According to interviews with Daniels and the movie's co-creators, brothers Peter and Bobby Farrelly, a studio associated with the film did not want Daniels in the role, but co-star Jim Carrey did. The studio put forth the low offer of $50,000, thinking that Daniels wouldn't accept it. However, he said yes.
In August 2023, a Reddit user on the subreddit r/todayilearned posted the rumor, "[Today I learned] that Jim Carrey was paid $7 million for 'Dumb and Dumber,' while his co-star Jeff Daniels made just $50,000."
This is true, according to interviews with Jeff Daniels, who portrayed the character of Harry Dunne, and the creators of the 1994 film, brothers Peter and Bobby Farrelly. We reached out to representation for Daniels to ask about this matter and will update this story if we receive a response.
Daniels was previously asked about this rumor on "The Rich Eisen Show" in 2021, where he confirmed that it was true:
RICH EISEN: The movie "Dumb and Dumber." The studio did not want you for it but Jim Carrey did, so they lowballed you an offer thinking you would say no, but you took it. Is that true or false?
JEFF DANIELS: True.
EISEN: What'd you like about that movie? What'd you see –
DANIELS: Jim Carrey. He had "Ace Ventura," had been out. Big hit. And he had shot "[The] Mask," and it hadn't been released yet when we started shooting. So I wanted to go into comedy. I had been doing drama and I was kind of spinning my wheels and, so I said, let me do – I went up to LA and chased some jobs and "Dumb and Dumber" is one of them. [I] auditioned, went back for a callback, read with Jim, and Jim and the Farrelly brothers wanted me and the studio wanted, you know, a comedian, basically, and so, they gave me the first week to shoot, where we shot a lot of my stuff. The snowball on the head, the tongue on the pole and all the skis inside the ski lodge. You know, Harry Dunne scenes. And, they cut them together at the end of the first week, and they liked what they saw and I got to stay.
Daniels went on to say that, at the time, his representation tried to intervene with him to not take the low offer, telling Daniels that Carrey was going to "act" him "off the screen." He also said of his friendship with Carrey, "Jim's a friend to this day. I love the guy."
Further evidence to confirm this rumor came from a November 2014 interview with the Farrelly brothers, who had talked to Stephen Galloway for The Hollywood Reporter about the sequel that was releasing at the time, "Dumb and Dumber To." During the interview, they talked about the "lowball" offer that Daniels had accepted so many years before:
STEPHEN GALLOWAY: [The studio] didn’t want Jeff Daniels for the part.
BOBBY FARRELLY: They did not. Jeff Daniels was not the obvious choice because he hadn’t done any, you know, out and out comedies before that. He was always comedic in his roles. But we were huge fans of his and Pete in particular loved him in…
PETER FARRELLY: "Something Wild."
BOBBY FARRELLY: Yeah. Saw him in "Something Wild" and I thought…
GALLOWAY: I love that film. Have you seen it?
BOBBY FARRELLY: It’s a great movie.
GALLOWAY: It’s such a wonderful film.
BOBBY FARRELLY: That movie kind of inspired me in more ways than just him. The music in that movie is some of the best music ever in a movie. And I like the look, I like everything about that movie. But yeah, we fought for him, and then when Jim read with him, they read together, Jim realized that he was pushing, Jeff was pushing him in places that no other actors were pushing him. Jeff’s real. He plays things straight and he reacts to whatever you’re doing. He has no plan. Jeff gets up there and he does not know what he’s going to do until he sees what you’re doing and then he plays off that. He’s a genius at doing that. And Jim understood. He was elevating him so he fought for him. And then the studio didn’t want him, they said, “Please, anyone but him. Get a comedic actor.” So they offered him, if I recall, 50 grand, which was, you know, Jim’s getting seven mil, they offered him 50 figuring he’ll say, “No, I’m not taking that,” but he took it. Yeah.
"Dumb and Dumber" premiered in movie theaters in the U.S. on Dec. 16, 1994. The film was distributed by New Line Cinema and grossed more than $127 million worldwide, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com. Two other films also starring Carrey were released earlier in the same year, as Daniels mentioned to Eisen. "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" came out in February and earned $107 million, while "The Mask" released in July and brought in over a whopping $351 million.
While perhaps not traditionally thought of in the catalog of American holiday movies, "Dumb and Dumber" was released in theaters just nine days before Christmas. Also, as one Reddit user pointed out, had Jim Carrey's character of Lloyd Christmas ended up marrying the film's love interest, Mary Swanson, who was portrayed by actor Lauren Holly, her name would have eventually become Mary Christmas (as was also mentioned in one of the movie's deleted scenes).