Carl Allen is in a rut. When heâs not turning down loan applications at the bank where he works, he is turning down invitations from his friends, watching television alone on his couch. Heâs effectively become a âNo Man.â
âIâve been that guy,â says Jim Carrey, who stars as Carl. âI know a lot of people who are in that situation where they just avoid life. I live in the United States of Avoidance. To me, this is a movie about choosing to join life, and thatâs what drew me to it. Sometimes saying no is saying yes to something else, to something greater that will come your way. And sometimes saying no to an invitation is saying yes to a couch and some potato chips. Just do whatâs right for you,â advises Carrey. âBut itâs usually not the things we say yes to that we regret; itâs when we say no that we look back and think, âAh, I could have lived a little bit more.ââ
Â© Warner Bros. Pictures/Melissa Moseley
Carlâs life takes an unexpected and radical turn when he grudgingly attends a self-help seminar led by a âYesâ guru who urges his devotees to say yes more and transform their lives. The initially skeptical Carl agrees to try spontaneity by saying yesâŠ to everything. âIn the movie, Carl is a normal guy who just needs a jump start, and the Yes seminar provides that,â notes director Peyton Reed. âIt throws him off course at first, but then it really gets him to take stock of himself and to invest in life again.â
Reed was immediately attracted to the story after reading the script based on the best-selling memoir by Danny Wallace. âI dug into the script and subsequently into Dannyâs book, and I was really struck by the fact that Danny actually did embrace this philosophy for a period of time,â states Reed.
When Wallace was dumped by his girlfriend years ago, he decided he needed some time to âjust sit around and be a boy and play video games, and not really do anything,â he recalls. âMy mates were a little bit worried about me. They kept phoning up, leaving messages and texting me with various opportunities and invitations. And I was always saying âno.ââ
A chance conversation on a London bus turned things around for Wallace and inspired his book. âSomeone happened to mention to me, âYou should say yes more.â It was probably just a casual remark, but I thought that it was the best adviceâlike every self-help book in the world distilled into three words. And that launched my âyes-capades!â I bought a car off a bloke at a party just because he said, âI donât suppose youâre interested in buying a car, are you?â I went to see a band called General Onion and His Shocking Castanets. Thanks to a cleverly-worded advertisement, I flew to Singapore for the weekend. Not really a weekend destination, you know?â he laughs, âbut I had a great time. The way I see it, youâre as likely to meet the love of your life at a bad party as at a good one, but if youâve said no, youâll never know.â
Â© Warner Bros. Pictures/Melissa Moseley
âI definitely liked the very positive spirit of the material,â Reed enthuses, âand the basic idea of someone really taking on life, but in our case, in a very random way. A guy like Carl getting into these situations is funny, and I knew that with Jim Carrey playing Carl the comic possibilities were endless. Jimâs physicality and delivery just take whatâs funny to a whole different level.â
âI thought the concept was really cool,â says Carrey. âTo sit back and imagine all the things you can get into if you say yes, is pretty fertile territory.â
Producer David Heyman, who discovered Wallaceâs book and brought it to the studio, had become a big fan of the author after reading his first book, Join Me. Heymanâs take on Yes Man was no different. âThe generosity of spirit that informs Danny and his work is something that really appeals to me,â the producer notes. âWhen I read Yes Man, I loved it. The idea that if you say yesâif youâre open to the possibilities that life throws before youâthen great things will happen, was very intriguing.â
Immersed in the latest âHarry Potterâ film at the time, Heyman contacted Richard Zanuck, hoping to interest the veteran filmmaker in joining forces to produce "Yes Man".
Zanuck had no hesitation about joining the project, and thought âcasting Jim Carrey in this role couldnât be better. Thereâs no one else who could really perform it like he does,â smiles Zanuck. âI said âyesâ to everythingâthe script, the cast. I just liked everything about it. It was fresh, it was new. It was life-affirming and funny.â
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He met with Reed and the two hit it off right away. âDick Zanuck is responsible for so many of the movies that I watched as a kid, and which made me want to make movies,â says Reed. âFrom the original âPlanet of the Apes,â which he greenlit when he was running Fox, to âThe Stingâ and âJaws,â both of which he produced, heâs just the man!â
âWe had a wonderful meeting,â remembers Zanuck. âI admire his films, and heâs such a personable, talented guy. I think he has a very strong future ahead of him.â
Reed collaborated with screenwriters Nicholas Stoller, Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel and spent time with Jim Carrey during preproduction, fine-tuning the spirit of Wallaceâs very British memoir into an American story set in Los Angeles. âI really wanted to create a tone in the film which was somewhere between what Jim does comedically and in his more serious work,â explains the director. âA tone that would allow his character to go on comic flights of fancy as only Jim can, but thatâs a little more grounded, too.â
The Scottish-born author, humorist and television personality Danny Wallace had trouble keeping his feet on the ground when he was approached by the filmmakers about transforming his memoir into a film starring Jim Carrey. âI was thrilled when I received a phone call regarding turning my book into a Hollywood film. Clearly I was going to say âyes!ââ Wallace grins. âI had been a fan of Jim Carreyâs work since âIn Living Color.â They all did a brilliant job of âAmericanizingâ the story to bring it to a wider audience; the spirit has remained exactly intact.â
âWhat can you say?â offers Carrey. âThere would be no âYes Manâ without him. The man came up with a concept thatâs right up my alley. Iâm always looking for something that can be really hilarious but also has some aspect that you can chew on afterward. After seeing âYes Man,â the audience can go home and wonder, âHow much do I say no? Should I say yes a little bit more?ââ
Both Carrey and Reed say they are glad they said yes this time.
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âI had a blast working with Jim,â says Reed. âIâd never met him before but I really felt like we were two peas in a pod; our senses of humor are very similar. And because we spent time together during preproduction, by the time we began shooting, Jim and I really had a shorthand and a very clear idea of what we were after for the film, and of who the character of Carl was.â
Carrey concurs. âI know Peyton comes from an improv background, but still, literally, this was the first movie where I sat back on the set and let somebody make me laugh all the time. He just made me howl. There are certain things an actorâs gotta do at least once, and I think working with Peyton Reed is definitely one of them.â
Source: Warner Bros. Pictures