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Jim Carrey and Steven Spielberg almost teamed up for the comedy Meet the Parents. But Ben Stiller and Jay Roach would eventually inherit the project instead. When Stiller read the Jim Carrey version of the film’s script, however, the actor felt some changes needed to be made.

‘Meet the Parents’ director Jay Roach begged to take the project off of Steven Spielberg

Ben Stiller at the AFI Fest.
Ben Stiller | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Meet the Parents was a successful comedy feature starring Ben Stiller and directed by Autsin Powers filmmaker Jay Roach. The film saw Stiller trying to propose to his girlfriend while visiting her parents, only to rub his potential father-in-law the wrong way. Roach claimed that he wanted to direct the project as soon as he read the film’s screenplay. But the studio behind the film at the time had other ideas.

“I told Universal, ‘This is the funniest thing I’ve read. I don’t want to change any of it.’ They said, ‘We think it can be better.’ I think what they were politely saying was ‘We think it can be better directed by somebody else,’” Roach once recalled to Entertainment Weekly.

Steven Spielberg would eventually get his hands on the film, and was on the verge of directing it with Jim Carrey as the star. But another studio would soon get the rights to Meet the Parents, and Spielberg would drop out of the project. Carrey soon followed suit. With Roach seeing an opportunity, he begged for a chance to direct the film.

“‘Please, let me have it back,’” Roach recalled asking at the time.

Ben Stiller didn’t think doing Jim Carrey’s version of ‘Meet the Parents’ Would Be Funny

Stiller shared that Carrey and Spielberg’s version of Meet the Parents would’ve been much different. In the original script, Stiller’s role apparently had the familiar mannerisms and tics Carrey’s onscreen characters were known for. But Stiller felt what might have worked for Carrey wouldn’t have worked for him.

“The first draft I read must have been from when they were thinking Jim, because it was much more physically oriented,” Stiller recalled “Like, the toilet’s overflowing, and my character sits on it to stop it. He uses himself as a human, uh, y’know, plug. I read that and said, ‘No way I’m gonna be funny doing that.'”

Carrey, however, didn’t regret losing out on the role. And actually felt Stiller’s instincts were right after seeing the movie.

Meet the Parents was something that I was developing with Steven Spielberg. I actually created the Fockers in a creative meeting,” Carrey once explained to Larry King (via Irish Examiner). “But, it was perfect that Ben Stiller did it. When I saw it, I went ‘That’s the way it’s supposed to be done.’”

Steven Spielberg didn’t direct ‘Meet the Parents’ after his wife told him he wasn’t funny enough


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Spielberg has directed his fair share of lighthearted films over the years. Features like The Terminal and Catch Me If You Can both gravitate towards more colorful material. But when it came to Meet the Parents, the filmmaker’s own comedy chops came into question. His wife, Kate Capshaw, might have helped dissuade Spielberg from trying his hand at the feature.

“My wife says I’m not funny enough,” Spielberg said in a 2004 interview with Total Film. “I was preparing to direct Meet the Parents when she read the script. She said, ‘You’re not directing this movie – give it to a director who does comedy well.'”

Spielberg quipped that Capsaw made sure to keep him away from projects that were entirely comedic.

“She doesn’t mind when I have comic moments in my movies, like when Tom Cruise chases his eyeballs towards a drain in Minority Report, but I’m still not allowed to do an outright comedy! Still, I produced Meet the Parents and we did very well with it.”