Love with the Proper Costar

updated 09/05/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/05/1994 01:00AM

THE FIRST THING CREW MEMBERS on the Utah set of the upcoming comedy Dumb and Dumber noticed this past spring was the way the director's chairs put out for the two leading actors kept moving closer, inch by inch, day after day. Then came the seminude love scenes that seemed, as one witness dryly observes, particularly "heartfelt." There were lovey-dovey off-camera looks. And stolen moments holding hands between takes. But the real clincher was the take-no-prisoners squirt-gun fight that suddenly broke out in a hotel room. She would dive behind walls to escape. He would careen around corners to spritz her anyway. It was too damn cute to deny: Jim Carrey, perhaps the hottest new name in Hollywood right now, and Lauren Holly, a TV series star fresh from a messy marital breakup, were in, in...well, at the very least, involved.

"They were lovebirds, in a world of their own," says Dumber costar Charles Rocket.

"They were constantly in each other's trailers," adds one crew member with a wink.

"They were fantastic," gushes director-writer Peter Farrelly. "They were made for each other."

Uh-huh. Tell it to Ted and Whoopi, who met while shooting Made in America last year. As Carrey himself is the first to admit, on-set romances are neither rare nor, as a rule, enduring. "It sounds cliché," said the star of this summer's hit comedy The Mask and last winter's surprise smash, the $72 million-grossing Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. "Everybody goes, 'Oh, gosh, the leading lady and the leading man.' But if you're making movies, that's where you meet people."

Carrey, 32, and Holly, 31, who don't live together and have not announced plans to cohabit, were a toothy twosome when they arrived for The Mask premiere in L.A. But what are the chances that these two will be together when Dumb (in which he plays a millionaire dimwit in pursuit of his dream girl, and she plays the dream girl) hits the theaters next winter? Hard to tell. They are, in many ways, an odd match. She is the Pennsylvania-born daughter of college professors, an actress best known for the dramatic intensity she brings to CBS's Emmy-winning Picket Fences. He is a high school dropout from suburban Toronto who worked as a janitor and lived with his parents in a mobile home before landing a role on Fox's In Living Color, then becoming Hollywood's goofiest marquee miracle. She is playful and lighthearted; he, off-screen, is at times somber, even depressed. Those who know them see possibilities nonetheless. "Lauren is full of vim and vinegar," says Rocket. "Like Jim, she is very open and friendly. They're perfectly matched that way."

They are perfectly matched in another way too: They both recently became unattached. Holly filed for divorce last October after 2½ years of marriage to Anthony Quinn's son, actor Danny Quinn (Scanner Cop). Carrey ended his seven-year marriage to aspiring actress Melissa Womer, 34, mother of their 6-year-old daughter, Jane, in November. Womer, who is receiving $25,300 a month in child and spousal support, isn't talking about what went wrong. But as Carrey tells it, she got fed up with the ways success changed him. "Living with me these last couple of years has been like living with an astronaut," he said. "It's like, 'I just came back from the moon. Don't ask me to take out the garbage.' "

Holly, too, has learned a thing or two about the Hollywood lifestyle. She and her ex lived in a $4,000-a-month, four-bedroom rental in the San Fernando Valley, with a library, exercise room, swimming pool and a home theater system. According to divorce documents, they spent lavishly on dining out, clothing, gifts and trips. Quinn claimed Holly extravagantly outspent her income—which includes $22,000 per Picket Fences episode plus earnings from such films as last year's Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and totaled about $1 million over the past three years. In court, Holly, who is paying him $4,000 a month in temporary spousal support (he had asked for $10,800 a month), called most of Quinn's accusations "preposterous." She does, however, owe the IRS nearly $250,000 in back taxes.

While Holly has, as they say in polite company, money issues, her new fellow does not. Carrey got a reported $7 million for Dumb and Dumber (Holly earned $136,000) and will be paid a total of about $20 million for the already-planned sequels to Ace Ventura and Mask. "The money and stuff is a wonderful thing," he said. "I spend it." With gusto: Carrey recently bought a 1965 robin's-egg-blue Thunderbird, a million-plus home in Brentwood, not far from O.J. Simpson's, and is putting away a big stash of cash for his daughter's college education. What he will not be buying anytime soon: a diamond ring. "I was married for seven years, and I've just gone through a divorce," Carrey said in July. "I'm certainly not going to commit to another relationship for a while."

Those who know the couple say that won't be a problem. "They're like a couple of kids at the beginning of a relationship," says Rocket, "goofing around, laughing at each other's jokes." In other words, Holly, like Carrey, will take a top-of-the-line squirt gun over a heavy-duty commitment any day. Or at least, today. "I'm sure they'll continue," says one friend with a hopeful smile. "It's a good thing these two people met," confirms Rocket. "This one seems like the real deal."

DAN SANTOW
MARIE MONEYSMITH in Los Angeles

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