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Jim Carrey - "The Majestic" Interview26 Dec 2001
By Heather Wadowski (JCO Editor)
James Eugene Carrey, better known to millions as the wacky $20-million comic Jim Carrey, is constantly labeled by the public. Ever since bending over and talking out of his ass in "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," the actor hasn't been able to shed his persona as the comedian 'who talks out of his ass.' In fact, he hasn't even been able to shed his persona as a comedian. Despite giving Oscar-worthy performances in both "The Truman Show" and "Man on the Moon," Carrey has been snubbed by both the Academy and most of the public, neither of which will believe that the Canadian comic can be a dramatic actor. If one were to take a close look at Carrey's personal life, however, they would easily see that Carrey isn't all laughs-- he has a dark and painful side to him as well.
Like most successful actors, Carrey struggled to get to the top. A high school drop out, Carrey has survived through some tough times. Although he may be all smiles on television, he is still haunted by his past-- a past that includes living with his family in a van and doing janitorial work as a teenager to help put food on his family's table. While these moments weren't covered by press in great detail-- after all, back then Carrey was just a chipped-tooth class clown-- Carrey has had to smile for the cameras while he was going through two divorces and his father's death. Now, Carrey is going through another life-changing event in front of the world-- turning 40.
When I met with Carrey at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills to discuss his newest film, "The Majestic," Carrey was-- of course-- all smiles. As we talked about his latest attempt to prove to the world there's more to him than laughs, Carrey began opening up about the more sensitive subjects in his life. We discussed his upcoming milestone birthday and how he feels about his life in general, as well as his ever-going battle with the Academy for that long deserved Academy Award. Carrey also talked about his current dating status and his quest to live out one more dream, the dream to finally become an American citizen. As I listened to Carrey discuss his life in brief detail, one thing was for certain-- Carrey is definitely a man the public can't judge by the way he presents himself. One can only hope for his sake that "The Majestic" will finally be the movie he's waited for that will show the world that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to Jim Carrey.
© Castle Rock Entertainment
Carrey: From the first movie I saw in the theater, which was "The Computer Who Wore Tennis Shoes" with Kurt Russell. I had seen movies before that, though. Ever since I was a kid I have loved Jimmy Stewart movies. I loved Jimmy Stewart movies from the word go. Movies are just this amazing place to escape and you know if anybody needs escape it's people hanging out up in the cold!
JCO: Before you were making audiences sides hurt with laughter with your performances in "Ace Ventura," "The Mask" and "Liar, Liar," you were getting in trouble for making classrooms laugh during your days as a student. How old were you exactly when you were in a movie theater watching a movie and you said to yourself:'I want to be up there?'
Carrey: Probably 8 years old. It probably happened before that though because I was doing shows since age 5. I didn't know where it was going to go or necessarily that it would manifest it in the movies. I just knew that I needed a lot of attention from a lot of people and I needed to prove to the world that I was magic. That was the underlying factor in everything. It's the underlying reason why I do this.
JCO: Speaking of magic, "The Majestic" focuses a lot on the draw movies have had on people ever since they were created. Today though people don't really think about movies as an experience, but more as a business. Do you hope "The Majestic" will instill people's love of the movies?
Carrey: Yeah, I think it does. It's really a sweet kind of tribute to the movies and their effect. It's also so important to have heroes, even if they are not real, you know? So much of what we've done in the last ten years is to kind of turn over everything and see the seething underbelly of whatever and whoever, but the fact is if you do that you'll be left with nothing to look up to and we NEED to believe that these heroes exist. <
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Carrey: I don't work on that level. I don't try to compare myself to other people. Jimmy Stewart is an unreachable star to me. He was his thing and no one can ever be that again. I'm lucky to be in the same town and working in the same business that he was. I don't try to concentrate on that. I just try to make it as real and as interesting as possible when I'm doing it. Then when they say cut I sit around and beg for compliments.
JCO: The scene at the end of "The Majestic" when your character stands up for himself is very "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington." Were you directly inspired by that film when shooting that scene?
