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CARREY, JIM: THE GRINCH

THE AGONY & ECSTASY OF JIM CARREY
A US Navy SEAL trained Jim Carrey how to endure the pain involved in the make up for his latest role as The Grinch, he tells Jenny Cooney Carrillo, but the agony pays off in the thrill of the end result.

From outrageous pet detective to crazy cable installer to Andy Kaufman, there seems to be no part that Jim Carrey cannot play. As if to make this even more clear, Carrey's latest role as The Grinch (opens 30/11/2000) may prove to be his finest example of diversity to date.

Known mostly for his comedic roles, Carrey has proven himself as a serious actor in films such as The Truman Show and Man in the Moon (out on DVD) - earning two Golden Globe awards in the process - but in The Grinch, directed by Ron Howard, he returns to his physical comedy roots, playing the fictional Dr. Seuss character who terrorizes the people of Whoville and tries to destroy their Christmas.

Though each day required hours of make-up and costuming and the actor's face is never seen, the unmistakable voice and movement of Jim Carrey makes for a completely engaging character and proves, maybe once and for all, that no matter how many times the Oscars snub him, Jim Carrey is unique, and one of the most versatile talents in Hollywood.

I would like to hear some of the war stories of the making of this movie. How long did the make-up take? What was involved and how did you feel about it?
Basically it was about three hours a day sitting in a chair listening to music and books on tape while the makeup artist worked. There was the suit and the eyes, which proved to be the most painful part. A couple of times my corneas got scratched and I had to stop work, but I pushed myself. Also I could not breathe through my nose very well, so I had to breathe through my mouth like a fish. I eventually got some tips from a Navy SEAL who showed me how to defer pain and get used to what I had to do. It is really amazing what we humans can get accustomed to.

Jim Carrey is basically invisible in this movie. Did you try and add anything to The Grinch to make yourself recognisable in him?
Peopleís essences are really what we watch on screen and they are never invisible. I am so much of The Grinch because we all feel alienated at times, left out or not a part of something until someone reaches out to us. Once we are a part of something, we are able to have a great time. We all feel like this at some point. It is like there is this flood of emotions that have been held back, and they all come out on the screen. I am all over this movie, just in a different form. Once they say Ďactioní, it is important to me to create the reality. This project was difficult because there were physical constraints. I could only see a tiny spot in front of me; everything else was kind of blurred. It was a very lumbering costume, but I pictured myself a football linebacker with the ball, just pumping away to get those few extra yards.

Were all your moves choreographed or improvised?
Well, you have to know where you are going for the most part, especially in a physical situation like there was in this movie. I was literally on a mountain inside a studio so any slip would have been disastrous. The result of this was that I did have to choreograph a few of my moves but when you get into the situation things come up and even with the physical constraints I was able to have some fun and be spontaneous. There are a lot of parts when I am in the cave that was not in the script, for example throwing the imaginary stick to the dog. I imagined the most immature thing we do with our pets. The trainers really did an incredible job training the dog.

What kind of personal input did you have in the creation of the character and make up of The Grinch?

Right off the bat, director Ron Howard sat down with me to discuss the character and I told him that I wanted to be the cartoon from the books and he let me do it. Once on the set he pulls you in this direction or that but he expects me to come with my work done. I am hired to create the character so thatís really my challenge. It does not all come at once, either, the character, but is a process. Like painting, some strokes are subconscious. It takes time to figure it all out but the costume helped and once I was dressed up, the movements and voice sort of find themselves and come out on their own.

Rumor has it you got this part by acting as Andy Kaufman doing an impression of Jim Carrey doing an impression of The Grinch. What do you think you learned from playing Andy Kaufman?

Thatís true. That is how I convinced Audrey ( Dr. Seussís widow, Audrey Geisel, who controls the rights to Dr. Seuss books) I could play the role! I learned a lot of things from Andy. First of all I learned how freeing it is to lose yourself in a character as he did. I also learned a little bit about how badly the audience needs to be in on the joke. It speaks to The Grinch, actually, because The Grinch just really wants to be part of the club. It speaks to so much in society, to the rift between entertainers and journalists for example. Basically we all want to be part of the club, and when we feel alienated we lash out.
You said you have felt like an outsider, like The Grinch. Do you still feel this way, even after all your success and fame?

I am changing a lot. I am becoming a kind of centered, confident person who knows what I want out of life and what I love to do. I am so lucky to be doing what I do. There are difficult parts to this life but overall I consider myself really lucky. At the same time I am a misfit. I choose to think in different directions. I want to be a lot of things and to fit in a lot of different places. In reality, though, I am pretty simple. People would be surprised how simple my life really is.

Do you eventually want a big family because you seem to connect with children in this film really well?
It is interesting you say that because the thing that made working in that suit and working under those conditions possible and still have some joy in it is the fact that I am doing this for kids. I cannot wait to sneak into the theater and see a bunch of kids watching this movie! As I watched the special effects come together I thought to myself, ĎI want to go to Whoville!í because it is wondrous. Everyone working on this movie was like a grown-up child. It was really a thrill.

Published November 23, 2000

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