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I Love You Phillip Morris - Jim Carrey interview

I Love You Phillip Morris

Compiled by Jack Foley

JIM Carrey talks about some of the challenges of making I Love You Phillip Morris, and some of the things he had to endure such as gaining an appreciation for the mindset of the real-life person he was playing and losing weight.

He also talks about why the script was only one of three he said “yes” to without having to think or wait for improvements, and why he believes there’s a little of the real Jim Carrey in every role he plays.

Q. I believe that you didn’t get to meet the real Steven Russell, so where did the inspiration come from for this amazingly flamboyant performance?
Jim Carrey: I do like to push the envelope here and there. I wasn’t allowed to visit to the penitentiary to meet him, otherwise of course I would have and may still after the experience, just because he’s such a fascinating human being. Instead, I listened to recordings of him.

Steve McVicker, the gentleman who wrote the book, went for me because he had a relationship and he was allowed at the prison and he did recordings for me, so it’s quite fascinating to listen to him, and to listen to what excited him, and to actually listen to his dialogue about the movie happening which was the inspiration of his life at that time . He was very excited about it you could tell and about the choice of Ewan for his lover, very excited.

He’s smarter than all of us. He’s dangerous in that way I guess. Never hurt a soul but in solitary confinement for the rest of his life. It’s incredible… an incredible story and he should be hired by the government. He’d do a better job in intelligence than they’ve been doing so far, as long as he was controlled. I think it would be a great job for him…Treasurer possibly [laughs]!

Q. I’d heard that in your whole career, just this script and the one for Eternal Sunshine for a Spotless Mind were the only two you’d read straight away and thought ‘I’m doing it’. Is that true?
Jim Carrey: There are very few scripts that come through where I feel that nothing really has to happen, that they’re already there and already realised… and this was one of them – one of three really, along with The Truman Show, Eternal Sunshine and this. I had the same feeling, I called my people and I said: “I don’t care if I get paid, I have to be in this movie!”

Q. How daring can it be for a well-known actor to play a gay character?
Jim Carrey: Hmmm… I don’t really care. No, no, no, I don’t really care about a reaction if there’s a negative reaction. I care about doing a story about amazing and fascinating people. It’s unbelievable that it ever occurred and it’s real. It’s a true story, it’s a true story about love and someone’s relentlessness to find it and keep it. There were a few people sure in my circle who were concerned about it certainly, absolutely, absolutely… advisors and people who are close to me going: “Erm… I don’t know man there’s some pretty crazy, edgy stuff in here!” And I went: “Well, why else do we live except to do something that people haven’t seen before in a film?” And you get to push the boundary a little bit, so that you know when it snaps back it doesn’t snap quite so far.

I want to play people, human beings… and this is an interesting human being. The bottom line is that the quest for love is everyone’s and he’s just another person… and especially when there are extremes involved, when a person grows up feeling abandoned and unloved. It’s interesting to me what they do to compensate for that hole they think they have in themselves, or whatever it is. Of course, that has nothing to do with the gay part but it has to do with the fact that he finds the love of his life and it’s not still enough. He still has to have the two jet skis and the nice house and Phillip Morris is saying: “Wait, we’re there, we’re in nirvana, we made it.” But it’s not enough.

Q. What was the most difficult part of the character to play?
Jim Carrey: I don’t know if ‘difficult’ is the right word, as all of it is worthwhile, fun and interesting. The more layers there are, the more interesting it is and the more fun it is to go to work. I don’t know… certainly I’ve never been to prison either, so that was odd to feel that but I was thinking about Steven and how he would handle that in his head. And I’m sure that if I was in the same place I’d have figured out some way, some angle of consciousness that would make me free already. It wouldn’t be anything outside of the prison, I’d be free within that cell, I’d find a way – you have to… so that’s just how I saw him, he’s always…there’s no way he’s staying there… it’s not a final destination for him, I just know it.

Q. You needed to lose quite a bit of weight for this role, how tough was that?
Jim Carrey: The process of losing that weight was pretty tough… I mean, I’m really good at making adjustments that way but we kind of had to plan around it as far as when we shot. You’ll notice I’m pretty skinny in some scenes… but the process boiled down to the last week or so I was really only having these little tomato drinks every once in a while, and I had water and I had supplements so I could stay alive, but there was really nothing of substance. In the last two days, before the main shots, I just stopped eating completely and had a little taste of water… like an African runner or something like that. Oh and one more thing, I was completely exhausted during that part of it, I was completely raw like an old man the last two days, just wandering around like an old man, with no energy whatsoever.

Q. With acting, I guess it’s always a bit like you’re wearing a mask – you’re always being funny and energetic, in which of your films can see the real Jim Carrey?
Jim Carrey: Every one of them… I mean it’s all me so, everything I do is me. If I go over the top it’s me, if I’m quiet it’s me. I’m all of that and I‘m so insanely lucky that I have stumbled into a life where I can be all of that and I can get a chance.

Q. Isn’t there one movie that’s more ‘Jim-like’ than all the others?
Jim Carrey: I can’t differentiate, they’re all… the scripts are, I don’t know about you, but I feel the scripts find me when I’m in a place where I can understand what that person’s going through. It’s like magic… the one pops out that you are psychologically perfect for, that you understand at that time, I think.

I Love You Phillip Morris is out on DVD and Blu-Ray on August 2, 2010.