The Ambiguously Gay Duo, Robert Smigel’s inseparable pair of crime fighters, made their debut almost 19 years ago on the short-lived Dana Carvey Show, before making the leap to Saturday Night Live. Ace and Gary, voiced by Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell, respectively, appeared in 13 shorts between 1996 and 2011, when Jon Hamm and Jimmy Fallon suited up for a live-action version.
The 2011 short was originally conceived by Smigel as a test reel of sorts for the live-action feature script that he had written with Colbert six year before. “In 2005, Colbert had left The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report was just a gleam in his eye,” Smigel says. “I remember him telling me about it and us joking a little bit about it. He had three or four months before he was even going to start on that, so we wrote this movie together.”
The original idea for an Ace and Gary movie had come up back in 2000, near the end of the period when the Ambiguously Gay Duo short would air once or twice a year and at the height of movie-hungry SNL. Someone pitched the idea to Smigel, but he initially balked. “I thought it would be boring,” Smigel says. “But then I thought, ‘What about a live-action one with Alec Baldwin and Jimmy Fallon?'” Lorne Michaels loved the idea, but ownership disputes between Universal, who still held rights from the Dana Carvey Show days, and Paramount, who produced SNL films, kept the project from taking off.
Smigel shelved the idea until years later, when it attracted some serious star interest. Carell’s big break into film came in 2003 with the Jim Carrey comedy, Bruce Almighty. Carell and Carrey got to talking, and it eventually came up that the former had voiced Gary in the Ambiguously Gay Duo. “Carell told Jim that I had thought about doing a live-action movie,” Smigel recalls. “And Carrey just lit up at the idea.”
With Carrey interested, Universal finally agreed to commission a script from Smigel, who then brought on Colbert to help. Unfortunately, the stars never aligned once the screenplay was finished. “We pitched it to Jim. It took a long time [to hear back],” Smigel says. “But it sort of died on the vine again.”
Since filming the test for SNL, there hasn’t been any official movement on an Ambiguously Gay Duo movie, though Smigel toys with the idea of reviving it every so often—and he already has two stars in mind.
“A year ago, I was like, ‘What if I went out now to Channing Tatum and Justin Bieber?'” Smigel says. “I would go to see that.”