Carrey: Well, I was a big fan of those movies. I sat and wailed by myself, you know, 'go man!' It's great. You can't get around that; it's fantastic Yes, the scene in "The Majestic" is definitely similar. It's definitely that kind of feel where the person stands up to the tyrant. I think it worked out okay.
JCO: It did work and on a number of different levels. What do you think about the resonance this film will have with audiences?
Carrey: I think it's a breath of fresh air at this point. It's a strange thing because the last time I sat and watched it with an audience I worried about the pacing of it. It is a quiet film at times. But then there was this feeling that sits with you after the experience and it is kind of a relief. You go, 'oh thank you for not bashing my brains in for two hours. Thank you for showing me humanity in a simpler way.' It's simple and yet the writing is very complex. It's a beautifully written piece. I don't know if I answered your question. The climate now, I think it's cathartic for people. It's weird the way it's working out. I think it would have been anyway but especially now because people are looking for what makes a hero. How can they be a hero? This is about the effect we have on each other and about respect for sacrifice. We need a lot more of that. Before September 11 we had become a society that gobbles up anything in it's path and is still waiting for what else it can have. I think people have laid back since that and thought, 'my life is pretty good. I'm pretty happy. I got all my people. All my friends and family and I'd better appreciate it.'
JCO: Obviously right now films that are being released and deal with American history and war are walking on thin ice, so to speak ,as to try and not upset anyone. "The Majestic," although it doesn't deal with terrorists or bombs, deals with another sensitive period in American history-- HUAC and communism in general. How do you think audiences will respond to "The Majestic," given its subject matter and timing?
Carrey: It's not a propaganda film; I hope people don't start thinking of it that way and it certainly wasn't meant to be that. It's basically respect for sacrifice and that is something that is very prevalent right now. People HAVE that again. They lost it-- you know we lost it. I think if we don't have a common enemy somehow in this country we start eating ourselves alive. We start attacking ourselves and, it's a weird thing with these disasters that happened, they actually bring us out of ourselves and give us something to band together about.
© Castle Rock Entert.
Carrey: I'd say it's the LEAST controlled because generally the other things I've done have been 'doing' a lot of stuff to get attention and to affect something happening. This one was so important for me to trust that there was enough there. It was very confronting and I was very uncomfortable with it a lot of the time. I had Frank (Darabont) coming in saying no, it is enough. It is real. I come from a world where you know basically you're not doing anything unless you're risking your life on the set, and this was more about how does this person make you feel? Don't TELL us how it makes you feel, just feel it and trust that it's going to be picked up somehow.
JCO: Were you conscious of making a drama without your usual comedy performance?
Carrey: Well, there were times when my instincts went in the wrong directions for the piece and Frank would steer me back, which was great. To have a good director, somebody who's going to go, 'That's good and it's real, but it's not this movie, that's not the tone,' that's what they're there for-- as guidance. So, there were times when the old chops come in handy but for the most part in this movie it was about going. I sat down with Peter Weir before we started to film I had dinner with him and he said, 'Jim, if you do anything in this movie, be who you are sitting here right now and let the camera come in and don't try to make anything happen. Just be who you are and let the audience decide what to think of it.' There are times when you could do all the manipulation you want in your head but really all the audience needs is a blank slate to throw out whatever they believe in there. It's a great process.
JCO: What if people don't respond to it?
Carrey: Well, that would be a negative result that hasn't happened so I can't go there. I can't live there I live in a place of just go forward and do your best work and I believe in my soul that I'm a worthwhile person, that there is something interesting to me to sit with for two hours. So, that's my faith. I have to have my faith. You don't consider when you're dealing with faith 'oh my God, it might fall on its face,' because that fall on its face is gonna lead, if that does happen, hopefully not, but if it does happen, it will lead to greater things. If you're not embittered by it you will become even greater because of it and you'll become even more interesting, more creative. When the camera looks in your eyes, it'll see that pain and that disappointment and also that you got over it. My biggest thing in life is I want to be an old guy who you look in his eye and you know he's like an old trout that's been caught 100 billion times and thrown back over because he's just too big and they feel sorry for doing it, but he still loves jumping out of the water and swimming in the lake and loves life. That's it When you see an old person who you know has been beaten down and they still love life and love people, that's it. That has nothing to do with movies.
