PLEASED TO DUMB IT DOWN

For­get about the Os­cars, veteran Jeff Daniels is more than happy to act the fool, but rates rais­ing a fam­ily as his great­est achieve­ment

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES - NEALA JOHN­SON

Jeff Daniels is mak­ing a list of the must-see films of his ca­reer. “Dumb and Dumber To,” he says, be­gin­ning with his lat­est, bliss­fully stupid com­edy. “Dumb and Dumber one — the toi­let scene. The Squid and the Whale. Fly Away Home is pretty good ...”

He’s mak­ing rasp­berry noises as he thinks.

“Pwwt, pwwt ... Get­tys­burg, for that speech to the guys on the hill. Looper is kind of out there. I dunno ... No, no, take Looper away and put The Pur­ple Rose Of Cairo. Put Some­thing Wild and get rid of Fly Away Home. Now I’m just elim­i­nat­ing ...”

Daniels, 60 next month, also di­rected a cou­ple of in­die films in the early 2000s, but won’t be do­ing it again.

“I didn’t like di­rect­ing: ‘Jeff, wait a minute, we’ve got a ques­tion, should we have a blue shirt with a red stripe or a red with a green stripe?’ I don’t care. I just don’t care.”

Yet his great­est achieve­ment, he reck­ons, is check­ing out of the very ca­reer he’s try­ing to sum up: mov­ing from New York back to his home state of Michi­gan so he and his wife, Kath­leen, could raise their fam­ily “in the only place we knew how”.

Turn­ing down se­ries and long lo­ca­tion shoots lost him money and (per­haps) awards, but he kept get­ting sup­port­ing roles along­side A-listers (see Speed, The Hours, Good Night, and Good Luck) “be­cause I’m good and I’m good right away,” he says. Most im­por­tantly, the chil­dren got raised.

“If my kids are set up,” he says, “then I beat the game.”

Then the kids fin­ished high school. So Daniels switched fo­cus back to his ca­reer. He took a role on Broad­way along­side James Gan­dolfini in God Of Car­nage. Then a TV se­ries, The News­room.

Equally crit­i­cised and revered, the Aaron Sorkin­scripted HBO drama about the in­ner work­ings of a cable news chan­nel wrapped its three­sea­son run last month.

It wasn’t long be­fore Daniels was back on set with Jim Car­rey, the pair repris­ing the stu­pid­est men ever com­mit­ted to cel­lu­loid in the long-time-com­ing se­quel, Dumb and Dumber To.

The orig­i­nal Dumb and Dumber may be re­mem­bered as a cult com­edy, but it was the sixth-big­gest movie hit of 1994 in the US. It tipped Car­rey from hap­pen­ing to huge, while writer-direc­tors the Far­relly brothers spawned an en­tirely new dumb/gross-out genre.

Yet Daniels’ agents held an “in­ter­ven­tion” the night be­fore he flew to LA to au­di­tion for it, telling him the com­edy would end his ca­reer.

“Two of the agents said, ‘There is no way we’re gonna let you do this movie’.

“I said, ‘I want to work with Jim Car­rey. I want to change it up. I’m not in­ter­ested in this lit­tle Os­car trail you have me on so that one day maybe I’ll get a Sup­port­ing Ac­tor nom­i­na­tion and that’ll be the last you hear of me’.”

A se­quel wasn’t re­ally on the ta­ble un­til in 2010 a wist­ful Car­rey watched the orig­i­nal, then called the Far­rellys say­ing he felt like do­ing some­thing dumb again.

In the se­quel, Harry (Daniels) re­unites with Lloyd (Car­rey) in a men­tal home, then the pair set off on a cross­coun­try ad­ven­ture to find the daugh­ter that Harry never knew he had.

Dumb and Dumber To opened in US cin­e­mas in the same Novem­ber week the fi­nal sea­son of The News­room pre­miered on HBO, giv­ing Daniels bill­board dom­i­na­tion on the sub­ways of New York and the free­ways of LA.

“You know what?” says Daniels. “At 21 years old, 1976, driv­ing into New York, if I’d sat in the pas­sen­ger seat with me and said, ‘By the way, it’s not gonna hap­pen for you un­til you’re 59 …’

“I out­lasted the bas­tards.”

Jim Car­rey as Lloyd and Jeff Daniels as Harry in a scene from com­edy film

Dumb and Dumber To.

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