On December 19, Jim Carrey’s Yes Man opens. It’s a film about a guy who says yes to everything (as opposed to a guy who lies about everything). In other words, a classic Jim Carrey comedy. But thanks to a deal that one Hollywood insider described as “a new kind of stupid,” the movie will have to make classic Jim Carrey profits for him to earn close to his standard fee of $20 million, plus 20 percent of the box office. Can Carrey’s bet pay off?
Carrey’s officially a box-office behemoth: In just on year, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective rakes in $107 million*, The Mask earns $351 million, and Dumb & Dumber $247 million. Columbia Pictures pays Carrey a record $20 million for The Cable Guy.
The Cable Guy flops and Carrey becomes the poster boy for overpaid actors. Columbia feels stupid.
Liar, Liar is huge: $302 million! Universal Pictures doesn’t feel stupid.
Carrey gets serious (The Truman Show, Man on the Moon, The Majestic), with mixed box-office results, but manages one old-school payday, How the Grinch Stole Christmas ($345 million).
Carrey’s Bruce Almighty is a $484 million-grossing monster—the biggest hit of his career.
He gets stellar reviews for art-house hit Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (for which he took a pay cut—hey, it’s art!), and less-stellar reviews for Lemony Snicket, which grossed $209 million (his paycheck went back to normal).
Carrey shuts down production during Fun With Dick and Jane, adding to a growing rep for difficult behavior. The film makes an okay $202 million. (The budget was $100 million.)
After another bomb, The Number 23, Warner Bros. offers Carrey the Yes Man deal: As reported by Nikki Finke, he forgoes up-front payment for 36.2 percent of the cash-break gross—i.e., instead of making money on the first ticket sold, the film’s budget and marketing costs are paid off before Carrey collects.
Oops: Yes Man opens against box-office Midas Will Smith’s Seven Pounds. But Carrey still has a chance of making a few bucks: If the film hits the domestic average for his hits ($146 million), and the budget and marketing was (as estimated) $120 million, he’ll earn $9.4 million. So it’s $40 million less than his old deal. We’re in a recession.