By Mark Searby
1994 seems to have been the year that kick-started new trends that are still prevalent in today’s society. The year saw the launch of the PlayStation games console by Sony, and Oasis exploded onto the music scene with one of the greatest debut albums ever, Definitely Maybe. Sadly, the music scene also saw the death of Kurt Cobain, a man who pushed grunge music into the mainstream. On the movies front, the Hugh Grant-led Four Weddings And A Funeral became the UK’s biggest box office film ever with worldwide takings of more than $250m worldwide. The box office also caught light thanks to Tom Hanks’s Forest Gump, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and Disney’s The Lion King.
Coming in at number nine on the highest-grossing films of 1994 was a movie that not many people at the studio had high hopes for or that audiences were particularly interested in watching (comic book-style movies were not box office gold – unlike today), yet The Mask became a global phenomenon and its opening weekend in the US saw it take $23m.
The Mask was a film that the whole family could enjoy, and quote to each other for years to come. But what made this movie such a huge success? And where did it all start?
“Ooh, Somebody Stop Me!”
The Mask was intended to be a horror film from New Line Pictures. The studio was looking for a new type of horror icon, much like Freddy Krueger, to kick start another scary movie franchise. Charles Russell was offered the job of directing the horror version of The Mask, but he felt it worked better as a comedy. New Line thought differently and had three alternate scripts written where the protagonist would put on the mask and go around killing people. Then about a year later, the studio came back to Russell and asked him if he would be interested in doing his version of The Mask.
“What are you doing down there?”
“I’m just looking for ... My Mask. FOUND IT!”
Russell had wanted to work with Jim Carrey for a long time. Carrey was only really known as one of the guys on the TV series In Living Colour. Jim modelled the character of Stanley Ipkiss on his own father, so many of Ipkiss’s traits are Carrey family ones – such as the fact that Stanley keeps asking people ‘Ah?’ ‘What?’ ‘Eh?’. This was because his father was deaf in one ear. His motions as The Mask are very dance like and his movements bring to mind slapstick stars of the silent era. The facial expressions on the mask were devised to resemble Carrey’s own expressions.
It wasn’t a rigid mask like most would have today; instead, it was latex that had the ability to move with Carrey’s facial features. The mask was made of 17 separate pieces of latex that had to be joined together, and took four hours in the make-up chair to apply and only 30 minutes to remove. The problem was trying not to bury Carrey underneath too much rubber.
Some people might say that Carrey's rubbery face doesn’t need a mask as he has the ability to contort his face in nearly every way imaginable. Carrey said that: “[The Mask] makes Stanley the person who has all the answers. He can never be hurt. He is the guy everybody would love to be when they are faced with a situation.”
The Mask opens up the suppressed side of Stanley’s personality. Co-star Cameron Diaz commented that it wasn’t when Carrey was wearing the mask that scared her; instead, it was when he had to have it removed at the end of the day. “It was terrifying as it was glue and chunks of sponge would just stay on his face.”
“You know what Mrs Peenman ... Nothing”
“Well that’s what you are Ipkiss. A big fat nothing”
The CGI was created by two teams at Industrial Light & Magic, as they had to create cartoon-like images directly fused to the real actors. The scene where Stanley, as The Mask, has his eyes and tongue pop out when Mrs Peenman walks into him took about four weeks to complete. The only CGI scene that wasn’t scripted was when The Mask blows a heart shape from his cigarette smoke followed by snorting the arrow out. Carrey had come up with the idea at about 3am on the set, so the crew shot the scene and just hoped that the digital effects could be included later. As it turned out it’s one of the best visual CGI moments in the film.
The howling wolf shot when The Mask see’s Tina is a complete ripoff of the legendary Tex Avery cartoons. Carrey filmed it, but then post production at ILM saw his head removed and a computer graphics metal frame imposed on the shot. That was then covered with CGI skin and finally the stars and planets flying round his head.
The role of Tina Carlyle was set to be filled by the up and coming actress Anna Nicole Smith. It was only changed when the producers were on their way out of a modelling agency and noticed Diaz. It was her first film role – previously a model, Diaz burst onto and in to the film with one of the greatest entrances ever committed to celluloid. Anybody who saw that film upon release will remember, until their dying breath, the dolly-in and pull-back scene.
Diaz turned 21 while shooting, so the crew decided to throw her a party after filming had finished. As they were filming through the night the party started in the early hours of the morning and went on into a normal working day. During the entire filming process Diaz used a pushup bra as she felt it suited the character, but she has never worn one since in a film. Cameron’s singing in the nightclub was all overdubbed by Susan Boyd, who does a lot of voiceovers for animated films including Mulan, The Little Mermaid and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure TV series.
“They call me Cuban Pete. I’m the king of the rhumba beat”
The Mask was completed in a little over eight months at a cost of $18m – which included all of the special effects that had never been done before. Russell commented that: “It saved us a lot of money when we cast Jim. As he was so flexible that we didn’t need to enhance his movements via digital.” Carrey had signed on for the film before the release, and blow up, of Ace Ventura so he was only paid $500,000 for his work on The Mask. Once it was released he next inked a deal for Dumb & Dumber at a fee of $7m.
“That’s a spicy meatball”
A year later, Nintendo Power magazine exclusively revealed that there would be a sequel – The Mask 2. Alongside announcing the sequel, the magazine also ran a competition for the winner to have a walk-on part in the forthcoming film. But it never materialised, mainly due to Carrey not wanting to reprise the role. The basic storyline would have been that mob boss Dorian would have returned and The Mask would have been worn by a woman, which follows some of the stories from the original comics. Rather than that we were given Son Of The Mask, a terrible prequel that involves no one from the original film. Also churned out was an animated TV series that ran from 1995-97. The final episode saw The Mask/Stanley Ipkiss team up with Ace Ventura. None of the subsequent tie-ins could match the popularity of the original film.
“We all wear masks ... metaphorically speaking”
The Mask is silly at its heart, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable, but it also has this charming personality about it – a human romance that takes place within the cartoon comedy world. A Jekyll and Hyde story for the 1990s that gave Jim Carrey a bigger canvas to express his talents, and it introduced us to the beauty of Cameron Diaz.