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Jim Carrey, playing a different type of character to what weíre used to, had a wonderful guerilla film-making experience making Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Ė and is looking forward to enjoying peace and quiet at his new get-away in remote Canada, he tells Jenny Cooney-Carrillo.

Jim Carrey has left an indelible mark on Hollywood with his unique brand of comedic talents showcased in hits such as Ace Venture: Pet Detective, The Mask, Liar, Liar and Bruce Almighty. But in the dark comedy, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, his character Joel is actually erased from the mind of his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet). 

When Joel undergoes the same procedure, he rediscovers what they had to begin with and fights to stop the process of loss. Written by Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) and directed by French video director Michel Gondry (Human Nature), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is his most subtle performance yet, but the 42-year-old seems to be slowing down in more ways than one.

Could you relate to this Joel character?
What I like about this story is it really hits a nerve in people that have had loss and have experienced being erased by someone. So of course I identify with it along those lines, as there have been times Iíve had my heart broken and wanted to forget, and when scripts come by and theyíre an opportunity to express something that youíve gone through, itís a wonderful thing.

What can you say about the director, Michel Gondry? Is it true he never turns off the camera?
Yes, it was an amazing experience and takes a while to get used to. He comes with really original ideas and that excites me because you donít see it a lot. Everything is very simple and organic and all the special effects are done in camera. There is a scene where Iím in the same room in two different places and youíd think I was just in a crude split screen type of situation but itís me running around with a hand-held camera in the dark, pulling coats and taking hats off and things like that! When Michel told me I was going to do that, I thought it was physically impossible because I have to get back and forth three times and be seen in the scene in two completely different attitudes. It ended up like an old play, where everybody cheered at the end when we pulled it off. 

What did you learn from the way Michel Gondry made this film?
Iíve learned that you can light a picture with a 75 watt bulb and if you have a story that is deep and beautiful, you donít need much gilding around the edges. Sometimes itís the imperfections or simplicity of it that makes it that much more beautiful. I had this wonderful guerilla film-making experience making this movie in New York and then I came back and did this gigantic studio movie (Lemony Snicketís A Series of Unfortunate Events, co-starring Meryl Streep and Jude Law) and it was hard to reconcile the two when you realize that maybe three of these trailers were rented just because somebody had it in their contract on the big film!

Were you concerned that audiences would have a hard time following the film and would want to see you in a more extroverted role?
I get that question all the time but I believe an audience finds a movie and Iíve never pandered to an audience. I just do the work and thatís it. I think the special effects are in the script and Charlie Kaufman took a beautiful idea and executed it like a genius.

So what do you hope to accomplish with this movie?
The hope is that I interpret it well and that you lose yourself and donít sit there thinking, Ďthis is Jim Carrey who sticks out like a sore thumbí, because sometimes that can be a little bit of a dangerous thing when you have people who are really famous in smaller films. So thatís important to me, that people see the movie and donít care who I am because they are watching Joel and Clementine and not Jim and Kate.

If you had an opportunity to go back and erase a memory, what memory would it be?
A series I did called The Duck Factory! (laughs) No, I donít have anything that I would erase although in the moments when you are on your knees and begging for the memory of someone to be removed, it sounds nice. But in retrospect, I think all of your memories make you who you are and part of what is good about the script is that itís about accepting the flaws and understanding the spirituality of imperfection and knowing that love is never perfect but you can still believe in it.I think if this really happened it would be the second biggest industry to the Valentineís Day card industry and definitely rival it on that day. I would have been visiting to erase someone many times on Valentineís Day, because thatís a rough day when youíre not with someone and it sucks to be alone on a day like that. But I donít think it would be a good thing because humans are only beautiful when theyíve overcome something and come out all right on the other side. I donít think anybodyís interesting until theyíve been busted in two and they take all the pieces and go into a closet and come out better. And you need to keep the memory of that to become that person.

You play a much more introverted character in this film than we are used to. Do you like to be quiet in real life?
I meditate sometimes and like quiet, but itís hard to find. I just bought a property up in Canada in the middle of nowhere where I can literally be quiet so Iím excited about spending more time there doing nothing. With the insanity of my life, I need quiet and although people think Iím a crazy party guy, often those kind of comedians are very serious in real life which is the case with me much of the time.

How is your own memory?
I donít know if itís exceptional but I think you just get good at doing certain patterns in your life. Bob Hope, until he died, could still walk out on stage when he couldnít do much of anything else and he did things he was used to doing. For me, if I create something and it comes from my head, I can remember literally pages of material. But then there are sometimes that I canít remember where I was yesterday!

What can you say about the Lemony Snicket film?
Iím bald right now because Iím playing the horrible Count Olaf in Lemony Snicketís A Series of Unfortunate Events and heís a frustrated actor who keeps showing up in different disguises, so thatís been a lot of fun. Itís all about these poor orphans that have lost their family and nothing good happens to them. But itís going to be a fun, fun film done in a very different way, so visually it should be very interesting.

What are your desires?
I desire this type of work; things that are always interesting and different. I desire pizza late at night! I think when you stop desiring everything, you just leave the planet so Iím going to be careful about that because I want to be here for a while. I still have one big desire, and that is to run 10kms on the Great Wall of China when Iím ninety. But for now, I just want to get my head into a place where Iím actually enjoying the moment.

Published April 22, 2004

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Jim Carrey


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