By Nicola West
Jim Carrey, Film Star, Survivor, Inspiration. From humble beginnings to superstardom, he joins an elite group of comedians who have spanned the acting chasm to achieve phenomenal success. This is his story.
The fun began on January 17th 1962, born to Kathleen and Percy and the youngest of 4 he grew up in a house filled with laughter and fun. His parents often suffered from ill health and the young Jim would clown around to bring smiles to their faces and to stand out from his siblings, Rita, Pat and John. A skill he was to take to school in return for his good behaviour.
The laughter however took a blow when Percy lost his safe job as an accountant when he was 52, plunging the family into dire financial straights. This was a huge blow for the mild mannered Percy who had given up musical dreams in favour of family security. They lost their home and when Jim was in 8th grade the family was forced to enter one of their bleakest periods, as they agreed to work as factory caretakers and cleaners, in return for secured accommodation. This meant Jim too, who struggled with working an 8 hour evening shift with schoolwork. Inevitably the A grade student began to fail and this showed in his behaviour in the community. He decided he had no option but to leave school.
Eventually the family decided the hostility between fellow factory workers and their general unhappiness was too much to bear and they moved into a VW camper van. Despite the cramped space the family was happier again and Percy and Jim began to explore Jim's comedic talents. At 15 he appeared at Toronto's Yuk Yuk's in a bright yellow suit made for him by Kathleen. He went down badly and it took time and perseverance, but soon he was performing regularly on the Toronto club circuit, whilst supporting the family.
His early routine comprised mainly of impressions and along with the positive feedback he was receiving he took the brave step of moving to Los Angeles in 1979. The Comedy Store soon had him on the bill and he found himself spotted by Rodney Dangerfield who booked Jim to be his support act, leading to Vegas gigs.
Despite these achievements Jim felt things weren't moving as quickly as he would like. Low budget movies were filtering through however. "All in Good Taste", "Rubberface", "The Sex and Violence Family Hour" and "Copper Mountain" were learning experiences for the young Jim but he was becoming more and more disillusioned with impressionism.
Then came along "The Duck Factory" in 1984燼nd for a while it seemed as though stardom had arrived and Jim moved his parents to LA, but Jim played a straight character in the series and it's scheduling up against "Cheers" led it to fail.
Jim knew things had to change and above all he realised he wanted to make people laugh and heading back to the comedy circuit, began to explore new material, often bombing in front of the audience but never giving up. However the money did and with no option he was forced to ask his parents to leave, Therein followed a bleak period in Jim's life. During this time he wrote himself the now legendary cheque for $10 million for services rendered, which he kept in his wallet and subsequently and poignantly placed in his fathers pocket at Percy's funeral.
His personal life however looked more promising. In 1986 he met actress Melissa Womer at the Comedy Store where she was waitressing, fell in love and married a year later, shortly followed by the birth of daughter Jane. He was no longer a single man, he had a family to think of.
Other movies began to filter through, "Finders Keepers", "Once Bitten", "Peggy Sue Got Married", "The Dead Pool", "Pink Cadillac" and "Mike Hammer: Murder Takes All" then came "Earth Girls are Easy". Despite being an unimpressive movie Jim made an impression on co-star Damon Wayans who recommended Jim to his brother for a new show "In Living Color". This was to be his big chance. The role led to Jim Carrey's Unnatural Act in 1991 and led to a role in Fox's Emmy nominated TV爁ilm "Doing Time on Maple Drive". A serious role in which he played a young man with a serious drinking problem,爄t爏howcased Jim's straight燼cting talents but he continued with "In Living Color", sticking with comedy for the meantime.
Well received, Jim stayed with the show until 1994 and used it as a vehicle for characters such as Fire Marshall Bill and Vera de Milo. He was able to push boundaries and test audience reactions and across the industry was receiving attention and acclaim, which was to lead to his first blockbuster.
"Ace Ventura: Pet Detective". Made for just $12 million the movie raked in $72 million and put Jim at the top of his game. This was a movie Jim had more than the usual hand in, he re-wrote it around his sense of humour and the public and the industry loved it.
The next Movie to showcase his talents was "The Mask" with a young, then unknown, Cameron Diaz. Again the public loved the zany half animated antics and his sheer energy and skill were well received by his peers earning him a Golden Globe nomination.
At home however things were not going so well, as his marriage became under strain. The next movie was to prove the breaking point.
"Dumb & Dumber" was a universal smash hit. A comedy about 2 idiots returning a briefcase was made for $16 million and netted a whopping $246 million meaning in 1994 his movies had generated a massive $550 million. He was now the biggest movie star on the planet at last. But the joy was short lived, when finally his marriage to Melissa collapsed resulting in a particularly bad divorce. He sought solace in the arms of his "Dumb & Dumber" co-star Lauren Holly who denied any involvement in the marriage break-up.
An educated middle class successful actress in her own right Lauren and Jim would fall in love and later marry, only to divorce amid rumours of infidelity several months later. But whilst his personal life was taking a hammering his professional life was pushing him into the stratosphere.