© Castle Rock Entertainment
Carrey: No, not at all. I have so much in my life and so many blessings. I have so much that I could never ever put myself in that place. I do what I love to do. I tell great stories. I get to work with the best people and it's so diverse this trip I've fallen into where I can go from "The Grinch" to this and "The Truman Show" to "Me, Myself and Irene" to whatever else-- it is like a gift and I don't know anybody else who has it so I feel tremendously lucky. My life is not about awards or money or any of that, because I've examined those things and that's important to me. When the money and all that started happening, I started saying to myself: Is this why you do this? Do you want to be famous or do you want to ---? I mean I have enough money to live forever, over and over again.
JCO: Are you at least conscious of the Oscar buzz?
Carrey: I think it's great that people keep focusing on that. It says something about their belief in me, and it seems to be a lot of people think I belong there so that's a pretty wonderful thing. Whether I get that or not is not up to me. I will accept any gifts that God has planned for me. That's where I stand on that and I think it'll be wonderful.
JCO: Honestly, do you care about the Oscar?
Carrey: I care about my work. If that says in some way that my work pleased my peers, that's a great thing.
JCO: We always hear that death is easy, comedy is hard, and that perhaps comedy is easy for you. Is there a sense that if you continue to do the "The Mask"'s and "Ace Ventura"'s there won't be a lengthy career and that people will just get tired of that EASE to which you approach those roles? Is that fear a result of the string of dramatic pictures you have done and "The Grinch," which was more of a family piece than a comedy?
Carrey: I think that there is a danger, as with any comedic artist, that at a certain point people sit back and say, 'now you're an old guy and you should have some dignity' and that's not on the outside, that's inside. There is a childlike quality that you have when you are a child and you start with something inside you that wants to live with dignity and as an adult. If you are forced to have to go back and get to that kooky childlike place, a lot of people do it with other things. A lot of people drink or get themselves to a place where they don't care There will be many different types of movies. So far I haven't dealt with pigeonholing. I hear a lot of people pick up on kind of like a hook every time. Can he do the dramatic; can he do this and that? I'm a creative guy and I'm an open guy. I can be directed and I'm an intelligent person sometimes.
JCO: A lot of actors say that you have to do comedy a little more seriously than drama. Coming from a series of highly successful comedies like "Dumb and Dumber" and "Liar, Liar" to "The Truman Show" and now "The Majestic," do you agree?
Carrey: Gosh, I don't think so. I think comedy you have to come at with a smile. You have to come at it with some kind of - it's like the seed of a joygasm. There is something going on behind the person's eyes. That's why I love Bill Murray, because there's just something behind his eyes that tells the audience, 'I am not serious in any way.'
© Castle Rock Entert.
Carrey: A little bit. I get a lot of my inspiration from animals for some reason. I used to have a cat that was really squirly. He would get this look where his ears would kind of go back and you knew he was going to do something horrible-- climb the curtains or something. He would get this squirly look on his face and it hit me. I was looking at it one day and I went, 'That is the feeling that I want inside when I'm on camera.' I want the audience to have the feeling that I'm about to climb the curtains. Do something nutty.
JCO: Your major dramatic roles in "The Truman Show," "Man on the Moon" and "The Majestic" all revolve around the media in some way. Was that intentional on your part?
Carrey: No, it just happens. I think the world is becoming more about media, so the arts are becoming more about media.
JCO: Speaking of the media, despite all your success on-screen, your personal life hasn't exactly been 'happily ever after.' You have gone through two divorces and almost all of your break-ups since then have been highly publicized by the press. Do you feel like there is a void in your life in the area of personal relationships? Do you agree with the press that your romantic life has suffered because of your career?
Carrey: Not because of my CAREER necessarily. Maybe it is. Maybe I focus a lot on that so that becomes the driving force. I don't know what the answer to relationship are;. I have no idea. I know that I am basically a very simple guy who values a real relationship, and I am having fun dating.
JCO: But success is nothing if you can't share it with anyone, right?
Carrey: Absolutely and every place on earth and everything on it.
JCO: So is there anybody special in your life right now?
Carrey: No, I don't have a steady. I'm just dating and it's still okay and cool.
