Jim Carrey Loses Himself on the Set of ‘Man on the Moon’

December 29, 2017

If you’re binge-watching Netflix all weekend long or over a holiday fortnight and you’re looking for content that’s described as “hilarious,” “very dark,” and “sobering,” then the documentary that follows Jim Carrey during the making of the 1999 film Man on the Moon might interest you. Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond tells the story of Carrey’s complete and unmitigated immersion into the character of Andy Kaufman during the shooting of the Andy Kaufman biopic, Man on the Moon. This is your brain on method acting!

The documentary, directed by Chris Smith of American Movie fame and produced by Being John Malkovich director Spike Jonze, is a pastiche of behind-the-scenes footage, current interviews, reflections, and movie clips. It might all seem a bit confusing, but under Smith’s steady yet chimerical direction, the film is surprisingly cogent. However, what’s most intriguing here–and indeed what’s at the center of this drama–is the suggestion that Jim Carrey may have lost his sense of self and his very identity while committing to his role in Man on the Moon.

For anyone who’s seen some of Carrey’s recent interviews and noticed his retreat from the business that appeared to be his lifeblood for so long, the premise is not at all far-fetched. In fact, in a recent interview, Jim stated emphatically, “There is no me, no self. Jim Carrey is gone–actually never existed–and I know that now.”

According to the Man on the Moon DVD commentary, Jim Carrey never showed up for work; rather, he showed up as either Andy Kaufman or Andy’s tiresome alter ego, Tony Clifton. Such a level of commitment is evidenced in just about every one of Jim Carrey’s film roles regardless of what you think of his acting abilities. But things seemed to have gone a bit too far with this particular project judging from the histrionics and mind-bending psychodramas in Jim & Andy.

Carrey has been sitting on the behind-the-scenes footage for years and has always wanted people to see it. Reflecting back on his portrayal of Kaufman, he says, “It was definitely an important moment in the process where I found myself subjugating Jim Carrey for Andy Kaufman and Tony Clifton. And then at the end of it, looking for Jim Carrey again and having trouble finding him. And at a certain point, I realized, ‘Hey, wait a second. If it’s so easy to lose Jim Carrey, who the hell is Jim Carrey?’ And there was this Spielbergian kind of rack focus at that point where, like Roy Scheider on a beach, I was kind of watching from another place.”

Jim describes Jim and Andy as a “contemporary concept.” He likens his struggle with identity to those of so many people who presently suffer from depression. “People go like, ‘Oh, Jim’s been depressed.’ Well, yeah, I was depressed when I was trying to be the Wizard of Oz instead of being the sweaty guy behind the curtain. But now I know that Oz is a character. And I think everybody deals with that.”

For anyone who embarks upon the actor’s journey, this is both intriguing and troubling. Yes, it’s every actor’s goal and ambition to “lose themselves” in any given character, but what if that means really losing yourself–being separated from your authentic self? Little scary, right? If you have the good fortune of getting so tuned into a character it’s hard to tell reality from fiction, how do you tune out of that character?

Have you ever taken on a role that separated you from your true self? Or worse, challenged your sanity? Please share!

Acting While on Antidepressants

August 23, 2015

There are many schools of thought and different philosophies as it concerns the question of what makes great acting? But it is universally held that great acting starts with dynamic and sensitive emotions combined with a compelling physical presence. Actors are expected to be highly emotional and psychologically explosive. Indeed, some actors are so impassioned and creatively zealous, they sadly end up addicted to drugs or in an early grave. Think Heath Ledger or Paul Walker or Philip Seymour Hoffman or Brittany Murphy or Cory Monteith or Amanda Bynes–and the list goes on. Could these sensitive souls have benefited from antidepressant drugs? Some of them were likely taking SSRI’s or other medicines to treat depression and anxiety, but then again some of them may not have been. Taking medications is a deeply personal choice and private matter that the public need not know about. 

But what is it like having to act on stage or film while taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety tablets? Well, the answer to this question is as diverse as the individuals who takes these meds; people are not all biochemically identical, and drugs have a wide range of effects on the end user. But generally speaking, most antidepressants are meant to lift one’s mood and stabilize personality. Users commonly “feel better” and are less prone to erratic mood swings. But it is often reported that it can be more difficult to cry, to feel excitement, to relate in an emotional way, or even to feel extremes in normal experience. As a result, an actor’s ability to wear his or her proverbial “heart on your sleeve” for the benefit of audiences everywhere could be compromised.

This is certainly not to say that someone who is clinically depressed should not take medications that are available and possibly necessary to one’s happiness and survival; but, it is important to know what you are taking, and to understand the benefits and side effects of these powerful pharmaceuticals. Clearly, taking care of mental and emotional health is a priority. It is only to highlight that for actors, as their emotions are at the core of their work, have an added consideration in this regard.

If you’re thinking about taking antidepressants for depression or anxiety, make sure to consult your doctor concerning quantity and dose, and be sure to mention you’re an actor! And keep in mind, you’re in good company. Some actors have come forward to share their experiences with antidepressants. According to reports, for instance, Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm battled chronic depression after his father passed; he found that a structured environment, therapy, and antidepressants were key to pulling out of this challenging time. The outrageously expressive Jim Carrey once shared his history with depression and being on Prozac to help him pull through the hard time. And actress Lorraine Bracco, the psychiatrist from The Sopranos, has spoken openly about her battle with depression and how antidepressants and talk therapy helped her overcome it. And the list goes on and on.

Jim Carrey’s Speech: ‘You Can Fail at What You Don’t Want, So You Might as Well Take a Chance on Doing What You Love’

June 12, 2015

If you are an actor whose parents much prefer you find a “real” job instead of pursuing acting; or if you find yourself second guessing the decision to follow your passion, wondering if it’s wiser to find a more conservative profession, then you might be interested in hearing Jim Carrey’s Commencement Address at the 2014 Maharishi University of Management. This video clip highlights portions of Carrey’s speech, where he warns the consciousness-seeking graduates that, “Your need for acceptance can make you invisible.” He therefore encourages them to “Risk being seen in all of your glory.”

Speaking from his personal life experiences, he says, “So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying that I am the proof that you can ask the universe for it. Please. And if it doesn’t happen for you right away, it’s only because the universe is so busy fulfilling my order.”

He briefly tells a story about his father who had natural comedic talent, but who didn’t believe that being a comedian was a career option. Having four children, he thus chose the more conservative career path as an accountant. But a 12-year-old Jim learned an important lesson when his father lost that “safe” job, and consequently everything seemed to fall apart for the family. They, in fact, lived out of a van for some time, and the family members pulled together as they persevered through the tough circumstances. By the time Jim was 15, he started working as a janitor to help the family survive, and he never completed high school. “I learned many great lessons from my father–not the least of which is that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

For Jim, that meant following his dreams of being a comedian despite his family’s lack of financial stability. His dad, adept with his own sense of humor, helped Jim create a stage act which gradually lead to Rodney Dangerfield taking notice of the budding star, and asking Jim to open his tour performances.

“As far as I can tell it’s just about letting the universe know what you want and working toward it while letting go of how it comes to pass,” Jim tells the graduates. “You are ready and able to do beautiful things in this world. And after you walk through those doors today, you will only ever have two choices: Love or fear. Choose love, and don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart.”

To hear Carrey’s full, entertaining 26-minute speech, click here.

 

Visualization to Achieve Your Dreams

September 26, 2013

th-1Visualization is recognized as a powerful tool that has the potential to help you achieve your aspirations and goals. It is the process of imagining events or objects in your mind’s eye with the faithful belief that what you are seeing is actually becoming your desired reality. Some people dabble with the process despite an underlying doubt of its efficacy, in some measure wondering if it’s all just a bunch of superstitious nonsense. Whereas, others passionately practice visualization with an absolute conviction that doing so will enhance their futures, and assist in materializing their dreams. So does it work?

Jim Carrey once told Oprah Winfrey during an interview that as a struggling actor he would use visualization techniques to acquire work. He also said he visualized a $10,000,000 paycheck being given to him for “Acting services rendered.” Three years later, he indeed received a check for his work in Dumb and Dumber…in the amount of $10,000,000. But he doesn’t regard the practice as magic. Carrey said, “I would visualize things coming to me. It would just make me feel better. Visualization works if you work hard. That’s the thing. You can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.”

Superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger shares similar convictions. He used visualization techniques to fulfill his aspirations of becoming a body builder, imagining he would win the title of Mr. Universe, and following up by behaving as if he had already won it. He indeed manifested his vision, taking the Mr. Universe title just a few years later. As for his fellow gym mates who would say, “I want to train because I think that if I get muscular enough, maybe I can enter a body building competition,” Arnold says, “You can detect right away those that are going to be shaky, and that will fall behind, and those that are very hungry, and that hunger you will have to develop. You gotta create a goal for yourself whatever that may be, a short-term goal and a long-term goal, and you gotta go after that. And if you don’t see it, and if you don’t believe it, who else will? The body is very important, but the mind is more important than the body….So you gotta go to the gym and feel like every rep that you do is getting you one step closer to that goal to make that vision that you have turn into reality.” 