Joining the Batman Franchise in 1995爃e gave an exceptional performance as The Riddler in "Batman Forever"燽lowing ALL his co-stars off the screen much to Val Kilmer and Tommy Lee Jones' horror.
Next came the 'follow up' to "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective", "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls". Another huge box office hit Ace WNC was to pull in over $100 million and sealed Jim's identity as one of the highest grossing movie stars on the screen.
Next came the first huge pay check, $20 million for "The Cable Guy". Directed by Ben Stiller and co-starring Mathew Broderick, "The Cable Guy" saw Jim's first disappointing return at the box office. Critics had not like the darkness of the movie and the public stayed away, fuelling speculation that Jim was past his best.
Not so however. The next movie "Liar Liar" saw Jim re-teamed with his 'Ace Ventura' director燩eter Shadyac. The result was a hilarious parody of the 'honest' lawyer, a lawyer who cannot lie. Back on form again Jim blew the sceptics away earning another Golden Globe nomination and drawing $200 million at the box office.
The next movie however was to prove groundbreaking for Jim. "The Truman Show", directed by Peter Weir was a semi-serious poignant forerunner to our current reality TV culture. It earned Jim a Golden Globe and finally the critics were forced to admit that Jim was a serious acting talent as well as a comedian.
Jim's next project "Man on the Moon" the biopic of comedian Andy Kaufman earned him another Golden Globe, the respect of his co-stars and peers and demonstrated how dedicated he could be to his craft as he emerged himself in the method acting technique.
With two well respected movies, 2 Golden Globes but still no Academy nominations Jim decided to return to humour. "Me Myself & Irene", directed by the Farrelly brothers, tackled the subject of mental illness and tellingly was not received well by the critics, but the public welcomed his return to comedy. It was also the starting point of Jim's well-publicised romance with his co-star Ren閑 Zellweger, a romance which collapsed amid speculation at Christmas 2000.
The next movie in the line up was to be Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", directed by Ron Howard. This was the movie of 2000 and sold more tickets than any other movie that year and pulled in $260 million at the box office.
It earned Jim another Golden Globe nomination, the adoration of millions of children worldwide and the knowledge that he would forever be part of the festive season entertainment, in the same way that Jimmy Stewart is with 'it's a Wonderful Life'.
Jim moved on to the Frank Darabont directed "The Majestic", about a blacklisted screenwriter in the 50's during the Hollywood communist witch hunts. This was another straight acting role for Jim. A pro American, strength of spirit movie, it had all the ingredients to do well at the box office, it didn't.
The next movie saw him return to comedy. Jim was teamed up again with Tom Shadyac for "Bruce Almighty" and co-starred Jennifer Aniston. The movie was a return to the charming humour of earlier movies and took a whopping $200 million at the box office. Jim was back on form as the biggest money maker in Hollywood.
Yet after "Bruce Almighty", instead of opting for a 'safe' option Jim went down the 'Art House' film route. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" was from the pen of the innovative Charlie Kaufman and saw him teamed with Kate Winslet. The movie was well received by the critics, both for its innovative direction by Michael Gondry and the astonishing script, which won Charlie Kaufman an Oscar. The actors were also acclaimed and Kate Winslet earned her fourth Oscar Nomination, Jim however remained ignored by the Academy.
Following this, would come a film adaptation of the first Lemony Snicket novel, "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events". In it Jim played the dreadful Count Olaf who tries to murder the orphans of a dead distant relative. Another big box office smash this movie was an excellent showcase for Jim's ability to ad-lib and many of the lines came from screen-test sessions, where he was able to mix humour with darker undertones again.
This takes us to December 2005 with "Fun with Dick and Jane" which was a re-make of the old Jane Fonda and George Segal 1977 movie and co-starred Tea Leoni. Jim also produced the movie and was instrumental in initiating a huge re-write until he was happy. He explained his choice of movie by relating it to the difficult times his family experienced when he was young and the scandals rife in the business world currently. A movie with a message, the movie was well received at the box office despite tepid reviews.
Jim's next big project was the supernatural thriller "The Number 23".
Directed by Joel Schumacher and co-starring Virginia Madsen this was yet another new avenue for the Maverick Jim. A thriller with very dark undertones it was released to mixed critism. Unlike any of his earlier projects it tells the story of Walter Sparrow and a seemingly innocuous number. On his birthday, Walter Sparrow, an amiable dog-catcher, takes a call that leaves him dog bit and late to pick up his wife. She's browsed in a bookstore, finding a blood-red-covered novel, a murder mystery with numerology that loops constantly around the number 23. The story captivates Walter: he dreams it, he notices aspects of his life that can be rendered by "23," he searches for the author, he stays in the hotel (in room 23) where events in the novel took place, and he begins to believe it was no novel. His wife and son try to help him, sometimes in sympathy, sometimes to protect him. Slowly, with danger to himself and to his family, he closes in on the truth.
Whilst the cast did their best with the script the critics tore into the film which earned Jim a Razzie nomination for worst actor. It seemed to be going 'pear shaped' for Jim who took the step of firing his longtime agent Nick Stevens to move to CAA.
There followed a period of reflection and disappointment as projects were proposed and some dropped, the biggest being "Used Guys" co-starring Ben Stiller and dropped literally hours from filming.
