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Jim Carrey remains one of the biggest Hollywood stars on the planet, but he almost left it all behind because of one movie and a very specific reason.

Jim Carrey will forever be the notorious funnyman, having first garnered fame through his unforgettable 1990s leading roles in movies like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber. But not one to be typecast, his later roles in films like The Truman show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind generated just as many fans.

That said, it was one of Carrey’s comedic acts which prompted the Canadian star to ‘turn against Hollywood,’ condemning the normalization of violence in movies; his 2013 role as Colonel Stars and Stripes in Kick-Ass 2, to be precise.

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Compelled by the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, in which 20 children and six adults were killed, Carrey withdrew his support for the film just two months before its release, tweeting, “I did Kickass a month b4 Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence. My apologies to others involve[d] with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart.”

Kick-Ass 2 was filmed just a month before the tragic shooting. In the movie, Carrey plays a baseball-bat-wielding masked crimefighter with a ball-munching canine for a sidekick. A promotional still for the movie featuring Hit-Girl (a character played by 11-year-old Chloe Moretz) initially featured two assault style weapons, but days later the image was switched to an altered version in which the two guns were no longer visible.

Jim Carrey, Hollywood and the Ongoing Debate about Violence in Film

Jim Carrey in Kick-Ass 2

Just months before Kick-Ass 2, Carrey ruffled the feathers of right-wing commentators with his Funny or Die skit, “Cold Dead Hand,” in which he makes fun of a statement Charlton Heston once delivered as acting spokesperson of the National Rifle Association. In it, he says, “I’ll give you my gun when you pry (or take) it from my cold dead hands.” Carrey’s spoof, which ridicules American gun culture, is understood as an insult to proud gun-owners everywhere. 

Ironically, although Carrey, post Kick-Ass 2, only strengthened his pro gun control stance, it seems that many gun control opponents have something in common with him: they argue that violent Hollywood movies should take the blame for spurring real-life violence, rather than lax gun laws.

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Due to the brutally gory violence against female characters portrayed in so many of his films, Quentin Tarantino is among numerous Hollywood figures who have since been drawn into the on-screen violence debate. The Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood director has also been party to behind-the-scenes violence, having reportedly coerced Uma Thurman into driving an unsafe car during the filming of Kill Bill, resulting in a crash.

Soon after this, accounts surfaced that he spat on Thurman during filming and choked her in one scene. This is in addition to accusations about him strangling Diane Kruger during a scene of Inglourious Basterds, leading to conversations around whether on-screen violence is ever really limited to… well, the screen. 

Those who agree fully with Jim Carrey view on and off-screen violence as linked, while also being in favor of better gun control. However, Carrey’s comments only served to boost — rather than damage — Kick-Ass 2 at the box office; after releasing his statement, the number of young potential ticket buyers spiked sharply. 

“He probably did more to raise awareness for this movie by refusing to promote it than if he’d done a round of talk shows,” said one observer on Twitter.

Was Jim Carrey’s Response to Kick-Ass 2 Over the Top?

Jim Carrey at Kick-Ass 2 premiere

Scottish comic-book writer and Kick-Ass 2 executive producer Mark Millar, whose comics form the basis of the Kick-Ass movies, responded to Carrey’s statement, pointing out that he knew exactly what he was signing up for.

“[I’m] baffled… nothing seen in this picture wasn’t in the screenplay 18 months ago,” he wrote. “Yes, the body count is very high, but a movie called Kick-Ass 2 really has to do what it says on the tin… Like Jim, I’m horrified by real-life violence… but… this is fiction and like Tarantino and Peckinpah, Scorsese and Eastwood, John Boorman, Oliver Stone and Chan-wook Park… our job as storytellers is to entertain and our toolbox can’t be sabotaged by curtailing the use of guns in an action movie.”

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But while Millar also points out that, “[the movie] was always going to have some blood on the floor and this should have been no shock to a guy who enjoyed the first movie so much…” one has to wonder if people (Jim Carrey included) shouldn’t be entitled to revise their views, especially given world events.

Simon Hewlett, executive VP of marketing at Universal, showed footage from Kick-Ass 2 to exhibitors. While he didn’t address Carrey’s comments directly, he did say the film was “irreverent, dark and often offensive,” as well as a “bigger, badder, more ballsy adventure.”

Hewlett’s comments capture well the notion of violence and negativity in film as tantamount to a story’s “badassery.” One might conclude that the more “ballsy” — and perhaps, by extension, “masculine” — a movie is, the stronger its ability to engage a wide, mainstream audience. For better or worse.

Jim Carrey’s Stance on Violence and Other Celebrities Who Speak Their Truth

Jim Carrey annoyed

Although some deem violent action-adventures like Kick-Ass 2 “ballsy” and fun, others find Jim Carey’s willingness to speak out about a film that he himself starred in to be the far gutsier, and indeed, “ballsier” move. 

But Jim Carrey isn’t the first star to lay a heavy critique on his own film.

Take Katherine Heigl’s rant against Judd Apatow’s 2007 movie Knocked Up, the film that put her on the map. Heigl said that she found the film “a little sexist,” and that, “it paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men all as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys…Ninety-eight percent of the time it was an amazing experience, but it was hard for me to love the movie.”

Other stars have also spoken out to condemn issues they see as generally problematic in the film industry.

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Millie Bobby Brown recently opened up about the sexualization of young women (and girls) in Hollywood, and how it has shaped her own coming of age. Brown rose to fame at the age of 12 in her role as Eleven in Stranger Things. At 13, she was included in W Magazine‘s list, “Why TV Is Sexier Than Ever” list. Meanwhile, a 2016 GQ profile dubbed her a “very grown-up child,” commenting on the appearance of her legs. 

“It’s just a very good representation of what’s going on in the world and how young girls are sexualized,” Brown said, recalling the controversy she caused by wearing a low-cut dress to an awards show when she was 16. “I thought, ‘My, is this really what we’re talking about? We should be talking about the incredible people that were there at the award show.’”

While Javier Bardem initially made his mark playing villains in a string of movies, he has shared that, having gotten involved in a fight in his youth, he hates on-screen violence, and that he needs to literally shield his eyes from it. 

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Of his role in the decidedly violent 2007 Cohen brothers classic, No Country For Old Men, he says, “When the camera stopped rolling I would beg the Coen brothers ‘please take that gun out of my face guys, please’… Man, they would be laughing their asses off. I love them, they’re geniuses. But it was tough.”

Jackie Chan, too, has spoken out about on-screen violence, championing an unthreatening, non-bloody brand of action. 

“I have a dilemma,” he says. I love action, but I hate violence. There is so much violence in the world, from video games and from other movies. I want my movies to have a message of peace, and helping each other… where I used to do a triple kick, I now just do one. Eventually there will be no kicks. There has to be plenty of action, but not violence.”

Regardless of differences of opinion about on-screen violence and whether it plays a tangible role in triggering real-life violence or not, one thing’s for sure: when celebrities take risks and speak up about issues they believe in, the issues themselves gain a much higher profile in society at large. That, in turn, makes people stop and think. Surely, that’s a win.