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Movies & TV

10th Jul 2018

20 years old this week, a look back on how one of comedy’s greatest scenes came together

Rory Cashin

Whether you love or hate the movie, you can’t argue with this scene’s iconic-ness.

Hot off the success of Dumb & Dumber in 1994 ($247 million box office off a $17 million budget), and Kingpin in 1996 (which was far less financially successfully, but has maintained an almost cult-like appeal), the writer/directing team of the Farrelly Brothers were the kings of comedy in Hollywood.

Their next project was an old-school romantic comedy, that just happened to involve fake identities, borderline stalking and attempted dog murders.

Cameron Diaz was always their first choice, but the lead male was almost played first by Owen Wilson, and then future The Tonight Show host Jon Stewart, before they finally landed on Ben Stiller, and together they made the perfect couple at the centre of There’s Something About Mary.

Released on 15 July 1998, There’s Something About Mary cost $23 million to produce, and made $370 million at the box office, making it the fourth biggest hit of the year, behind only Armageddon, Saving Private Ryan and Godzilla.

Since its release, it has consistently been voted one of the funniest comedies of all time, but when people think of the movie, there is one scene in particular that… eh… comes to mind.

This is that scene:

Clip via Movieclips

It turns out that the scene so very nearly didn’t make the final cut.

Speaking to The Telegraph, the Farrelly Brothers said that they were forced to shoot an alternative scene without the semen in Diaz’s hair, because she was concerned that audiences would find it too disgusting to be funny, as well potentially damaging her still-cementing career (this was just four years after her debut in The Mask, and two years before Charlie’s Angels):

“That was a concern of hers because she was worried the audience would be grossed out by it. She said, “What if that doesn’t work, then that’s going to (a) ruin the movie and (b) ruin my career.” So we shot it another way as well, without her having anything in her hair. But the first test screening we did she came to and people were in hysterics, falling out of their seats into the aisles, literally into the aisles. And she was like, “This is great”. That’s an example where we weren’t wrong but we’ve had things we tried that didn’t work.”

It turns out that Diaz wasn’t the only one with an issue with the scene, but Ben Stiller’s concern was more logistical, as he explained to The New York Times:

“My big thing with that scene was that I argued with the Farrelly brothers all during the shot, asking how he could not feel it on his ear? I was lobbying them to have a back story that the character had somehow, like, lost sensitivity in his ear, like he had gotten hit as a kid or something. They finally told me it doesn’t matter, and I should quit thinking about it.”

It is fair to say that the movie’s climax can’t even reach the levels of comedy in this scene, and in much the same way, The Farrelly Brothers themselves seemed to peak too soon, with their follow-ups Me Myself & Irene, Shallow Hal, Stuck On You, The Heartbreak Kid and The Three Stooges never reaching these giddy highs again.

They had previously said that they’ll never do a sequel to Mary, because no idea for a sequel ever made sense to them, but then they did recently make a sequel to Dumb & Dumber, so you never know. Ben Stiller could be coming back for a sequel before you know it…

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