JCO: Celebrities who are single always say it's hard to find someone who loves you for you and not for the fact you are rich and famous. Do you ever worry that a woman goes out with you because of who you are or what you represent?
Carrey: I don't spend a lot of my life trying to figure out what people's intentions are. I let them screw up. If I meet somebody and they come at me with a friendly face that is not a friendly face ultimately than that's their hell. I try to trust people right out of the gate and that's just how I approach it. Otherwise, you get completely paranoid and end up in a room growing your fingernails.
JCO: I mentioned earlier that the press is always quick to report on your dating life, but basically anything and everything you do is broadcast thanks to the Internet and television. Do you like to read what is written about you?
Carrey: Not a lot. Not unless it's really scathing and horrible.
JCO: Now I know you have a birthday coming up soon and it's kind of a milestone.
Carrey: Oh really? You had to put it THAT way huh?
© Castle Rock Entert.
Carrey: You know it's a weird thing. I'm going through a lot of stuff right now. I get freaked out about it. For me though, death has become a real thing with definable features. You go there some moments and some moments you feel like a baby. You feel like a child who's just been born and you know that's what life is. It's never one thing. You know I can never say yes I'm happy, yes I'm sad, yes I'm whatever. I'm always everything. That's what's confusing about these kinds of things because, really, what we're playing at is trying to define a person by this moment where we're sitting together and talking and you can't. I'm sure I'm going through all the cliché things that people go through at my age. There is definitely a feeling of 'is what I'm doing worthwhile? Are people being touched? Is it making any difference at all? Am I serving somebody?' You don't want to end up at the end going what I did was all for me and that's it. That's a huge concept I'm dealing with. There are a lot of things going on but I feel fantastic. I feel creative and I'm in fairly good shape. I look forward to what now is going to become. I hope I can be brave about aging and dignified about it because so much of this business is trying to hang on to something rather than be who you are. I think Tom Hanks has done that really well. He's not afraid to take roles that are mature and I'm not going to be either if people allow me to do it. If they enjoy seeing it then I'll do it. I want to do certain things in certain ways. I want the camera to come in and see the wrinkle and see whatever. I want that to be okay. Because if it isn't I'll become a real phony.
JCO: In "The Majestic" your character, Peter Appleton, comes down with a severe case of amnesia. Do you personally have any moments of your own life that you wish you could forget?
Carrey: Oh, sure but I can't tell you. That's dark stuff.
JCO: In the past you've worked with a lot of great up and coming actors, like Cameron Diaz and Courteney Cox Arquette. At this stage in your career, however, you have begun working more with Hollywood legends, like Tommy Lee Jones in "Batman Forever" and now Martin Landau in "The Majestic." Can you talk about what it was like for you working with Martin Landau?
Carrey: Martin Landau, I felt, was the genius stroke of casting to me because he reminds me so much of my father in certain ways. I used to look at my father and watch him tell a story and sit back and say 'God, he's a cartoon.' Martin can be so subtle and at the other end can be the most insane maniac that you've ever seen in your life. He can choose anything. He has a lot of weapons and that was wonderful to be around.
JCO: Anyone who knows even the littlest things about you knows that your father was one of-- if not THE-- most important person in your life. What did your dad teach you that you still carry with you after all these years?
Carrey: Right from the beginning I used to look up to my dad as more energy than anything. It was an energy that I wanted. He walked into a room and people felt like they've known him for 50 years after only 5 minutes and THAT'S what I've always been after.
© Castle Rock Entert.
Carrey: That I'm in a state of flux? I'm always in a state of flux. Always.
JCO: You're not happy, you're not sad?
Carrey: I'm everything. That's all. Aren't you? Everything?
JCO: You mentioned Bill Murray earlier and I would throw in Robin Williams and Steve Martin as well when mentioning great comedic actors. They all tend to make their mark, so what are you trying to tell us?
