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Interview: The Farrelly Brothers Talk DUMB AND DUMBER TO and Revisiting Classic Characters

In 1994’s Dumb and Dumber, the Farrelly Brothers introduced us to a pair of idiots by the names of Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) who discovered a suitcase full of money and wound up embroiled in a cross-country kidnapping plot pursued by contract killers and cops alike. In 2014, the Brothers and their buffoons are back in action for a sequel set 20 years after the original, Dumb and Dumber To. Before you go see the long-simmering sequel this weekend though, we wanted to take you behind the scenes of the film. Recently, we sat down with Peter and Bobby Farrelly to discuss returning to the world of Dumb and Dumber, what it was like revisiting these characters 20 years later, and much more.

Nerdist: So this is a real treat for me to get to talk to you guys.

Peter Farrelly: Thanks, man!

N: A lot of your movies came out at a time that was very formative for me…

Bobby Farrelly: What were you – like, 6 when they came out?

N: Oh, no, no! I was in my teen years – the appropriate years to watch Farrelly Brothers movies.

PF: Oh, good!

N: Especially at the time we were growing up, where there wasn’t that shock factor of these things not being seen regularly, the way YouTube has proliferated, and these jokes are now carried out by people less subtle and not as funny.

But that kind of kicks off what I wanted to ask you first. With how comedy has changed over the last 20 years, how do you adapt Dumb and Dumber to still be that slight critique about people who are OK with being stupid?

PF: [chuckles] Well, luckily, the good news about Harry and Lloyd is they don’t change. Like, from the beginning to the end of the first one, they had not changed. They had been through a lot, but they were the same guys at the end. They didn’t have girlfriends. They weren’t married. They didn’t have new jobs. They had nothing but each other, and heading home to Rhode Island.

So it was just about, even though it’s 20 years later, the real thing was how would they still be the same, 20 years later? What would have happened? We thought, well, if he was in an insane asylum for 20 years – Lloyd – we totally were trying to do the same movie. We didn’t want a different style of comedy. We wanted new jokes, new feel, new story, but we felt like to change the style of comedy we not be true to Harry and Lloyd.


N: How is that, getting back into that head space with these characters so many years later?

PF: When we – I don’t know if this answers it, but when we edit the movie, we’ll each have watched it 500 times.

BF: A thousand times.

PF: You just watch it over and over and over. At the end, we’ll be laughing at stuff that we just weren’t laughing at in the beginning.

BF: Yeah. The laughs evolve. They change.

PF: Yeah. So it’s like what we thought was the joke early on is still there, but when we look on what Jeff Daniels is doing – while Lloyd is doing something funny, what’s Harry doing? You start to see the movie in a whole different way, so that’s the beauty of this movie, and the fun of making it, is that leaving stuff that hopefully if people watch it time and time again, they’re going to catch up to what we’re laughing at 20, 25 viewings of the movie.

It’s interesting, because when the movie came out, there were certain big laughs, like the toilet. Him sitting on the toilet, that kind of thing. And the snowball in the head – that kind of thing. But that’s not what people refer to now. When they – everybody used to say,”You’re telling me there’s a chance,” and “Big gulp.” It’s a million little things. “Our bird’s head fell off!” It’s a lot of the littler jokes, that weren’t really big initially – I’m just repeating what he said, but it makes it really interesting too, this kind of movie – you fight for little things.

Because the studio, early on – “So you’re telling me there’s a chance,” – that got no laughs. That got no laugh when we tested that 20 years ago. The studio said, “Get rid of that. It got no laughs.” “Nah, we like that.” “Yeah, but it’s not getting a laugh. It doesn’t matter if you like it.” We were like, “It’ll get a laugh later on.” They’re like, “What the hell does that mean? It didn’t get a laugh in front of 400 people! Why would it get a laugh later on?”

BF: We’ve seen the movie 500 times, and that’s what we’re laughing at in the editing room, so those are the things that we fight for. I don’t know – that’s what makes this movie work to me. There’s a lot of those moments.

N: I know we all want – in Hollywood, it’s all about the theatrical release, but a lot of people came to your films in home video. You guys became big right when DVDs proliferated.

BF: Right.

N: When you’re making movies now, and the window for theatrical is so short, is that part of what makes it so important to make sure the whole film plays, and not just the big tent-pole jokes?

BF: Nah, we don’t think like that. We never think like – that’s pretty deep thinking, what you’re thinking – if you were in the marketing department for a studio, they would be very intrigued by that. But we’re not that – we don’t think like that. We do realize, if there is a – you have to separate yourself from your movie at some point and say, “You know what? We just always try to do what we think is great, and hope for the best.”

If There’s Something About Mary opened today, it wouldn’t do like it did. That opened at $13 million, and they just kept it in the theaters, kept in the theaters, it just kept going – $13, $12, $12, $11, $11, $10, $10, $9 million – every weekend, and it ended up doing $170-something million dollars. That doesn’t happen today. If that movie does $13 million the first weekend, the second weekend they’ve cut half of those theaters are gone, they’re showing another movie, so the next weekend it would have done $6 or $7 million. Then those half are gone, then it would be $3 and $2.

So it’s changed. You’ve got to hit – you’ve got to hit it, if that’s what you’re looking for. But we don’t think like that. I just want everybody to see it ultimately. I just want them to see it – I don’t care if they see it DVD, video, piracy – I’m not for piracy.

PF: Our last movie that we made, The Three Stooges, was not a huge box office hit. But it’s been a little bit later now. We made it for kids. We made it for younger kids. And now it’s like, it’s that much time later – I don’t know, how many years has it been?

BF: 3? Yeah, 2 or 3 years.

