I was in the car the other day and NPR was rebroadcasting an interview Terry Gross did on Fresh air with the actor Jeff Daniels. Daniels is a pretty well known actor and apparently these days stars in a really good show on HBO called Newsroom. What really caught me about the interview though was the fact that Terry Gross transitioned from Daniels’s work on Broadway to the scene in Dumb and Dumber where the laxative kicks in at Mary Swanson’s house, and the impact that this scene had on Daniels’s career. You know the scene. Here’s what Daniels said about having to act out explosive diarrhea:
“I love that on Fresh Air we’re talking about Dumb and Dumber. … Certainly the toilet scene was a challenge. As I told the director, ‘This is either the beginning of my career or the end of it.’ I think the actual act of what happens on the toilet, I think they had cut it down to 30 seconds, but there were takes that were two, two-and-a-half minutes long of just pure agony. … There were times, I think there’s one close-up where I’m pushing so hard that I almost passed out. I almost fell off the toilet. And I’m pretty sure they used that shot. The career was at a crossroads when that scene was finished.”
I found it amazing that a guy with such a storied career as an actor can look back on his career and call out this scene as one of his most pivotal. I think it really speaks to the fact that we–as artists, people, spouses, whatever–need to take chances and trust that we’ve surrounded ourselves with good people. We need to trust our own intuition and be willing to roll the dice. As Wayne Gretzky said, you miss all the shots you don’t take.
For your edification, here’s the full interview and the infamous scene: