Dr. Seuss’s Widow Had A Huge List Of Demands For Jim Carrey’s Grinch

Dr. Seuss's widow demanded millions in upfront payments and A-list stars for the film rights to How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

dr. seuss jim carrey grinch

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a classic story that keeps getting reinvented for new generations. The original book came out in 1957 followed by the iconic 1966 animated movie. Decades later, legendary comedian Jim Carrey brought the classic Dr. Seuss character to life in the 2000 movie, but that movie couldn’t be made until Universal Pictures satisfied the giant list of demands, including major financial demands and that, specifically, “any actor submitted for the Grinch must be of comparable stature to Jack Nicholson, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman.”

Audrey Geisel married Theodor Seuss Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss) in 1968, many long years before a Jim Carrey Grinch adaptation was ever dreamed up. In the late 90s, though, Universal Pictures began to get very serious about creating a live-action version of the Grinch and his famous story. Since Dr. Seuss died back in 1991, they had to do business with his widow, as she had taken full control of the multimedia legacy that her husband left behind.

Understandably, she was very protective of that legacy, especially when it came to finances. Before Universal or anyone else could even pitch ideas for a Grinch movie, they had to agree to pay $5 million for the material upfront. However, that pales in comparison to the other stipulations Universal had to ultimately agree to before they could adapt the Dr. Seuss classic with rubber-faced funnyman Jim Carrey.

jim carrey grinch face

For example, the studio had to agree to hand over 4% of the box office gross. On top of that, they had to pay a whopping 50% of the merchandising revenue, and pay a higher amount (70%, to be exact) from any Dr. Seuss book tie-ins featuring Jim Carrey’s Grinch. And speaking of money, Audrey Geisel was unwilling to consider pitches from any writers or directors unless they had previously earned at least $1 million for a previous movie.

Such financial negotiations may seem extreme, but they aren’t that uncommon when it comes to negotiating with the estates of classic creators like Dr. Seuss. However, the biggest obstacle that those pitching ideas to Audrey Geisel was that she had very specific ideas for who should portray the Grinch. For this Dr. Seuss adaptation, she specifically mentioned the actor should be someone comparable to Jack Nicholson, Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, or Jim Carrey.

In retrospect, this request ended up really working out for Universal Pictures. When this movie was being pitched, Jim Carrey was at the height of his popularity, having wowed everyone with his comedic chops in Liar Liar and his dramatic chops in The Truman Show. Many fans of both Jim Carrey and the Grinch already wanted him to star as the famous Dr. Seuss character, so casting Carrey kept fans and Audrey Geisel happy.

In the end, this Jim Carrey Dr. Seuss film ended up making Universal very happy, as well. On a budget of $123 million, the movie went on to make over $345 million. And for as much as Dr. Seuss helped audiences laugh with How the Grinch Stole Christmas, this live-action adaptation helped his widow laugh all the way to the bank.