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Jim Carrey might be a Hollywood icon now, but back in the early 1990s, the actor was anything but a proven commodity. He spent much of the 1980s struggling to land his big break, missing out on a variety of popular roles and watching them become blockbuster movies with someone else in the lead. But even Carrey’s most ardent fans might not realize that he nearly lost what would become his signature role, Ace Ventura, to a Ghostbusters star.

Jim Carrey wears a tan outfit as he poses with his arms outstretched at the Kids' Choice Awards
Jim Carrey | Kevork Djansezian

Jim Carrey went from ‘In Living Color’ to a movie star in 1994

In the early 1990s, Carrey had yet to become a big-screen leading man. He had starred in Hollywood films dating back to 1985’s vampire comedy Once Bitten. And Carrey had worked with big-name actors and filmmakers on films such as Peggy Sue Got Married, The Dead Pool, and Earth Girls Are Easy. But the best showcase for his talents up to that point was as a standout performer on the Fox sketch comedy series In Living Color.

That all changed in 1994. That year, the actor delivered three star-making performances in three of the decade’s most popular and iconic comedies. In February, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective hit theaters, followed by The Mask and Dumb and Dumber in July and December. That first one in particular struck a chord with audiences, leading Carrey to star in a fast-tracked sequel — Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls — the very next year.

‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’ almost starred this actor instead

Shockingly, Carrey’s grand entrance into movie stardom almost never happened, at least not with him in the title role. Instead, according to Vulture, Rick Moranis was the first choice to star in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. It might seem wild to consider now, but at the time, Moranis was certainly a safer option. After all, the actor had previously starred in a string of hit comedies, including Ghostbusters, Spaceballs, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and Parenthood.

However, Moranis turned down Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, a decision that makes even more sense in hindsight. Following the death of his wife in 1991, Moranis became more selective with his film roles. And though he did star in both The Flintstones and Little Giants in 1994, he only made two more movies before choosing to largely retire from acting. Since then, Moranis has only made a few TV appearances and done voice work in some animated projects.


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Certainly, Moranis as Ace Ventura would have been a very different movie. Still, it’s likely hard for fans to picture anyone but Carrey in that iconic hairstyle and Hawaiian shirt. And by all indications, the actor could be returning to the role in the near future. Ace Ventura 3 is reportedly currently in development, though nothing’s official yet.

Strangely, Moranis too is gearing up to finally return to the big screen and for one of his most beloved roles. The actor is attached to reprise his role as Wayne Szalinski in Shrunk, the Disney+ update to the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids franchise. 1997’s direct-to-video Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves remains Moranis’ final on-screen movie role.