Carrey: I don't know. It's from one film to the next I never know why I'm doing it until a few weeks in. I pick it because something tells me I should do it. Then generally a few weeks down the line, I go, 'oh, that's why I'm doing this. Oh, interesting.' I always look at the project, and what the project needs and what that story needs. "Ace Ventura" was a good acting choice because that's what that project needed. If you had gone at that in a naturalistic way people would have gone 'give me a break, it's a pet detective.' The reason they came was because they saw right from the poster that I didn't give a damn and that it wasn't important. It was a time to come in and be carefree. I always look at the individual project, what it needs to be and what it needs and transform myself into that and learn what I have to learn. That's the great thing about it. You are always something different
JCO: How do the events on September 11 effect you, being a Canadian citizen? Does it still effect you even though you technically aren't an American?
Carrey: Absolutely. I've always felt growing up that America was a big brother protecting us in the school yard. Also a lot of the things that I loved and I loved to watch was influenced by or were American. That's part of the reason why when the disaster happened I wanted to get so involved because you don't get opportunities very often in this world to let people know what they did for you. And to me, this country defined me. This country allowed my dreams to come true and I've been treated like I'm one of the gang.
JCO: You have been living in California for quite a few years now and you are still a Canadian citizen. Would you ever adopt US citizenship?
Carrey: Yeah, I'm working on that.
JCO: Dual citizenship or just U.S.?
Carrey: I will have dual.
JCO: Could you elaborate a little bit of where you are in the application process and why it's important to you to become an American citizen?
Carrey: Canada's my home and I love Canada. Great people, fantastic people. It was a tremendous place to grow up. But I love this country. This is a great country. To me it's the best place to be. To me you can make it anywhere in the world but if you come here and you get the acceptance here that's somehow like everybody says, 'okay, America decided that was good.' But also I like the ingenuity of this country. I like the terror of not knowing really what the hell's going to happen to you when you get old.
JCO: That's a reason to become an American?
Carrey: No, you really have to create something for yourself in this country because otherwise you're going to be a burden to somebody. I don't know. It's an ingenuous place and also a place full of dreams.
© Castle Rock Entertainment
Carrey: I believe in March we are going to start filming that. "Dog Years" with Nicole Kidman and it's really a sweet project. Gary Ross is directing and writing. He did "Pleasantville," which I loved. I thought it really had a good soul. It's a dangerous territory in the romantic comedy thing. You are taking some huge risks there.
JCO: What about that Howard Hughes movie?
Carrey: Oh, the Howard Hughes - well, Howard Hughes is somebody I'm interested in. We're not very far along on that so I can't really speak about it very much because it's a jinx.
JCO: What exactly interests you in Howard Hughes?
Carrey: Because in certain ways I probably am him. I identify with certain things. I want to find out what made him go where he went. I want to find out what his hole was. What his chasm was that needed to be filled that never could be. It's "Citizen Kane" to me with characters. It's what are they missing, what are they trying to fill up with their behavior. It's 'rosebud.' Everybody is trying to find 'rosebud,' the thing they are missing but it's in the fire. You have to let it go. It's amazing. The people who don't let that go and realize they are never going to get that don't go on-- they don't grow up.
JCO: Have you let your 'rosebud' go?
Carrey: Probably not. For me it's probably being seen. A lot of magic and a lot of sleight of hand has been created because I felt I had to. I felt that that would convince everyone I was magical. That has to come from a place of need of some kind. It's need or addiction, one of the two.
JCO: Are you doing "Spotless Mind?"
Carrey: "Spotless Mind" is something that is a possibility. It could be happening. I don't want to comment completely because you never know with these things, but it's something I love. I love the script and Kaufman is brilliant.
JCO: Would you ever do another wacky comedy?
Carrey: Sure. I think half of the great stories ever told are comedies, so I can't cut myself off from a part of myself. That's a part of me and always will be. When I walked into the "Entertainment Tonight" interview, generally they film me walking in because crazy things happen or whatever. They asked ahead of time this time, 'Should we film him walking in?' I said, 'Well, you can if you want but it's going to make me probably bounce off the walls because I feel on the spot, and generally what I do when I'm on the spot is bounce off the walls.' That's just how I deal.
JCO: Would it be okay if that wacky comedy were "Ace Ventura 3?"
Carrey: I can't go back and do stuff I've done. The frickin' world could end tomorrow. I don't want to be putting the old hair back on.
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