Interviews


Jim Carrey


Occupation: Actor, Comedian
Date of Birth: January 17, 1962
Place of Birth: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Sign: Sun in Capricorn, Moon in Gemini
Relations: Father: Percy (jazz musician, accountant); mother: Kathleen; siblings: Pat, John, Rita; ex-companion: Linda Ronstadt; ex-wives: Melissa Womer (waitress), Lauren Holly (actress); daughter: Jane (with Womer); companion: Renee Zellweger (actress)
Education: High school dropout

 

FOREMOST among the more improbable success stories in the history of Hollywood is the meteoric rise to fame of actor Jim Carrey, who transformed himself from B-grade wannabe to A-list leading man in the span of just one remarkable year. With only the spottiest of cinematic oeuvres and national name recognition equivalent to that of your average North Dakota congressperson, Carrey descended on the box office like a ton of bricks in February 1994 as the title character of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, a low-rent Miami snoop whose butt-soliloquizing shenanigans busted pre-adolescent guts to the unanticipated tune of $72 million. As the limber-limbed actor himself later put it, "Until Ace Ventura, no actor had considered talking through his ass." And how. By the end of the year, Carrey had logged two more smash hits, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber, each of which easily exceeded the $100 million mark in domestic grosses. His mind-blowing breakthrough was confirmed in 1995 when Sony coughed up $20 million  at the time the largest straight sum ever paid any actor for one movie  to secure his services for The Cable Guy.

By most accounts (including his own), Carrey was exactly the sort of youth you'd imagine: a rambunctious and fearlessly extroverted child with a wildly active imagination. When he was 10, he sent a résumé to The Carol Burnett Show. The youngest of four siblings, Carrey was born and raised in the suburbs of Toronto. As a youngster he developed his sense of humor by pulling faces in front of the mirror and by doing impersonations of his alcoholic grandparents; he made his stage debut in the role of Santa Claus in a third grade Christmas pageant at the Blessed Trinity School. Later on, he did standup comedy for his schoolmates, most notably in the seventh grade, when his teacher induced her irrepressibly comic pupil to behave by allowing him to do impromptu 15-minute routines for the class at the end of each day.

Perhaps the most defining period of Carrey's young life commenced shortly after his 14th birthday, when his father, an aspiring jazz saxophonist who had worked for years as an accountant to feed the family, lost his job. The Carreys were forced to relocate to Scarborough, where both parents and all four children took jobs as janitors and security personnel at the Titan Wheels factory. Already acutely conscious of his father's abandoned artistic ambitions, Carrey was deeply embittered by this second denial of fortune, and working eight-hour shifts at the factory in addition to taking classes at a new high school did little to improve his disposition. His grades plummeted from straight A's into the D and F range  not surprising, considering he slept through most of his classes.

Carrey ultimately dropped out of high school, and the family dropped out of Titan Wheels; after abandoning their factory-subsidized apartment, they lived in a VW camper van and drifted back to Toronto, staying at campgrounds or with relatives along the way. In Toronto, Carrey sought an outlet for his anger by performing at comedy clubs. With material supplied by his father, and dressed by his mother in a yellow polyester suit, he made his debut at Yuk Yuk's in Toronto, where both his attire and his delivery were booed mercilessly. Demonstrating a spiritual resilience that mirrored his astoundingly elastic physique, Carrey doggedly honed his shtick in Toronto clubs  and even briefly immigrated to Los Angeles for a short run at the Comedy Store  and became particularly reputed for his impersonations of such notables as Michael Landon, Gandhi, and Jimmy Stewart.

In 1979, Carrey relocated to L.A. for good, and nailed down a regular gig at the Comedy Store, where his act drew favorable reviews from such notables as Rodney Dangerfield, who signed the confrontational comic on for a season as his opening act, and David Letterman, who hosted him on Late Night. On the strength of such widening exposure, NBC offered Carrey a series lead in The Duck Factory, a 1983 mid-season replacement that was ultimately canceled after 13 little-seen episodes. Fearful of becoming a career comedian in the Vegas mode, and having gained some exposure to filmmaking in several Canadian movies, Carrey shifted his energies to pursuing a career in acting. After making his American debut in the Richard Lester-directed farce Finders Keepers, Carrey assembled a string of supporting appearances in such films as Francis Ford Coppola's Peggy Sue Got Married and Clint Eastwood's fifth Dirty Harry flick, The Dead Pool.

Carrey's first major film role came along in the 1989 sex farce Earth Girls Are Easy, which featured him, Jeff Goldblum, and Damon Wayans as sex-starved extraterrestrials who hit on Geena Davis. An impressed Wayans referred Carrey to brother Keenen Ivory, who at the time was assembling an African-American-flavored comedy revue for Fox called In Living Color. Carrey was subsequently hired as one of the show's two white cast members. His Fire Marshal Bill and Vera De Milo characters gained him a reasonable measure of national exposure, and when the show's four-season run ended in 1994, Carrey was primed for the stunningly successful rebirth of his film career in Ace Ventura.

Carrey's run of winners peaked in 1995 with Batman Forever (in which he portrayed the Riddler) and the butt-blabbing redux Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, following which the lithe star took a stumble with the dark comedy The Cable Guy, a decided misfire that originally had been penned as a light-hearted vehicle for Chris Farley. Fans and critics alike forgave Carrey his fall from grace when he returned to his trademark straightforward goofiness with 1997's Liar Liar, a film which solidly reestablished his phenomenal drawing power by grossing nearly $200 million; his performance also garnered a Golden Globe Best Actor nomination. Thereafter audiences were treated to an entirely different sort of Jim Carrey with the release of 1998's The Truman Show, which marked his first starring appearance in a serious dramatic film. Continuing in a serious vein, he logged a supporting role in the Ashley Judd starrer Simon Birch, and tackled the lead role in Man in the Moon, Milos Forman's 1999 biopic of the late Andy Kaufman, a part for which Carrey beat out the likes of Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Kevin Spacey, and Edward Norton.

Shortly following his Ace Ventura breakthrough, Carrey endured a costly and messy divorce from first wife Melissa Womer, a waitress he'd met during his Comedy Store days. Almost immediately thereafter he hooked up with his Dumb and Dumber leading lady, Lauren Holly, and, in fine Hollywood fashion, the two eventually signed the requisite prenup, wed, and divorced. Late 1999 brought confirmation that the funnyman was dating actress Renee Zellweger, with whom he co-starred in the summer 2000 Farrelly brothers comedy Me, Myself, & Irene. In addition to tracking future romantic ups and downs, Carrey fans can look forward to seeing their hero star as a top secret Navy operative in a remake of the Don Knotts farce The Incredible Mr. Limpet; he'll also take on the role made famous by Danny Kaye in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

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