What was needed was a return to a high profile family movie and Jim found this with the movie "Horton Hears a Who!," taken from the Dr. Seuss book. An expensive animation, directed by Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino and co-starring Steve Carrell and Carol Burnett this big budget family flick was just the ticket to put him back on top. In it Jim plays the voice of Horton, the inventive and imaginative elephant who teaches his young friends about the amazing world around them. One day Horton, with his big ears, hears a voice on a speck of dust floating in the jungle air. Horton catches the speck on a dandelion, and begins to talk to the speck. The Mayor of Whoville (voice Steve Carell) talks to Horton, and the Mayor can not believe that there is something bigger than his world. After there are several climate changes (darkness in the middle of the day and snow in summer) that occur in Whoville, the Mayor believes that his world is in great danger. The Mayor tries to warn his people of the impending doom, but everybody ridicules him and thinks he is crazy. Horton is getting the same reaction from everyone who thinks he is also crazy; especially the kangaroo (voice Carol Burnett) who wants to get rid of the speck, and Horton's wild ideas. Horton defends the speck by saying that "a person's a person, no matter how small."
The movie was a huge worldwide hit and saw Jim back on top.
He also began to reveal how happy his personal life had become with Jenny McCarthy and Evan, her son with ex-husband John Asher. McCarthy spent a lot of her time as an activist for autism, and Jim was often seen supporting her (McCarthy's son, Evan, was diagnosed with autism at age 3). McCarthy even referred to Jim as "The Autism Whisperer" because he was so good with her son. They appeared on TV shows together like Oprah, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show to talk about autism and their love for each other. After 5 years of dating they decided to end their relationship announced by them on Twitter on April 6, 2010.
Next came the optimistically named "Yes Man" based on the autobiographical book by the much loved British author, comedian and TV personality Danny Wallace who spent a year of his life saying yes to every opportunity presented to him. Co-starring Zooey Deschanel and directed by Peyton Reed Jim plays Carl Allen, whose life is going nowhere--the operative word being "no"--until he signs up for a self-help program based on one simple covenant: say yes to everything--and anything. Unleashing the power of "YES" begins to transform Carl's life in amazing and unexpected ways, getting him promoted at work and opening the door to a new romance. But, his willingness to embrace every opportunity might just become too much of a good thing.
This movie was a leap of faith for our $20 million man who agreed not to take anything up front, opting for a percentage of the 'back end', a first for such a major movie star and indicative of the financial climate. The movie premiered in London on 9/12/08 and had general release on December 19, 2008.
2008 was a busy year for Jim with 2 films completed on top of various charity projects. One such project was the independent film "I Love You Phillip Morris". A dark comedy that was written marked the directing debut of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the writing team behind Bad Santa. Andrew Lazar and Far Shariat produced the low budget film for Luc Bessons company EuropaCorp. Based on a true story it tells the remarkable story of master conman Steven Russell, a married father whose exploits landed him in the Texas criminal justice system. Russell fell madly in love with his cellmate Phillip Morris, played by Scottish actor Ewan McGregor, who eventually was set free, which led Russell to escape from Texas prisons four times.
The film premiered at the prestigious Sundance Filmfestival in January 2009. After a long and bumpy road trying to secure a US distributor, but once the movie did find a distributor after being re-edited, its release date was pushed back multiple times in the US before Roadside Attractions came in to save the day. It had limited premiere on December 3, 2010.
Next to be filmed in 2008 was the Robert Zemeckis, screen capture version of "A Christmas Carol", Charles Dickens' timeless tale of an old miser who must face Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet-to-Come, as they help to bring kindness to his otherwise cold heart. The Ghosts remind him of the man he used to be, the hard truth of what the world is today, and what will happen if he does not strive to be a better man. Set around Christmas, the most joyous day of the year, Scrooge realizes the sharp contrast of his own personality.
The stars in the film play multiple characters and Jim plays four separate roles in this updated version of A Christmas Carol. Jim portrays Scrooge, as well as the three ghosts (Past, Present, and Yet-to-Come). His dynamic character roles keep the four characters as diverse as being played by four actors. He is joined in this project by a mix of British and American talent including Gary Oldman, Bob Hoskins, Colin Firth and Robin Wright Penn. The film premiered in 3D in London on 3/11/09 and had general release on November 6, 2009. The movie was a huge worldwide hit and has become the second most popular Christmas movie alltime after "How the Grinch Stole Christmas".
Next is the family movie "Mr. Popper's Penguins" based on the book with same name. Filmed in the fourth quarter of 2010 and set for theatrical release on June 17, 2011.
One film as of yet unmentioned is the elusive "Ripley's Believe it or Not". Directorial and financial problems have led to numerous changes. Based on the life of eccentric Robert Ripley, "Believe It or Not" picks up with Ripley at the time when he gained celebrity status through a "Believe it or Not" column that chronicled his search for the greatest oddities in the world. Along the way, he starts to respect his unusual human discoveries as more than mere conquests to be documented. Currently listed as 'in development' Chris Columbus has taken over as director and and we'll update you when we know any more.