Ficarra and Requa said they adapted to Carrey's regimen.
“We've learned this from working with other directors: As a director, you want to facilitate your actors,” said Requa. “It's not necessarily about our process, it's how do we create an environment where they can do their best work? (Carrey) didn't want to rehearse so we didn't want to rehearse. If there were more characters with the same amount of screen time, maybe we'd have to insist on rehearsals. But this was Jim's movie. He's in every scene except like two. So we wanted to do whatever we could to facilitate him.”
The directors won't say working with Carrey was a barrel of laughs.
“He's a very intense guy,” said Requa. “It's hard work and his process is very intense. It's rewarding work and it's challenging work. It's fun occasionally.”
They described the actor's process as “lightning in a bottle.” Carrey and the directors had long talks about the lead character in pre-production. Then they'd tell Carrey where to stand for each shoot, and film him without rehearsal so he could be spontaneous.
They say the famously nutty actor didn't want to ad lib.
“In all the projects we've done, we've never had anyone more loyal to our scripts,” said Requa. “He insisted that we not change things. We would get through the day's shooting and the scene just wasn't working and we'd say, ‘Jim, let's just change this.' He was like, ‘No, no. It's not the script. It's me and I'll figure it out.' So he was really loyal. More than we were.”
Ficarra said they only had a few laughs on the set because Carrey was not only working hard, he was losing weight.
“There's a part in the movie where he gets AIDS, so he had to play that, too,” said Ficarra. “We had to shoot in order and by the end of the shoot he was starving himself.
“We couldn't schedule a dialogue after lunch,” said Requa. “He'd have a small lunch and just that amount of food would send him into this blood sugar dive and he'd be unable to focus and remember lines. After lunch, we'd have to schedule something that wasn't dialogue — something physical — for an hour just so he could digest. Then we'd do dialogue. It was a challenge for him and a challenge for us, but we think it paid off.”
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