In Kick-Ass 2, the forthcoming sequel to 2010’s brazenly profane and violent film, actor Jim Carrey plays a costumed crime fighter named Colonel Stars and Stripes who bludgeons criminals while feigning a campy, Eastwoodian accent. Judging by the film’s trailer, the Colonel’s grizzled over-the-topness marks a return of the elastic, slapstick Carrey who once communicated out of his rear end and removed a man’s heart with his bare hands, before he started taking on more serious film roles.
This week, however, the star revealed he’s more than a bit conflicted about his appearance in a film about masked vigilantes waging war against a criminal underworld, which hits theaters in August. “I did Kickass a month b4 Sandy Hook,” he tweeted, “and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence.” Of course, he was referring to the tragic elementary school shooting in Newton, Conn., last December. He later sent out another tweet:
I meant to say my apologies to others involve with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart.
— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) June 23, 2013
Carrey’s renunciation of the film’s gratuitous violence surprised a lot of people, but perhaps no one more than the Kick-Ass 2 filmmakers. Executive producer Mark Millar responded that he was “baffled” by the remarks and issued a stern defense of the movie: “This is fiction like Tarantino and Peckinpah, Scorcese [sic] and Eastwood, John Boorman, Oliver Stone and Chan-Wook Park, Kick-Ass avoids the usual bloodless body-count of most big summer pictures and focuses instead on the CONSEQUENCES of violence…. Ironically, Jim’s character in Kick-Ass 2 is a Born-Again Christian and the big deal we made of the fact that he refuses to fire a gun is something he told us attracted him to the role in the first place.”
Others called attention to the fact that Carrey has been in violent films before and recently starred in a Funny or Die comedy sketch that parodies former NRA chief Charlton Heston. But setting aside accusations of hypocrisy—and the age-old question about the rippling cultural consequences of violence in film—the episode points to an interesting marketing puzzle. How do major movie studios handle things when a film’s biggest name not only refuses to promote it but also denounces it altogether?
It certainly puts the Kick-Ass camp in a pickle, and the move could very well tarnish Carrey’s brand in Hollywood on the heels of the bomb that was The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. But as some have noted, Carrey may have violated his contract. It’s a common provision that actors have a postproduction obligation to promote their work. “The support of actors and directors in promoting a film is extremely helpful, indeed vital,” Hollywood producer Gary Michael Walters told Fox News. “At a minimum, an actor contract would provide that the talent could not do publicity without studio approval, and there is generally a non-disparagement provision as well.”
That said, don’t be surprised if Carrey issues a mea culpa and strolls the red carpet after all. If there’s any recent precedent for this in Hollywood, it occurred last December when the actor and devout Christian Angus T. Jones attacked the sitcom on which he had appeared for a decade. “If you watch ‘Two and a Half Men,’ please stop watching ‘Two and a Half Men,’ he told the religious online outlet Forerunner Chronicles. “Please stop filling your head with filth.” While those remarks seem fairly straightforward, two days later he issued an apology. On June 17, the show’s producer Chuck Lorre confirmed that Jones wouldn’t be leaving the series, after all.