For a decade, 39-year old Jim Carrey has made audiences laugh hysterically, but beneath that often rubbery clown-like exterior is a dramatic actor and a thoughtful human being.
In his latest film, The Majestic, Carrey is at his best as an ambitious Hollywood screenwriter in 50s America who finds himself in small town USA with amnesia and the chance for a second life, in this gentle tribute to Frank Capra’s idealistic Hollywood. Carrey is not one to do interviews, but agreed to attend the press junket for the film. In a frank discussion, Carrey talks dating, success, Oscars and comedy, to Paul Fischer.
Question: At what point in your life or age did you really first start to appreciate the magic of it all.
Answer: Ah, from the first movie I saw in the theatre was The Computer Who Wore Tennis Shoes with Kurt Russell. I had seen movies before that. But honestly the [laughter] No, you know ever since I was a kid, Jimmy Stewart movies. Loved Jimmy Stewart movies from the word go. Ah and you know, Jerry Lewis I had a psychic sense. I could tell you Jerry Lewis movie and you know, it’s just for everybody movies are just this amazing place to escape and you know if anybody needs escape it’s people hanging out up in the cold!
Question: Do you hope The Majestic will instil people’s love of the movies?
Answer: 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 you know kind of turn over everything and see the seething underbelly of whatever and whoever, but the fact is if you do that you can teat ANYbody down and you’ll be left with nothing to look up to and we NEED to believe that these heroes exist.
Question: What about right now at this point in time this being an Americana movie here.
Answer: Yeah. 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. You know? 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. You know? We start attacking ourselves and it’s a weird thing with these disasters that happened actually bring us out of ourselves and give us something to band together about.
Question: Is that a Canadian thing?
Answer: Absolutely. I’ve always felt that, I’ve always felt growing up that America was a big brother protecting us in the schoolyard, so and also a lot of the things that I loved and I loved to watch and was influenced by were American, so you know, part of the reason why when this, when the disaster happened and 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.
Question: You’re still a Canadian citizen, right? Would you ever adopt US citizenship?
Answer: Yeah. Yeah. I’m working on that. Yes.
Question: Dual citizenship or one of the other?
Answer: I will have dual.
Question: How old were you when you were in the cinema watching a movie and you said to yourself: I want to be up there?
Answer: 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.
Question: Do you think it was the most controlled performance you’ve ever given in a film and if so did you feel like you were being held back a bit?
Answer: 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, it was so important for me to trust that there was enough there. You know? It was very confronting and I was very uncomfortable with it a lot of the time. I had Frank 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 you know something like that? 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.
Question: Despite really good work the Academy is continuing to ignore you. Are you mad at the Academy?
Answer: No, not at all. I have so much in my life and so many blessings. I have so much. 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 you know The Grinch to this and The Truman Show to Me Myself and Irene to whatever else, is like a gift that 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. You know when the money and all that started happening and 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.
Question: Do you feel like there is a void in your life in the area of personal relationships? Has that like suffered because of your career?
Answer: 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 I value a real relationship. I am having fun dating. You know?
Question: But success is nothing if you can’t share it with anyone, right?
Answer: Absolutely, absolutely and every place on earth and everything on it.
Question: Do you read what is written about you?
Answer: Not a lot. Not a lot. Unless it’s really scathing and horrible.
Question: Is there anybody special in your life?
Answer: No. I don’t have a steady. I’m just dating and it’s still okay and cool.
Question: Do you ever worry that a woman goes out with you because of you or what you represent?
Answer: 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 and 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.
Question: I know you have a birthday coming up soon and it’s kind of a milestone.
Answer: Oh really? You had to put it THAT way huh?
Question: Have you given any have you thought about it at all? [laughter] Whenever you reach an age of 30 or 40 or 50 or whatever people tend to, but have you thought about it all about where you are in life you know as you reach that age?
Answer: You know it’s a weird thing. I’m going through a lot of stuff right now. I get you know freaked out about the whole you know. I said to someone else today, it’s the William Holden line in network you know’ For me, 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 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.
Question: Can you talk about working with Martin Landau?
Answer: Well, 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. And 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 you know and that was wonderful to be around.
Question: What did your dad teach you?
Answer: 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 knew him after 5 minutes like they’ve known him for 50 years and THAT’S what I’ve always been after.
Question: Your major dramatic roles all revolve around the media in some way. Was that intentional on your part?
Answer: No. It just happens. I think the world is becoming more about media, so the arts are becoming more about media.
Question: Can you elaborate on what you said a minute ago which is somewhat surprising, that you were in a bit of a state of flux in your own mind and in your own career now? Looking at you it doesn’t seem to be the case. Why is that?
Answer: That I’m in a state of flux? I’m always in a state of flux. Always.
Question: You’re not happy, you’re not sad?
Answer: I’m everything. That’s all. Aren’t you? Everything?
Question: 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 Masks and Ace Venturas there won’t be a lengthy career, that people will just get tired of that EASE of which you approach those roles?
Answer: 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. Chaplin and Limelight that’s talking about ah, he drinks because there is a childlike quality that you have when you are a child and you start in this thing and you start to something inside you starts to want to live with dignity and as an adult. And 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 you know get themselves to a place where they don’t care. There will be many different types of movies. Hopefully, I just you know. So far I haven’t dealt with pigeonholing. I’ve heard people I hear a lot of people you know pick up on kind of like a hook every time. Can he do the dramatic; can he do this ant that? I’m a creative guy and I’m an open guy and I can be directed and I’m an intelligent person sometimes.
Question: Let’s go back to the citizenship thing a bit here. Could you elaborate a little bit of where you are in the application process, why it’s important to you to become an American citizen and is this like the train Canada thing.
Answer: No because I would keep my citizenship in Canada. 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 it’s like everybody says okay. America decided that was good, but also I like the ingenuity of this country . I like the, the terror of not knowing really what the hell’s going to happen to you when you get old.
Question: That’s a reason to become an American?
Answer: No, I-you really have to create something for yourself in this country because otherwise. You’re going to be a burden to somebody and I don’t know. It’s an ingenuous place and also a place full of dreams.