Jim Carrey Nearly Lost His First Movie Role to Michael J. Fox

Like many comedy stars, Jim Carrey started his career on the stand-up circuit. While the actor eventually became a big-screen leading man, it took a while for him to transition fully from television to movies. Throughout the 1980s, Carrey narrowly missed a ton of opportunities. Even when he did land his first lead role in a Hollywood movie, he nearly lost it to Michael J. Fox. And no, Fox and Carrey were not competing for Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

Jim Carrey sits in front of two open double doors looking off into the distance
Jim Carrey | Richard Perry/Sygma

Jim Carrey was up for and lost many famous movies

Carrey’s earliest roles aired on Canadian television in the early 1980s. But even then, the actor’s charisma was undeniable, and he made his Hollywood debut with TV’s The Duck Factory. Soon thereafter, Carrey’s name made the rounds in the business. The actor was up for a wide variety of roles during this period, including a pair of iconic comedies from director John Hughes.

Ultimately, Carrey would successfully cross over into movies with 1994’s Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. From that point on, he proved to be a hot commodity in the business. The actor even became the first star to earn $20 million, ironically for his first major box office underperformer The Cable Guy. But nearly a decade before his breakthrough movie role, Carrey beat Fox to his first major movie role.

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Michael J. Fox almost took the actor’s first lead role

Directed by Howard Storm, 1985’s Once Bitten stars Carrey as Mark Kendall, a high-schooler who becomes the target of a vampire known as the Countess (Lauren Hutton). And according to screenwriter Jeffrey Hause (via Mental Floss), the original plan was to get Fox to headline the horror-comedy film. At the time, the actor was the breakout star of TV’s Family Ties. But Hause came around to casting Carrey once filming began.

“We had written a dozen sleazy LA bar sight gags into this scene — all cut — but Carrey just had to walk across the bar and look scared. Somehow he made that funny! Every line delivery was fresh and original, and he knew how things looked on camera without having to look through a lens.”

Today, Once Bitten is largely forgotten by Carrey’s fans, who may assume Ace Ventura: Pet Detective was his first movie. But he led the movie to become a modest hit, and Once Bitten has since gone to develop a bit of a cult following. It remains a milestone in his career as his first major lead role and even his first on-screen kiss.

Michael J. Fox had a much bigger 1985 than Jim Carrey

At the time, Carrey’s casting in Once Bitten probably felt like a victory and deservedly so. However, Fox ultimately rebounded in the most epic way possible. The same year Once Bitten hit theaters, Fox headlined not one but two big box office hits. In July and August 1985, respectively, he starred in Back to the Future and Teen Wolf. Both films massively outperformed Carrey’s star vehicle. And the former in particular became an instant classic.

Meanwhile, Carrey continues to stay busy. Decades after the two Ace Ventura movies, he’s back at the head of another franchise. This time, Carrey plays the villainous Dr. Robotnik in 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog and its upcoming 2022 sequel. And to think his movie career started off with 1985’s Once Bitten.

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