- Eddie Murphy, Saturday Night Live, TV, 1980-81. Tested for the The Not Ready For Prime-Time Players in the “so-bad-it's-horrible” 1980-1981 season - under Jean Doumanian.
- Adam Baldwin, DC Cab, 1983. “I auditioned him with 50 others. Like Robin Williams, you can’t shove Jim into a normal movie. It has to become a movie about him and I’ve just never had a role for him since until now,” recalled Joel Schumacher when calling up Jim again - for The Riddler in Batman Forever, 1994.
- Anthony Michael Hall, Sixteen Candles, 1984. Auditioned for Ted The Geek. Director Stanley Kubrick thought that the Hall-John Hughes chemistry was the “most promising” since James Stewart-Frank Capra. (Nobody’s perfect).
- Judd Nelson, Making The Grade, 1984. Jim passed after casting director Julie Seltzer and Cannon Films’ head of music (later Danny Elfman’s music agent) Richard Kraft went to watch him at an LA comedy club.
- Tom Hanks, Bachelor Party, 1984. And so he had to wait a further ten years before exploding as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Howie Mandel and Tim Robbins were also seen for Rick (when Julia Louis-Dreyfus was almost Debbie). Not a good movie which is obviously why Hollywood churned it into a TV sit-com in 2015..
- Tom Cruise, Top Gun, 1985. In serious contention the US Navy pilot ace called Maverick So were: Robert Downey Jr, Tom Hanks, Rob Lowe, Charlie Sheen, Eric Stoltz.
- Judd Nelson, The Breakfast Club, 1985. When Emilio Estevez was moved from Bender to the impossible-to-cast lead, teenage angst auteur John Hughes then found Bender difficult to fill, as well. Contenders included Carrey and his (pricey) pal, Nicolas Cage, plus John Cusack (from Hughes’ 1983 debut, Sixteen Candles). Hughes killed all talk of sequels by saying he would never work with Nelson again.
- Matthew Broderick, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986. Spoken about for Ferris. As were: Tom Cruise, John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr, Michael J Fox and Eric Stolz.
- Christopher Daniel Barnes, The Little Mermaid, 1989. Carrey and Matthdw Broderick (who later voiced Simba in The Lion King) were in the Disney frame for Prince Eric. Until the day was won by ex-kid star - aka Greg in The Brady Bunch movies.
- Robert Downey Jr, Chaplin,1992. Jim was asked... or so it is said. Charlie was never much for talking bottoms...
- Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic Park, 1992.
- Tim Allen, Toy Story, 1992. Pixar’s hyper-talented shirts (never suits!) wanted Paul Newman and Carrey - old and new Hollywood - to voice Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Except their budget was too tiny for superstars. The delicious cartoon was the #1 film of 2005 in the US.
- Timothy Daly, Dr Jekyll and Mrs Hyde, 1995. The idea was to repeat the couple from the surprise Ace Ventura smash. But Tim replaced Jim - his female alter ego was Sean Young. A real woman. She was pregnant.
- Robin Williams, Jumanji, 1996. Robin was reportedly in a snit for letting Jim win The Riddler.
- Nathan Lane, The Birdcage, 1996. The drag queen was first aimed at Jim, then Robin Williams, who preferred, this once, to go low key as Armand.
- Bill Murray, Kingpin, 1996. For the Farelley Brothers... But Jim did make their Dumb and Dumber, 1994, and (unfortunately) Me, Myself and Irene, 2000.
- Paul McGann, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.
- Mike Myers, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, 1997. When you fancy yourself as a top comic - a new Peter Sellers, even - you do not let a funnier guy into your playpen. And so the Powers creator decided to play the villain, Dr Evil, as well as the hero.
- Eddie Murphy, Holy Man, 1998. Joe Roth and his Caravan Pictures wanted Jim after his huge Ace Ventura opening in February 1994. So did everyone else.
- Ben Stiller, Meet The Parents, 1999. Carrey and Steven Spielberg, Chapter One. “Mr S was considering Jim Carrey in the lead role,” recounted scripter Jim Herzfeld. “I met with the two of them, wrote a draft per their notes... figuring if this somehow happened I’d have to quit showbiz because there’s no topping that. But eventually it found its way back to Jay.”
- Seth Green, Rat Race, 2001. Failing to get some $20m stars gave credibility to the desperation of the characters, felt Jerry Zucker. "It doesn't feel like a cast of people wealthier than you."
- Colin Farrell, Phone Booth, 2001.
