New Line Cinema closed a reported $ 7 million deal Friday with Jim Carrey to star in screenwriter/director Peter Farrelly’s “Dumb & Dumber,” which is set to start a 45-day shoot in late April or early May.

With a preliminary budget between $ 13 million and $ 15 mil-

lion, “Dumb” marks an unusual alliance between New Line Cinema and Motion Picture Corp. of America, which linked in a bid to lure Carrey, star of the current “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” to the project.

Reports of Carrey’s salary varied widely in Hollywood, including sources familiar with the production who insisted he would receive anywhere between $ 4 million and $ 6 million.

However, other sources familiar with the transaction said New Line negotiations for Carrey’s services pushed from $ 3 million to $ 6 million before landing on the pricetag of $ 7 million cash and a share of the back-end.

Competitors offering rich deals to Carrey included 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures.

New Line and Santa Monica-based MPCA brokered a deal that effectively escalated “Dumb” from a low-budget comedy with no big names into a big-budget project with name talent.

MPCA was in pre-production on a low-budget version when New Line approached with an offer to produce a bigger production if the company could land the right cast within 90 days.

The unusual agreement paid off when Carrey and director Farrelly clicked creatively, and New Line president of production Michael De Luca closed the comic’s deal.

Producers of “Dumb” are Charlie Wessler, Brad Krevoy and Steven Stabler; Brad Jenkel and Tracie Graham will co-produce. Former New Line production VP Aaron Myerson will executive produce, while Bradley Thomas will associate produce.

Screenwriters are Farrelly, his brother Bob Farrelly and Bennett Yellin. The Farrelly brothers have a second project in active development at 20th Century Fox, “Tenderfoot,” which has producer Wessler attached and is out to directors.

Described as an action comedy about two friends who take a road trip from New York to Aspen, Colo., “Dumb & Dumber” is out to actors to star opposite Carrey. Among those being considered are Nicolas Cage and Gary Oldman.

Already on board are Woody Harrelson, Sarah Jessica Parker and Teri Garr; discussions are ongoing with MTV veejay Duff.

MPCA has already hit the boards with “Threesome,” which was acquired by TriStar Pictures, and followed up with the Sam Elliott/Craig Sheffer Western “The Desperate Trial”– the first negative pickup in Turner Pictures history.

New Line recently ponied up $ 3.3 million for Marlon Brando to star opposite Johnny Depp in the $ 15 million production of screenwriter/director Jeremy Levin’s “Don Juan De Marco and the Centerfold,” which will be produced by Francis Ford Coppola.

De Luca said the bigger-budgeted gambles are “not like we’re reinventing the company,” which made its mark (and investors millions) with genre-driven movies in the $ 6 million range before selling to Turner Entertainment in 1993.

“Because of our newer capabilities we are able to take advantage of opportunities that in times past might have been prohibitive,” De Luca said.

Negotiating Carrey’s deal were United Talent Agency’s Nick Stevens, personal managers Eric Gold and Jimmy Miller and Bloom Dekom Hergott & Cook partner Deborah Klein.

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