Barre y In Riddling

‘From Zero To Hero’ read the ad line on The Mask, and actor Jim Carrey’s career has meteored in a similar style. Two years ago he was unknown, now he’s The Riddler in Batman Forever. Next, he’s getting $20 million for a new movie. Michael Pye charts the rise of the 903’ biggest screen phenomeno

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© 1995 ac Comics

16 The List 14-27 Jul 1995

year ago in Cannes. the crowds didn’t know who they were watching. this wild man romping about in a bathrobe on an open hotel balcony. But this was the moment Jim Carrey came into his own. He’d been stand- up comic. TV performer. star of independent movies. and now he had been offered his first big studio role The Riddlcr (aka Edward Nygma). the perfect science nerd. sycophant and stalker in the spectacular Barman I'm-aver. This time. he wouldn’t be working with a first- titne director. staying up all night to salvage the script. He would be a star like the others who have played Barman villains Jack Nicholson. Michelle l’l’eiffcr. Danny De Vito. Carrey was modest enough to be surprised. and innocent enough that he couldn’t quite hide how delighted he was. Now. on screen. Carrey is ‘lired Astaire ' on acid’ (his own words). He’s a comedian so fearless and exact. he can be alarming so funny. he’s virtually a health hazard. r '7' 7 For The Riddler. he has a neat green bodysuit and hair the colour of a radioactive soda. But in private. it’s a di ffe re nt

story. He likes , sombre suits and lace-up shoes. His

water. He has a soft Canadian accent and the kind of open face that mothers love and that makes people think

Jimmy Stewart as this god. you know.’ he says.

Carrey uses the word ‘weird’ so often. it comes to cover the whole of the rest of the world. which must mean he thinks he’s the ordinary one. His life. he says. is a string of embarrassing moments. He’ll try to make the cool guy exit from some movie premiere and find the limo driver has locked the keys in the car. And it’s raining. And the driver is trying to pick the lock while Carrey stands there and the whole theatre is emptying around him. ‘I call it the “liugene” syndrome.’ he explains. ‘That’s my middle name. and you can never get too cool with a name like Eugene.’

When he’s out there working. he’s a physical

preferred drink is a glass of

of good ol’ Jimmy Stewart. ‘1 used to think of

comedian with such bizarre abilities that Charles Russell. the director of The Mask. once calculated the movie would have needed a million dollars worth of extra special effects without him. His face stretches like bubble-gum. his limbs twist about as though he had six spare legs concealed about his person. He’s a whole riot in a single skin. described by his idol Jerry Lewis as ‘thc most brilliant physical comedian in dccades’.

‘You can’t take all this too seriously.’ Carrey says of his fast rise to fame. ‘If you really start thinking about it. the importance of it. and the money and stuff like that. it would freak you out. It’s really play on a certain level. it really is.’ But it’s lucrative play: in the past year or so. trade newspaper Variety estimates he’s signed contracts worth $24 million. After a series of

‘There are many things I could do before a camera that I can’t do before my family. When the camera goes on, hey, desperation sets in. You better do something interesting.’

hits where he had to do by-pass surgery on the

script before he could start work. the Batman job means he’s at last in the big time. ‘It’s great. ’cause it’s a chance to play a cartoon. and not many actors get that chance.’ Then he remembers. ‘Except me. but I do it all the time.’

Jim Carrey grew up in Toronto. in front of a

mirror. He’d sit there. staring at himself. watching how his face changed through

emotions from laughter to tears. He didn’t have a friend at school. he says. until he was eight or so and he started hamming it up at the hack of the class. But once he learned how a funny face and an impossible walk could make him popular. he studied hard. He watched Dick Van Dyke devoutly and became psychic about Jerry Lewis. the master of slapstick. He could always tell. he claims. when a Jerry Lewis movie was on TV.

Family life was a raucous. loving kind of chaos. He’d compete with his father to see who was the funnier. The family liked cheesecake lights. pitching the butter at each other during dinner. They’d hide in the ditch outside their house to wait for passers-by with stockings over their heads and with axes but only on special occasions, naturally.

Carrey’s father was animated. like a cartoon; but he was also a disappointed man an accountant who dreamed of being a jazz saxophonist and a comedian. When Carrey was fifteen. his father was suddenly. humiliatingly fired from his job. The family lost their house. lived in a Volkswagen camper and then in tents on a relative’s lawn. worked nights together guarding and cleaning the Titan Wheels tyre—rim factory. Jim took to carrying a baseball bat