“I just wasn’t in the right space to do that movie. I’d just come off Me, Myself & Irene and The Grinch That Stole Christmas. I didn’t want to go to a phone both and think about dying.” So he played an amnesiac, blacklisted writer mistaken for a missing man in The Majestic... After about 30 years of B-pix, directing 18 of them, Larry Cohen moved from B to A List scripter at 58. “I wrote the character of a small-time hustling publicist and patterned him on Tony Curtis in Sweet Smell of Success and even had Tony ready to star but… It took 40 years to get his suspenser made. Alfred Hitchcock wanted it in the ’60s, but neither man could work out why the hero stayed trapped in the titular box. By the ’90s, Cohen found the (all-American) idea of a sniper - threatening to shoot the hero if he left the booth. Director Joel Schumacher talked to Carrey when they made Batman Forever, 1994, then Mel Gibson, Will Smith, Mark Wahlberg and, finally, the young Irish lad he’d made into a sudden star with Tigerland, 1999. But young film fans with their cell phones, didn’t know from … whaddyer call ’em again… phone booths? Cohen heard them and brought his tale up to date as Cellular for Kim Basinger and Chris Evans in 2003.
- Robin Williams, Death To Smoochy, 2001. Voting for The Majestic, Jim dropped out as Rainbow Rudolph, a kids’ TV star fired in a bribery scandal.
- Tim Allen, Joe Somebody, 2001. Jim split “A Comedy About Somebody Everybody Can Believe In” for The Majestic. Neither enterprise glowed.
- Matthew Lillard, Scooby-Doo, 2001. The cartoon ghost-chasers were stuck in Development Hell through the 90s. With Jim and Mike Myers as Shaggy favourites. By the new millennium, both were - sorry guys! - too frackin’ old.
- Willem Dafoe, Spider-Man, 2001.
- Dana Carvey, The Master of Disguise, 2002. Jim was first offered Pistachio Disguisey, an Italian waiter stemming from a long line of masters of disguise. (For example, his father retired after successfully impersonating Bo Derek). With Carvey, Pistachio sunk without trace. Like the movie.
- Matt Damon, Stuck On You, 2003. The Farrelly brothers hit rock bottom (as if they knew their comedy antics were about to be sided-swiped by Judd Apatow’s reign as comedy king) with a farce about... conjoined twins. Despite a considerable (27 year) age difference, Carrey was due to be twinned with… Woody Allen. The crazy idea fell apart when The Woodman insisted on (a) no toilet gags and (b) more money than was on the table. Enter : Damon conjoined with Greg Kinnear.
- Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, 2003. Carrey would have have just sunk it.
- Will Ferrel, Elf, 2003. Jim was set as the lead. Ten years earlier.
- Breckin Meyer, Garfield, 2003. Passed. Obviously. The star was the titular, fat, lazy, lasagna-loving cat, not his owner. The unknown Meyer gave Drew Barrymore her first screen kiss and runs a production company with Seth Green and Ryan Philippe.
- Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland, 2003.An odd idea, but Jim - very low onthe subtlety register - was up for Peter Pan creator JM Barrie - Sir James Matthew Barrie - before Johnny made it his own. Of course.
- Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator, 2004. In 2002, Carrey was very keen to be Howard Hughes and was in the planning stage... when director Martin Scorsese’s cinematic equivalent of The Spruce Goose finally tumbled down the runway - and took off, oh so majestically.
- Will Ferrell, Bewitched, 2004. Too busy - or too canny- to be the husband of, well, who... Jennifer Aniston, Kim Basinger, Cameron Diaz, Heather Graham (who would have been quirkily great), Angelina Jolie, Lisa Kudrow (perfect!), Tatum O'Neal, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michelle Pfeiffer, Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, Hilary Swank, Naomi Watts... among others. The unnecessary movie needed his mania. It had nothing else.
- Johnny Depp, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 2004. Once again, Depp was priceless. (And Carrey too pricey). Tim’s 21 other thoughts? One ole Beetlejuice Michael Keaton. Three Monty Pythons - John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin. Plus Rowan Atkinson, Nicolas Cage, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Marilyn Manson, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Leslie Nielsen, Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler, Will Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ben Stiller, Christopher Walken, Robin Williams. Burton said his Willy, as it were, was part Citizen Kane and part Howard Hughes.
- Sam Rockwell, The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 2005.
- Kevin Spacey, Superman Returns, 2006.
- Bruce Willis, Over The Hedge, 2006. From Bill Murray to Carrey to Willis - RK, the comic-strip racoon. changed his voice at last minute.
- Ben Stiller, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 2006. Carrey was perfect for a remake of Danny Kaye’s 1947 classic by James Thurber. After Owen Wilson… and before Stiller messed it up.
