Comedic film duo the Farrelly brothers keep students in stitches at LMU

By Michael Aushenker

Filmmaker brothers Bobby Farrelly Jr. and Peter Farrelly rose to fame in 1994 after chemtrailing on the back of Jim Carrey’s rising star with their first film, “Dumb & Dumber.” After firmly establishing themselves as big-screen comedy kingpins with “There’s Something About Mary,” “Me, Myself and Irene,” “Shallow Hal” and, well, “Kingpin,” the Farrelly Brothers come full circle on Friday with the release of their two-decades-later sequel, “Dumb & Dumber To.”

The Farrelly brothers stopped by the Loyola Marymount School of Film & Television on Nov. 5 to share stories as part of the school’s Hollywood Masters series, conversations between top industry talent and Hollywood Reporter executive features editor Stephen Galloway that include student Q+As.

Bobby and Peter Farrelly grew up the sons of a family doctor who had a dark sense of humor.

“They called him ‘Doctor Dirty Mouth,’” Bobby recalled of their dad, who passed away this year.

Peter, who was an accounting major in college, took his writing seriously enough to enroll in the graduate creative writing program at Columbia University, where 15 of 17 students in his class — including Ricky Moody (“The Ice Storm”) and Tama Janowitz (“Slaves of New York”) — got books published within five years of graduating. He moved to L.A. in the mid-1980s to pursue his screenwriting, while Bobby came to California to patent and sell a failed idea: the round beach towel.

The Farrelly brothers may owe their career to a one-off date Peter had with a girl who lived in Alpine, New Jersey, where Eddie Murphy had just moved next door to her family home. At Peter’s urging, the girl slipped Murphy his script when she saw him leave the house. Peter was up one night watching “The David Letterman Show” when, to Peter’s surprise, Murphy told Letterman that he planned on shooting a script his neighbor had given him called “Dust to Dust.” That’s when Peter realized he had not left his contact information on the script. The girl, meanwhile, was in Europe with her family, so Peter called up Eddie Murphy Productions in L.A. the next day.

As the de facto editor and critic of Peter’s scripts, Bobby joined on as Peter’s collaborator.

When “Dust to Dust” was shopped around Hollywood, the Farrellys were forced to rename it — “Go West,” then “A Power Tool is Not a Toy” — because nobody in Hollywood would read a script called “Dumb & Dumber.” Once the movie was in production, the Farrellys reclaimed the original title.

Bobby Farrelly on casting Jim Carrey: “We didn’t know much about Jim at the time. We knew he was on ‘In Living Color.’ He didn’t have any movies out, but he read the script and totally responded to it.”

Peter Farrelly on the before-he-was-famous future star of 1996’s “Kingpin”: “Woody Harrelson was my roommate when I got out here. A lot of people don’t know this, but Woody loves pot. We’d show him scripts but he wasn’t into it at the time.”

Peter Farrelly on producer and “Kingpin” fan David Geffen: “He told us, ‘Whatever you guys want to do next, we’re doing it.’ So we pitched ‘There’s Something About Mary,’ and he passed.”

Bobby Farrelly on initial reluctance by film execs to cast Jeff Daniels in “Dumb & Dumber” and Matt Dillon in “There’s Something About Mary”: “You always have to fight for the actors you want. A lot of times, they’re not the obvious choice.”

Bobby Farrelly on turning down the chance to make the 2003 prequel “Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd”: “We had no interest in making a ‘Dumb & Dumber’ movie without Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.”

Peter Farrelly on writing a strong comic screenplay: “The jokes come relatively fast if you love the characters. You can get away with murder if you love the characters.”

michael@argonautnews.com

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