Earlier this fall, I felt compelled to write a column about Jim Carrey after seeing his very out-there, eccentric, interviews where he waxed metaphysical and bamboozled his hapless interviewers.
I ended up pushing my notes aside after I couldn’t materialize a comprehensive summation of my thoughts on the matter, and it seemed that nobody else could either — writers could only really guess at what was really going on in this enigmatic star’s brain. Was it mental illness? Was it preparing for a new role? Had he achieved spiritual enlightenment? No one could definitively pinpoint the intentions behind his actions, but they were without question bizarre.
As a kid, Carrey was my idol, hands down. I remember the first time I saw Ace Ventura, at six, visiting my grandparents in Arizona. My grandma had rented it, thinking “Pet Detective” sounds like a good kid’s flick, and then once it started, thought that the more inappropriate jokes would at least wash right over the younger kids’ heads. I vividly recall laughing so hard I fell off my chair. Since, I have seen all his classics a ludicrous amount of times, and I think he probably shaped my sense of humour, something I value dearly.
As a long-time fan of the actor, I was quite perplexed, and somewhat concerned, about his press over the past few years. A few examples include his questionable stance on vaccines alongside his former wife Jenny McCarthy, his weird Jesus art, and of course his interviews where he says things like, “There is no me, no self. Jim Carrey is gone… actually never existed.”
Then, I fired up Netflix and gasp — the documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton had been released. And now, after seeing this incredible film, I think I get it. I think it has provided everyone with an insight into where Carrey’s head is.
The film is currently sitting at a perfect 100 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has overall been extremely well received. It depicts the never-before seen behind-the-scenes footage of the making of 1999’s The Man on the Moon. Carrey earned a Golden Globe for depiction of late comedian Andy Kaufman in it, but as you discover upon watching it, his portrayal went many miles beyond method-acting.
Carrey was heavily influenced by the unpredictable, unorthodox Kaufman as a child, and there are many parallels between the two as children; both misfits who performed to their bedroom walls. Then as the film unfolds and Carrey settles deeper into the character — much to the chagrin of his director and fellow actors — parallels between Kaufman and Carrey begin to arise in the real-life ramifications of his outrageous behaviours.
Without divulging too many spoilers, anyone who was a fan of Kaufman, or has seen The Man on the Moo, are familiar with his antics; feigning injury in the wrestling ring and getting slapped by wrestler Jerry Lawler on the Letterman show, or confusing audiences as to the real identity of his belligerent, lounge-lizard alter ego Tony Clifton. Carrey’s portrayal is so accurate it has Kaufman’s friends and family in tears more than once and his shenanigans are uncannily similar.
At the beginning of the film, the thickly-bearded Carrey describes attempting to communicate telepathically with the late Kaufman while looking out at the ocean. He claims a pod of dolphins popped up immediately, and he said, “That’s the moment that Andy Kaufman showed up, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, ‘Sit down, I’ll be doing my movie.” From there, Carrey alleged everything that happened was out of his control.
After the filming of Man on the Moon wrapped Carrey felt lost and had lost track of who he was. What Jim Carrey meant. Another segment of the interview reveals that when he originally met with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry, the director said that Carrey’s current broken emotional state was beautiful and that he should remain in it until shooting began, a year later. Which, if you’ve seen the film, it appears that he was more than able to do.
Essentially Carrey went from being one of the highest paid, most in-demand stars in Hollywood; adored internationally for his incomparable physical comedy and his likeable persona, to doing a role that he completely lost himself in. Then he was severely depressed, medicating with Prozac, and being encouraged by industry professionals to remain broken for the purpose of their artistic vision.
Add in all the personal strife surrounding his life, such as allegations that he played a role in his ex-girlfriend’s suicide, and it’s really no wonder that Carrey has strayed from the limelight of major blockbusters recently and has instead focused on deeper metaphysical, spiritual concepts, to come to his own definition of self. Hollywood puts pressure on actors to become and remain the most digestible and agreeable template or avatar for audiences; part of the reason it’s always so shocking when myriad sexual assault allegations come out of the woodwork against stars we feel like we know and love.
Carrey, after experiencing an existential “experiment” (not crisis, as he has stated), by taking on the extreme persona of Kaufman, found himself in uncharted territory. But it appears as though he truly is fine. He has been able to successfully redefine himself outside the scope of Hollywood’s greedy clutches, and focus on his own personal desires and pursuits. Which may include becoming Jesus. You’ll have to watch the documentary for yourself to get that last bit explained.