Jim Carrey’s Big Break Could Have Been This Robert Downey Jr. Movie

Looking back now, actor Jim Carrey’s singular comedic talent was probably always destined for greatness. But it took a long while for the actor to finally land his big break in Hollywood. Even after he began working in movies and television, Carrey was passed over for a laundry list of high-profile roles. However, one of the most fascinating ones came in the early 1990s when Carrey lost a major movie to Robert Downey Jr.

Jim Carrey wears a white suit as he performs, with a twisted expression and arms flexed
Jim Carrey | Maureen Donaldson/Michael Ochs Archives

Jim Carrey didn’t become a movie star until 1994

Throughout the 1980s, Carrey slowly but surely worked his way up the Hollywood ladder. The actor’s first major industry credit was a role on TV’s The Duck Factory. That show ended after only a few months in 1984, but the following year Carrey landed his first leading movie role in Once Bitten opposite Lauren Hutton and Cleavon Little. In the years after that film — which was a minor hit — he appeared in a series of increasingly high-profile supporting roles.

In 1990, Carrey got the best showcase yet for his skills as a cast member on Fox’s popular sketch comedy show In Living Color. Just months before the series ended in 1994, the actor made a swift transition to movies with the success of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. That was soon followed by The Mask and Dumb and Dumber the very same year. And just like that, nearly 15 years in the business coalesced into Carrey becoming an A-list movie star.

RELATED: Jim Carrey Backed Out of Reuniting with His ‘Batman Forever’ Director

Robert Downey Jr. won the lead in this award winner

Just two years before Ace Ventura: Pet Detective would make Carrey a household name, he nearly took on a very different role. According to Vulture, the actor competed with several different stars for the role of screen legend Charlie Chaplin. Other names in the mix included Robin Williams and Billy Crystal, as the team behind the movie seemed to want a fellow comic actor to lead the project. Director Richard Attenborough had other ideas.

The filmmaker ultimately cast his first choice, Downey, in Chaplin. And the actor — who had been a big-screen mainstay for nearly a decade — ultimately went on to earn his first Academy Award nomination for his performance. Ironically, Carrey would deliver his own critically acclaimed turn as a real-life comedy icon in 1999’s Man on the Moon. However, Carrey famously failed to earn an Oscar nod for his role as Andy Kaufman.

Jim Carrey’s career got a major boost in 2020

Carrey’s heyday run as an A-list movie star began to slip a bit in the mid-2000s. Fun with Dick and Jane and The Number 23 underperformed, leading Carrey to take on a wider range of projects. These include the R-rated comedy-drama I Love You Phillip Morris, the family-friendly Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and a small, wordless role in the post-apocalyptic thriller The Bad Batch.

But by 2020, Carrey was back at the top of his game. In Sonic the Hedgehog, the actor reminded fans all over again how much fun his manic, over-the-top comedy can be. The film became a huge hit — earning $320 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo — and inspired an upcoming sequel. Carrey returns as the villainous Dr. Robotnik for Sonic the Hedgehog 2, set for release in April 2022.

RELATED: 1 of Jim Carrey’s Lesser-Seen Projects Is Also Among His Most Personal: ‘It Says Exactly What I Want to Say to the World’