Jim Carrey Looks Back at Playing Andy Kaufman: “It Was Psychotic at Times”
Earlier this week, a behind-the-scenes documentary about Jim Carrey’s work on the 1999 Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon premiered at the Venice Film Festival, and it sounds like a fascinating watch. The documentary – titled Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – The Story of Jim Carrey & Andy Kaufman Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton – was originally shot for a press kit that was rejected by Universal (because they “didn’t want people to think Jim’s an asshole”) and captures the way, in Carrey’s words, his method approach to the character was at times a “psychotic” experience.
“The true author of the project is Andy and his genius, the fact that he committed so completely to what he did, really made that possible and made it essential for me to lose myself. I don’t feel like I made the film at all. I feel like Andy made the film,” Carrey told The Hollywood Reporter. When speaking to Deadline about the documentary, Carrey looked back on going full-method to the point where production on The Grinch was affected and Man on the Moon director Milos Forman and his costars grew frustrated:
He elaborated, “There were things that happened on the set, like Tony Clifton isn’t coming in today because he feels his transportation is sub-par and they had to deal with him showing up three hours late after going to the car lots in North Hollywood and calling in for them to purchase a vehicle over the phone, otherwise he wasn’t going to show up. And yet we came in under budget and on time.”
In Jim & Andy, we see Forman’s frustration as well as that of co-stars Danny DeVito, Judd Hirsch and others. I asked Carrey if he understood at the time how difficult it must have been for everyone else to have dealt with his actorly devotion. “Absolutely,” he said, adding, “How difficult it must have been for people to deal with Andy.”
Carrey also reflected on the experience of trying to get back into the character of Jim Carrey after letting Kaufman take over for so long – an experience he calls “the ultimate mind-fuck”:
Coming down from the experience, Carrey told me, “was such a readjustment to find myself again. It took me a month to remember what I believed.” That led to the question: “How real is the character of Jim if I can forget what’s meaningful to him? It’s the ultimate mind-f**k as you realize that you’re a character.”
The Chris Smith-directed Jim & Andy heads to the Toronto International Film Festival this month.