PF: I’m starting to hear it now. A guy said, “My kids love that movie!” They’re just starting to get it. And that means a lot more than anything to me, is that finally, people are seeing it and they’re getting it. ‘Cause we don’t know how a movie’s going to come out in the box office.

BF: No.

PF: You’ll live and die by that. If that’s all it’s about for you, you probably are just going to be a very disappointed film maker. Kingpin didn’t open. That did $5 million opening weekend, and it did $25 million totally in the box office, and it was painful – it was very painful, because we didn’t expect it. They were telling us it was going to do very well, and then it didn’t. But luckily, 6 months later when it came out on DVD, and suddenly people would come up and say “Hey, man, I really like Kingpin!”

And you learn a lesson then, which is I guess it really doesn’t matter when they see them, as long as they see them. Because, you know, the truth is we’re not doing it for the money. It’s nice to get paid, believe me. But that’s not why you do it. You do it because you want to entertain people, and you want them to enjoy it. Ultimately, if they see it at some point, that’s all you can ask for.


N: One of my favorite things about your movies is that there’s always a great parable to them. I always thought Dumb and Dumber was about how your friendship survives. In this film, it seems more like, “Why do I need this guy?” As you guys have worked together for so many years, how does revisiting this particular theme resonate with you as brothers? 

PF: Yeah. I don’t know if I see it that they don’t need each other as much…

BF: No, but their friendship gets tested on these adventures.

N: That’s really more what I mean.

BF: It did in the first one. They were fighting over – Harry was holding a grudge from the Fraida Felcher incident that we never saw, but it got brought up, and then it came to a head when they met this new girl, Mary Swanson, and the friendship was tested. But ultimately they were, like, “Aww, shoot me!” They came back, they apologized in front of each other, and the story came back to where they got tested, but it survived the test, and at the end of the movie, they had each other.

PF: That’s all they ever had.

BF: That’s all they they need. They’re back to “You’re right, you’re right, you’re right,” and so that was the full circle that we came. In this one, I think it’s very similar.

PF: There’s also another theme that not many people pick up on, which is Harry always gets revenge. He did in the first one. Every time she throws a little powder puff of snow at him, he GUSH! In the face! He sprays them in the face when they’re coming into the party, he takes the cane – SHPING! In the back of the legs! They had talked about Fraida Feltcher in the hot tub, he goes “She was fooling around with someone – I never did find out who.” Well, he knows it was Lloyd, and that’s why he goes after Mary Swanson.

N: Ah!

PF: And in this one, the whole story, you don’t realize till the end, is revenge. That whole kidney thing is bullshit, because he’s getting back at Lloyd for playing that gag where he’s in the mental institution for 20 years, and he gets revenge. And because of revenge, they go into really interesting places. In this case, he finds out he has a daughter. He would never have found out he had a daughter if he wasn’t faking the kidney thing, going home…no, no, he didn’t have a daughter, but that gets him sent off in an area where they go on these things.


N: There’s one performance that I love that you included, and I don’t know if it was intentional for one of the reasons I loved it, but Kathleen Turner is great. One of the very first things that I loved, the scene played very well straightforward that these guys don’t recognize her because she aged, but Kathleen Turner is a great actress, and I love that you guys have her a character and a voice that we grow up, we get older. Was that intentional or is that just a nice benefit of being able to write this stupid, silly scene for these guys?

PF: We all age, and it is 20 years – we didn’t want to deny it was 20 years later. When we started this movie, there’s a point where he talks about the girl, he goes, “It would be nice to go out with one of her friends,” and he says “Lloyd, what are you talking about? She’s 22! You’re so much older!” We want that known.

We don’t want to pretend they’re not older. So we thought, 20 years, what would the woman look like. And then Kathleen Turner is just someone we’ve always admired. We’ve seen her poke fun at herself on talk shows, so I thought, “I’ll bet she’ll do this,” and she did. And we dressed her down.

BF: She’s a combination of the incredible, talented actress that we’re looking for, and a great sense of humor. It was just perfect for the part. Really great.

PF: And we did dress her down. You’ll see – she’s not…we put fleece on her.

BF: I remember at one point, I was talking to her with that scene where they come in and say “Hello, sir,” they arrive with the daughter and everything. And I said, “Maybe you should say, just so we have it, ‘You two don’t look like any box of chocolates yourselves!'” Something like that, to bring that up. She’s like, “Nah, I don’t need to say any of that stuff. Those morons!” She’s smarter than that. She doesn’t even need to defend herself, or pretend.

PF: Everything she does – at the end, when they do the – when you find out that the kidney thing was a fake thing at the hospital, it’s just her and Lloyd going, “What the hell am I doing in this movie?” [laughing]

N: I thought she was perfect! One last question: what is your favorite Jim Carrey movie that people accidentally give you credit for on the street but that you had nothing to do with?

PF: I love Liar, Liar. I’ve had people say that, “I like what you did with Liar, Liar.” But what we get mistaken for the most is, I’ve had people come up to me a lot and say, “Dude! I’m a huge fan – Fargo changed my life! That is such a good movie!” [laughter] I go, “Thanks, man. That’s cool.”

BF: Never correct them.

PF: Never correct them.

BF: I had a guy just go speechless about a month ago. I was with Tommy, and this kid came up, “Oh, god, I can’t believe I’m meeting you! This is such an honor. Holy shit.” I thought he was thinking of my movies. Then he was like, “Jesus Christ, I’ve just got to tell you, Fargo is a classic. It’s a fucking classic.” [laughter]

Dumb and Dumber To is in theaters everywhere. For even more, listen to Peter Farrelly’s recent episode of the Nerdist podcast.

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