LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Jeff Daniels’ phone rang, and his agents were on the line.
“It was an intervention,” said the actor, who had a reputation for serious roles in successful films, of the failed attempt two decades ago to prevent him from doing low-brow comedy “Dumb and Dumber” with two rookie directors.
“We’re going to stop this. You’re not going to do this movie, and we’re going to keep you on the Oscar trail,” Daniels, 59, remembered his agents saying. They could not foresee that his role as the dimwitted, unemployed dog groomer Harry would become one of his most well-known characters and box office successes.
Daniels reprises that role, reputation intact, in “Dumb and Dumber To” - with a misspelled number - alongside Jim Carrey, whose performance as Harry’s equally dense and foolish best friend Lloyd Christmas established the comedian as one of Hollywood’s leading stars.
The gross-out adventure comedy from brothers Bobby and Peter Farrelly will debut in U.S. theaters on Friday and begins with Harry, 20 years older but just as stupid, needing a kidney transplant but unable to find a donor match.
That is until he learns about an unknown daughter he fathered who was put up for adoption. He and Lloyd set out on a road trip to find her but become unwittingly ensnared in a murder plot.
“Find your kid, find your kidney!” Lloyd exclaims to a puzzled Harry.
Their trip unfolds with typical harebrained hijinks, including crossing the country in a borrowed hearse and a stolen Zamboni ice resurfacer.
Although the first “Dumb and Dumber” grossed $247 million worldwide and became a mainstay on U.S. cable TV, Daniels admits his agents were correct that starring in a doofus comedy replete with scatological humor could set him back in Hollywood.
“I think easily for 10 years - and because of the success of ‘Dumb and Dumber’ - I was no longer taken seriously,” he said.
Daniels, who earned Golden Globe acting nominations for “The Purple Rose of Cairo” (1985) and “Something Wild” (1986) did not score another top-tier Hollywood award nomination until 2005’s “The Squid and the Whale.”
“As soon as you do comedy, then you’re not serious anymore, which has always bothered me because the last time you looked, the Greeks are holding up two masks - and to be able to do both seems to be the point of being an actor,” Daniels added.
Two decades on, Daniels has earned enough showbiz gravitas to afford pulling off a “Dumb and Dumber” sequel while still getting to show off his dramatic chops on Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series “The Newsroom,” picking up an Emmy award for best TV drama actor along the way as well.
“I love changing it up,” Daniels said. “I love going from ‘Newsroom’ to ‘Dumb and Dumber.’ I like that range. I like doing what you’re not supposed to do with your career choices.”
Editing by Mary Milliken and Richard Chang