APPROXIMATELY HALF OF ALL CINEMA goers think Jim (‘arrey is a schmuck. Think of his film roles .'l('(’ VeIIluru.‘ I’et I)(‘I(’('If\'(’. The Mus/v. l)umb Am/ Dumber and the word 'mugging' comes to mind. limploying facial contorlions. loopy voices and elasticated body movements. ('arrcy comes across like all Three Stooges at once with a dollop ofJert‘y Lewis on top.
Around twenty years ago. Andy Kaufman was also dividing audiences with live and televised performances that were less comic routines than outrageous pranks. Who better. then. than (‘arrey to play Kaufman in .Vlilos l’orman‘s film of the life and premature death of one of America‘s greatest comic innovators'.’
With The Truman Show (‘arrey was finally. widely. begrudgingly. given credit for his performance. (‘arrey continues to expand his comic range with Man ()u The Moon bttt. more significantly. it's his first straight acting role. Which wasn’t without its challenges. . .
‘There were times when I worried about whether I was going to have a psychotic episode.’ says (‘arreyz 'l was believing it so much — going to bed as the character and waking up as the character. After three months of this intense experience. I was energised. I felt like I had been gone for three months. I actually sat in my house and went. ‘now. what do I like? What do I believe".”
The near psychotic episodes threatened to reappear during
work on his next film Me. Myself
Am! Irene — a multiple personality disorder comedy. if you will — with the l3arrelly Brothers. the makers of 'I'ltere's Something About Mary and Dumb Am! Dumber. ‘Pete Farrelly would say to me: ‘I think that was Andy who came out on that one.’. recalls (‘arrey with a smirk.
British audiences aren‘t likely
to he as familiar as Americans with Kaufman's infamous career. llere. Kaufman is known primarily as Latka (iravas. the garage mechanic of non-specific foreign origin in the 70s sitcom 'I'uvi. At the peak of his fatne. however. Kaufman outshone the likes of Steve Martin. Bill Murray and Robin Williams. In spite of being the highest paid comic actor in the business. Carrey had to audition before he got the part: Kevin Spacey. Nicolas Cage. lidward Norton and (iary ()ldman also wanted to play Kaufman.
‘You can‘t get what you really want without htunbling yourself.‘ ruminates Carley. 'And if you get hurt. then you get hurt. So it’s
just: "you‘re not a star. you‘re an actor. Just go
and do it".‘
There are parallels between (‘arrey and Kaufman; they share the same birthday and an affection for anti—comic routines that delight. outrage and alienate audiences in painfully unequal measures.
‘For six months at all the comedy clubs I would not repeat a word that I said the night before.’ recalls (‘arrey of his early stand-up career. ‘I would just live in the moment and see what happened. and it was horrific. I went
up many nights and pissed the audience off
completely. There was a night when l was standing on a table with a broken beer bottle and with six guys around it who wanted to kill me. I was starting in show business with no
standing on a table with a broken beer bottle and with six guys around it who wanted to kill me.’ Jim Carrey
ammo. nothing. But it made me quick.’ And the six guys'.’ “They backed down because I was committed.’ Kaufman never backed down. either.
“here (‘arrey and Kaufman certainly differ is in dealing with fame. The more tinifamous Kaufman got. the more he rebelled against it. This entailed increasingly elaborate pranks which elicited increasingly hostile reactions from his audiences. (‘arrey seems to have fotmd his equilibrium.
‘You go through a period where you think that you have to be isolated.‘ offers (‘arreyz ’You think that you have to have a bodyguard everywhere you go. It really messes with your head. but I‘ve gotten to a point where I can go anywhere and I can deal with people. I know if I go into a bar I have my fun for fifteen. twenty minutes and I get out.’ So what’s the secret'.’ 'My daughter. she's very grounding to me. She‘s real and there's no pretending. She knows it‘s just dad doing stuff.‘
Dad‘s stttff has. arguably. already immortalised (‘arrey in the (‘omic Hall Of Fame. Who does (‘arrey see playing himself in the film of his own life'.’ 'l don‘t know how to answer that. because I don‘t know how to perceive myself from the outside. I mean. what do you say‘.’ Jimmy Stewart‘."
Like Kaufman. C‘arrey’s still blurring the line between public and private perceptions.
Man On The Moon opens Fri 24 Mar.