- Steve Carrell, Evan Almighty, 2006. Or, Bruce Almighty 2 until Jim ruled out any sequel. His place was taken over by his-anchor rival in the original, now being told by God to go, build an ark....
- Steve Carell, Get Smart, 2007. Mel Brooks’ creation of a bumbling American Bond - Don Adams as Maxwell Smart, aka CONTROL Agent 86 on TV in 1995 - was always being dredged up for the comedy flavours of the hour. Carrey in 1998, Carell, nine years on.
- Stephen J Anderson, Meet The Robinsons, 2007. Carrey was an early idea to voice The Bowler Hat Guy… before it became Anderson’s second voice-acting gig (third and fourth, as he also spoke for Grandpa Bud and Tallulah). He continued supplying voices when working at his day job - story artist and character designer on such Disney toons as Bolt, Frozen, Tangled, Zootopia.
- Tom Hiddleston, Thor, 2010 Every superhero movie needs a supervillain and Carrey was keen on becoming the Norse god Thor’s awful brother. Loki. Charlie Cox auditioned. But UK director Kenneth Branagh had a far better idea… he’d acted with Hiddleston in Conspiracy, 2001, and the Wallander TV series, 2008.
- Mel Gibson, The Beaver, 2010. First bought by producer Steve Golin for his Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind duo of Carrey and director Spike Jonze - a far more perfect plan than Jodie Foster (dimly) directing the disgraced Gibson, described by one UK critic as “the once famously handsome and hyperactive heartthrob transformed by depression into an old, paunchy, dead-eyed, grey-haired loser.” He won better reviews than Foster’s headlines (Jodie’s Beaver, etc) yet the $21m movie made less than $1m in the US. Gibson was deader than John Cleese’s Norwegian Blue parrot.
- Ty Burrell, Butter, 2010. Here’s a first... New TV star from Modern Family took over the role of the Elvis of Butter- the Iowa king of butter sculptures. His winning carvings during 15 years at the top included hilarious versions of The Last Supper and... Schindler’s List.
- Will Sasso, The Three Stooges, 2011. He just couldn’t carry the weight of Curly Howard - opposite, at the time, Sean Penn and Benicio del Torro as slap-happy Larry and Moe. Anti-fat-suit, Carrey gained 35, 40 lbs but... .“When you’re De Niro in your 20s or early 30s, you can kinda come back from that. It's a tough thing when you're upwards of 30. Your body can't carry it or you can have a cardiac arrest.”In many respects (except success), Carrey in the brothers’ Dumb and Dumber was a test run for this film. The MadTV and$#*! My Dad Says star tookover with Sean Hayes and Chris Diamantopoulos as Larry and Moe.
- Dermot Mulroney, August: Osage County, 2012. Jovial Jim was a surprise idea for Steve the molester…. In the star-packed account of the Weston brood: Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, Julia Roberts, Sam Shepard and Meryl Streep.
- Jesse Eisenberg, Now You See Me, 2012. And now you don’t… after the suits decided - hadda happen one day, Jim! - to go with a younger cast of (here’s a first!) illusionist bank robbers.At one point both Carrey and Sacha Baron Cohen were booked for the thriller. What a missed opportunity for a laugh-riot!
- Bradley Cooper, Guardians of the Galaxy, 2013. The most Lucasian of the Marvel films… H Jon Benjamin, Sharlto Copley, Danny De Vito, Michael Rooker, Adam Sandler and David Tennant were also short-listed to voice the “gnarled, miserable, angry” Rocket Raccoon. (Well, he is half-machine/half-raccoon).
- James Corden, Into The Woods, 2013.
- Ben Stiller, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 2013.
Carrey and Steven Spielberg, Chapter Two… During the 20 years of trying to re-make the 1947 version of James Thurber’s 1939 short story… Carrey tried to make it happen. Twice! First in 1994 with producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr, son of the legendary producer of the ’47 Danny Kaye hit. Again in 2003 when talking to another Goldwyn producer (John, Sam’s grandson) and Steven Spielberg declared: "If Jim's starring, I'll direct." Unlucky Jim… Next in line: Owen Wilson in 2005, Mike Myers and Ben Stiller (he passed the first time in 2007), Will Ferrell (not sure when) as directors also switched, from Ron Howard to Gore Verbinski (who strangely never thought of his pirate, Johnny Depp?). Finally, Stiller directed himself, reducing Mitty’s daydreams and giving him a real adventure - almost as if this was a sequel to the re-make. i.e. Flop.