"I did 'Kick-Ass ' a month before Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence," he wrote. "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."
One would expect, however, for the actor to have a contractual obligation to promote the superhero sequel, in which he stars as Colonel Stars and Stripes, an ex-mafia member turned masked vigilante. This is often worked out prior to shooting, and especially with someone as mercurial as Carrey. Universal did not respond to a request for comment. Last week it was announced the studio would be making "Dumb and Dumber To" with the star after Warner Bros. passed on the project.
Following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of last year, Carrey dived headlong into the gun control debate. His rhetoric on the issue (largely vis a vis magazine limits) built until he participated in a Funny or Die sketch called "Cold Dead Hand," which mocked former National Rifle Association spokesman Charlton Heston and drew the ire of Second Amendment proponents as well as the right-wing commentariat.
Meanwhile, as Carrey's comments circulated on the web, the New York Times' Michael Cieply published an article entitled "Hollywood's Passion for Guns Remains Undimmed," citing a number of 2013 action films that prominently feature weapons as part of their marketing. "Almost a year after the theater shootings in Aurora, Colo., and a half-year after the killings in Newtown, Conn., one of the things that hasn’t changed is Hollywood’s enchantment with the gun, at least when it comes to selling the big movies," he wrote, going on to spotlight upcoming films like "White House Down," "World War Z," "The Lone Ranger," "R.I.P.D." and "2 Guns."
"Kick-Ass" creator Mark Millar took to the internet to express how "baffled" he was by Carrey's decision. "Like Jim, I'm horrified by real-life violence (even though I'm Scottish), but 'Kick-Ass 2' isn't a documentary," he wrote. "No actors were harmed in the making of this production! This is fiction and 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 o[n] the CONSEQUENCES of violence, whether it's the ramifications for friends and family or, as we saw in the first movie, Kick-Ass spending six months in hospital after his first street altercation. 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."
The first "Kick-Ass" film raised a lot of questions about movie violence when it was released in April of 2010. "We’ve been here before: A movie pointedly tests what seems to be an established boundary of propriety, and rhetorical battle lines are drawn. 'How dare they!' faces off against 'Oh, lighten up,'" New York Times film critic A.O. Scott wrote in a think piece about the film and the current state of violence in the cinema at the time. "We will, I suppose, each find our own limits and draw our own boundaries, but it may also be time to articulate those and say when enough is enough."
Wrote Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman in the way of push-back, "Or does it, in fact, highlight the decadence of what most of us accept, more or less every week, at the movies? That never-ending onslaught of blockbuster blood and ballistics leaves all of us a bit numb, but I’m not sure that any critic is going to sign on to condemn that."
Meanwhile, in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, "Django Unchained" director Quentin Tarantino faced harsh criticism about the level of violence in his films, criticism he's certainly weathered before. "I think it's disrespectful to their memory, actually...to talk about movies," he said in an interview with NPR's Terry Gross at the time. "Obviously, the issue is gun control and mental health. I've been asked this question for 20 years, about the effects of violence in movies related to violence in real life. My answer is the same 20 years ago. It hasn't changed one iota. Obviously, I don't think one has to do with the other."
Obviously, Mr. Carrey feels otherwise. We'll see if he can really get away with not promoting his latest film, though.
"Kick-Ass 2" hits theaters August 16.