Jim Carrey is ready to try drama -- Can the funnyman successfully make the jump?

By A.J. Jacobs
July 14, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

Sure, he was great in The Mask. But could he have done Mask? No, we’re not kidding. In recent interviews, Jim Carrey, 33, the latex-faced king of goofiness, has said he wants to take a stab at drama, following in the career steps of Tom Hanks, who went from Bosom Buddies and Bachelor Party to Philadelphia. What’s the crossover potential for the Dumb and Dumber star?

”Jim Carrey is some kind of whacked-out, subterranean genius whom we ain’t figured out yet,” says Crimson Tide producer Don Simpson. ”He could be anything he wants to be.” John Lyons, casting director for Demi Moore’s upcoming Striptease, agrees. ”I think he’d be good in something that requires extreme character work. Something like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.”

Nevertheless, it’s a big risk. Although several formerly zany comics have made the leap to serious films — think Robin Williams and Michael Keaton — others have stumbled. ”You’d face the same sort of problem that Bill Murray had when he did Razor’s Edge,” says producer Marvin Worth (Lenny). ”Carrey brings a lot of baggage to the roles, but he certainly has the ability.”

Most reviewers ignored Carrey’s respectable turn as an alcoholic son in the wrenching, Emmy-nominated 1992 Fox movie Doing Time on Maple Drive. But that was before he established himself as a human cartoon in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, the first of three consecutive No. 1 movies. Maybe what Carrey needs is Hanks’ director, Apollo 13‘s Ron Howard, to get him in touch with his inner thespian. Or maybe not. Says Zak Penn, who wrote the scripts for Last Action Hero and PCU: ”I see him as Fire Marshal Bill in Backdraft 2.”

With reporting by Irv Letofsky and Jeffrey Wells