The Mask 2 was all set to go at New Line Cinema, so what happened? We take a closer look at a planned sequel that never was.
Jim Carrey was almost untouchable in the 1990s, and a star who shot out of nowhere. A string of successes rarely matched, from his role alongside Jeff Daniels in Dumb And Dumber, through his box office breakthrough in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and When Nature Calls and finally securing what was up to that point the highest salary ever commanded for a single film, $20 million for Ben Stiller’s directorial debut The Cable Guy.
The Mask, though, is arguably the film that really cemented Carrey’s status as a comedic superstar. A literal whirlwind of comic energy, the film plays to every one of Carrey’s strengths as a performer. It arrived just months after Ace Ventura – the first one – has broken him through, and thus the relatively modest salary he got for the film was, no argument, a bargain.
Based on the Dark Horse comics, which are notoriously dark and feature graphic violence with very little respite, the film wisely – at least for its commercial prospects – chose to go in a much lighter direction. It took inspiration from Tex Avery cartoons and incorporated slapstick, including a notable scene in which Carrey, modeling balloons for a group of criminals, produces a condom with the legend ‘sorry, wrong pocket’. That was a moment improvised by Carrey that somehow made it past the censors, who still gave the film a family-friendly rating.
Directed by Chuck Russell, who was then best known for helming Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, and who would go on to direct Eraser and The Scorpion King, Mike Werb’s screenplay follows the story of Stanley Ipkiss, a meek man whose life is transformed when he discovers a magical mask which turns him into a green faced clown with an impish sense of humour, who battles bullies, annoys the police force and rescues seductive songstress Tina Carlyle from the grip of gangster Dorian Tyrell.
The film was also notable for giving Cameron Diaz her big break as Tina, the ensemble cast, from Amy Yasbeck as Stanley’s only real friend Peggy to the great Peter Riegert as Lieutenant Kellaway, all do a terrific job playing straight to Carrey’s lunacy.
Making over $350 million on a budget of less than $20 million, it’s not surprising that pre-production of a sequel began almost immediately. New Line at this stage was, after all, a burgeoning indie firm that has mined the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise to help build itself up. Sequels were in its DNA.
Here’s where the story gets interesting. In October 1995, a competition was launched in Nintendo Power magazine, promising the winner a walk on part in The Mask 2.
An in-depth article, which you can read here, managed to catch up with the winner of that competition, Nathan Runk. After a few months of regular updates, it became clear that Jim Carrey was not going to do the film though. Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls came out the same year, and despite being a box office success, Carrey felt creatively stifled and so began his vehement aversion to ever doing sequels. He would eventually drop this stance in 2014 with the release of Dumb and Dumber To and, later, Sonic The Hedgehog 2. But it meant – to New Line’s frustration – an instant sequel to The Mask was a no-no.
It wasn’t all bad. Runk remembers “They gave me the option to wait indefinitely or take the cash… I took the cash. Absolutely the right call! Also, when I was on the phone with the people from Nintendo, they asked me if there was anything else that I really wanted. I said that I had just recently gotten an N64 and really wanted Pilotwings 64 (loved the original). In less than a week, I received that with the cheque”.
The wasn’t quite the end of the story for The Mask 2, though. The 90s saw many popular film properties turned into cartoons, and Jim Carrey films were prime among them, with Dumb And Dumber, Ace Ventura and The Mask all getting the treatment.
The Mask: The Animated Series plays even more heavily into the Tex Avery style of humour. Without the restrictions of live action, the cartoon could commit fully to the implications of what The Mask can actually do. It introduced an array of villains, from arch nemesis Pretorious, a deliciously evil supervillain voiced by Tim Curry, to hulking henchman Walter and more comical villains like cheese witch Gorgonzola and Putty Thing and Fish Guy. Supporting characters Kellaway, Doyle and Peggy all returned from the film, though not played by their original actors. Rob Paulsen, who voiced Stanley and The Mask, once commented on talk show Donny and Marie that “I get to be Jim Carrey for a whole lot less cake!”.
It even gave us the rare opportunity to see two Carrey characters interact when a two-part crossover between The Mask and Ace Ventura was produced.
It would take until 2005 for a genuine sequel to emerge, but oh dear. Son Of The Mask has a reputation, perhaps quite rightly, as one of the worst sequels ever made. From the lacklustre script and effects to replacing Jim Carrey with Jamie Kennedy, the film seemed destined for failure from the start.
In the film’s defence, Alan Cumming appears to be having an absolute ball camping it up as Loki. Writing on his website, Cumming says of the movie that “this was a really long film and full of effects, but even though it was sometimes incredibly technical I sort of went into a zen place and didn’t really engage with it all and just tried to remain in character and pretend it was a normal film!”.
Kennedy himself has never shied away from talking about the production that put a stain on his career, even releasing two in depth videos on YouTube in which he explains how he came to be involved and his thoughts on the film, which you can see here (just a warning, there is some strong language): Part 1 and Part 2
After the disastrous reception of Son Of The Mask, that seemed to be it for the franchise. However, in recent years, Carrey has mellowed. As well as the aforementioned sequels, Carrey has said in several interviews that he would be willing to reprise the role of The Mask with the right director, telling ComicBook.com “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”. More recently though, he’s been suggesting he’s stepping away from acting altogether, so don’t hold your breath.
So whether a sequel or reboot reboot does ever materialize remains to be seen, but without Carrey it’s difficult to see how it might work. With his recent reiteration that he really is retired from acting, it looks like The Mask 2 makes for a fascinating ‘what-if’?
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