREN HOLLY AUDITIONED FOR MELISSA.
Lauren Holly and Carrey met during auditions. She would later co-star with Carrey in Dumb & Dumber, which was also released in 1994. The two were married from 1996 to 1997. Courteney Cox landed the role of Melissa.
7. CARREY BASED VENTURA ON A SMART BIRD.
“I based Ace Ventura off of a smart bird,” Carrey told James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio. "A cockatiel or a parakeet of some kind. The clothing I picked was all ... like a colorful bird, a tropical bird. The walk was bird-like. Everything was about a bird, when I spoke … Everything was based on a bird, even the hairstyle.”
8. CARREY SPECIFICALLY WANTED THE BAND CANNIBAL CORPSE IN THE MOVIE.
Jim Carrey was a fan of the death metal band and requested that they make a cameo. Cannibal Corpse turned them down at first, because they had a European tour lined up. The band got another call a few days later to say they had rearranged the shooting schedule so that there would be no scheduling conflicts. Once they got to Florida, Carrey met the group and requested they play “Hammer Smashed Face” in the movie.
9. RAY FINKLE WAS UWE VON SCHAMANN. AND SEAN YOUNG.
Miami Dolphins kicker Uwe von Schamann was born in Berlin, Germany and moved to Fort Worth, Texas at 16 years old. He played for the Dolphins for six seasons, including in Super Bowl XIX in January 1985, when the Dolphins lost to the 49ers 38-16. Footage of Finkle missing the field goal was of von Schamann. The Dolphins team picture with Finkle was, in fact, Sean Young—in a wig and fake mustache. Pete Stoyanovich, who was at the time the real kicker for the Dolphins, kicked for Finkle/Einhorn at the warehouse.
10. SHOOTING THE SEX SCENE AT ACE’S APARTMENT WAS NOT EASY.
"All the animals had to be chained to their positions," Courteney Cox remembered. "But the squirrel would get loose and jump on the penguin. The penguin would bite the cockatoo and soon all hell would break loose and I'd find myself under the blanket with a macaw."
11. THE CRYING GAME SPOOF WAS ADDED LATE.
It wasn’t in the screenplay, as The Crying Game was not released until production on Ace Ventura was already under way. Using the music and the idea for parodying it was a last-minute decision.
12. SHADYAC WAS WORRIED THAT THE MOVIE MIGHT END HIS AND CARREY'S CAREERS.
“When I first saw Jim, I thought he was doing stuff that was so new it was scary,” Shadyac admitted in 2011. “There was fear when I showed Ace Ventura to an audience because we thought maybe we were ending our careers. There was also fear when we made the choice to play that character so over the top, but we moved through it because we thought there was something really fun there.” The film ended up making over $107 million worldwide. Shadyac would go on to direct two other Carrey movies: Liar Liar (1997) and Bruce Almighty (2003).
13. THE DIRECTOR’S CUT IS SHORTER THAN THE THEATRICAL RELEASE.
Shadyac’s “when in doubt, leave it out” approach led him to cut the scene where Ventura poses as the dolphin’s trainer in the theatrical cut, only to add it to the DVD and every time it’s broadcast on TV. He also took out a part in the Finkle house when Carrey made hand puppets off the movie projector light (it would be recycled for When Nature Calls.) A subplot where Ventura successfully convinces a gas station employee to delay killing himself was also dropped because it was deemed too dark for the movie. A similar reason was given for cutting a dream sequence involving thousands of pigeons.
14. THERE MIGHT BE A REMAKE.
In 2015, Morgan Creek announced it was hoping to keep the rights to Ace Ventura: Pet Detective with the intent of remaking the movie.