Next, Arnold applied the same mental technique to his goal of becoming an actor. “So now you apply that principle into acting….Let’s visualize what am I shooting for. Okay, I want to be another Clint Eastwood. So that’s what I’m going after. And that same principle works. Even though there are so many people around that would say you will never make it because you have an accent, because your body is too big, and your name is Schwarzschnitzel or whatever–you know, who can pronounce that? But you know it doesn’t matter if anybody else knows, if anybody else believes in it. But all that matters is that you know. And you know that that principle–visualizing yourself as a star–will work and all you have to do now is go towards that vision.” For Arnold, the practical work included going to acting class everyday as well as working on his accent.

Research has shown that creative visualization is most powerful when it’s not pure fantasy, but rather when it focuses on seeing yourself putting in the proper work to achieve your success. Expecting success as a result of persistent effort, and addressing real obstacles, can motivate you to keep moving forward; whereas, putting hope into unfounded fantasy can actually prevent the necessary work from being accomplished. So, while an Olympian swimmer might benefit from envisioning him or herself swimming past the other competitors and tagging the wall first, an amateur swimmer would do well to focus on the fundamentals of each swim stroke. Keeping your visions at your level will help you establish positive behaviors that have a better chance of becoming habits. Positive habits help you overcome many challenges by allowing yourself to make several attempts to get it right.

So, aspiring actors–or I should say wildly successful and highly revered actors who are living the dream–what do you think about visualization? Do you believe these actors’ devotion to the power of mental pictures was actually vital to achieving their goals? And do you make a point to practice creative visualization yourself?

Jim Carrey’s Controversial Change of Heart

June 30, 2013

Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars & Stripes

[on being asked what his personal motto is] “Always turn your wheel in the direction of the skid.” –Jim Carrey

When Universal Pictures cast Jim Carrey in the sequel to the cult-favorite Kick-Ass, those at the helm were likely convinced adding the A-list star would bring prodigious publicity to the film. And it certainly has. But rather than having their award-winning star go out and enthusiastically promote Kick-Ass 2, Carrey has abruptly opted out of supporting the flick altogether. Indeed, Carrey recently tweeted, “I did ‘Kickass’ a month b4 Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence;” following up with another post saying: “My apologies to others involved with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart.”

The role that Carrey wants to disassociate himself from is that of the bad-ass masked Colonel Stars & Stripes who wields a baseball bat while fighting crime. But in particular, Carrey has expressed objection to the film’s overall “level of violence.” The award-winning comic book author who created the Kick-Ass characters for a Marvel comic series, Mark Millar, has praised Carrey’s performance, calling it “magnificent.” But in response to Carrey’s tweets, Millar posted on the Millarworld website his bewilderment with Carrey’s U-turn saying:

“…Jim is a passionate advocate of gun-control and I respect both his politics and his opinion, but I’m baffled by this sudden announcement as nothing seen in this picture wasn’t in the screenplay eighteen months ago. Yes, the body-count is very high…. ‘Kick-Ass’ avoids the usual bloodless body-count of most big summer pictures and focuses instead of the CONSEQUENCES of violence, whether it’s the ramifications for friends and family or, as we saw in the first movie, Kick-Ass spending six months in hospital after his first street altercation. Ironically, Jim’s character in ‘Kick-Ass 2’ is a Born-Again Christian and the big deal we made of the fact that he refuses to fire a gun is something he told us attracted him to the role in the first place.”

Bloggers have since been expressing support for Carrey’s kick-ass determination to fight for a just cause; others have emphasized that movie violence is merely pretend and shouldn’t be confused with reality; and quite a few have criticized him saying they want to see him donate the money he makes from the film to support gun control groups.

While Kick-Ass 2 is set for a US release on August 16, Carrey filmed Colonel Stars & Stripes one month before the Newtown shootings. After the shocking Sandy Hook tragedy in which twenty children and six adults died, Jim Carrey spoofed the late Charlton Heston by creating a Funny or Die skit called Cold Dead Hands based on one of Heston’s pro-gun speeches as former president of the National Rifle Association.

Jim Carrey is no stranger to standing up for his political beliefs. He has criticized the scientific consensus that no evidence links the childhood MMR vaccination to the development of autism. He stated his case in an article for the Huffington Post questioning the merits of pushing vaccines on children and led a “Green Our Vaccines” march in Washington D.C. raising public awareness about the toxic ingredients contained in children’s vaccines as well as advocating his belief that children receive “too many vaccines, too soon, many of which are toxic.” 

So what do you think about Carrey’s change of heart? Being an aspiring actor, you may one day find yourself in a similarly conflicted position after portraying a role or even after a series of roles. Should actors be given license to disown a project after they have been paid for that role?