Dr Seuss' Horton Hears A Who - Jim Carrey interview
Compiled by Jack Foley
JIM Carrey talks about returning to the world of Dr Seuss and lending his voice to Horton Hears A Who, the joy of working in animation and why he has always had a deep, deep passion for all things Dr Seuss.
He also talks about some of his motivations and philosophies as a person and movie star, the reasons why he chooses to challenge himself and his next project, A Christmas Carol.
Q: Is it exciting doing a CGI animated film? It’s your first, isn’t it?
Jim Carrey: It’s the first time for me doing anything like this. Yeah, it’s exciting. I was waiting for the right thing to come along; I always wanted to be a part of this medium. The advances they’ve made in the last 10 years are amazing, so I was delighted to do this.
Q: Can you talk about the appeal of Horton?
Jim Carrey: The thing that I loved about Horton was that he is a world apart from The Grinch, who I played in How The Grinch Stole Christmas. This is a character who does not have any ego at all. First of all, I thought to myself, how am I going to play an elephant? Nobody has done a voice for Horton before. I thought surely there has to be a big booming voice but when you think about the soul of Horton, you realize that he doesn’t think he’s bigger than anything else. He doesn’t think he’s bigger than the mouse, who’s his best friend. His soul is much more gentle than you’d imagine. He is not an elephant in his own mind. He thinks of himself as small and light.
So, I thought that would affect the character. He would not come across as powerful, the way you would think an elephant might be. I asked the directors if they wanted a crazy characterization and they said: “No, we just want him to be like you.” So, I was a younger version of myself for the role. I just wanted to humanize him and make him the kind of character who simply wants to love everything and everyone in its path.
Q: He is very good-natured isn’t he?
Jim Carrey: He is innocent and friendly and loves creating his own fun in his own head; he gets kind of tickled by his own thoughts. He likes to play jokes on people but at the same time, he won’t leave you hanging there waiting because he wants you to feel good. He will let you know it’s a joke very quickly so that you don’t struggle too much. I just think there is so much to this character that’s beautiful.
Q: Yet he has some opponents and enemies like the Kangaroo?
Jim Carrey: Characters like Horton, who still maintain their innocence and love for the world and their creativity, always cause fear in those who have lost touch with that. That is what happens with the Kangaroo. There is that knee-jerk reaction from the Kangaroo about the existence of Who-ville. She thinks: “This can’t be a good thing, this can’t be real because we cannot see these people.” I think there’s a lot going on with this story, a lot more than meets the eye.
Q: Had you read and enjoyed a lot of Dr Seuss books?
Jim Carrey: Oh yes, Dr. Seuss books were huge for me. I love them because they are pure creativity. To me, Dr Seuss is like a child’s version of punk. It is as cool as you can get and fun. Dr Seuss will never be unhip. I love the idea of introducing a whole new generation to the stories. The message is so great in this one – that there are no limitations to what you can do. I also love the idea that ‘a person is a person no matter how small’. You shouldn’t judge anyone, and the idea of worlds within worlds within worlds.
Q: Is it difficult or challenging for you as a physical comedian, being trapped in a sound booth making an animated movie?
Jim Carrey: It was hard work. I can tell you I went home sore a lot of days because I was doing wild characterizations with my arms and my body all the time. I did not sit still. For example, I was moving around a lot in sequences where I’m trapped and I’m being tied down. I had to physicalize everything to make it real. I would go home aching from head to foot and say: “What is this, am I doing an action movie?” It was quite physical.
Q: Did the animators use any of your own expressions for the characterization?
Jim Carrey: They said that was essential and they had a little video camera trained on me all the time so they could get all my expressions recorded. We wanted to get the animated part of the character and the very human part too.
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of the film?
Jim Carrey: I think the greatest challenge with this type of film is that you have to create an imaginary world in your head that doesn’t exist. It is also about trust. I am used to being a little bit more in control of what’s going on. With other actors in the room, you can see where the scene is going. But with this kind of film, you have to trust that they are pointing you in the right direction. So, trust is a huge issue.
Q: Horton is very determined to save the people of Who-ville. What do you have in common with him?
Jim Carrey: I’m pretty tenacious. I don’t think you can really make it in life unless you have that kind of quality. When I get beat over the head I say to myself: “Oh, that didn’t feel very good but I guess I can still do this.” You just keep at it and keep at it and keep at it until something good happens.
Q: You take a lot of risks in your career. You seem to be very courageous. Do you enjoy challenging yourself?
Jim Carrey: I like challenges and I don’t believe in failure. I don’t believe in regrets. I believe suffering, failure – all those concepts – are things that are absolutely necessary to make us the best people that we can be, the best at whatever we want to do. All of it is essential. I come from the philosophy of: “Whatever happens to me is the greatest thing that could happen, no matter what.” Sometimes in the moment I have a regret, but then I have found myself every time down the line saying to myself: “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that so called failure.”
For example, I would not have been able to do Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind if I hadn’t had my heart broken. I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of things I’ve done without those moments when I thought it was the end of the world. It’s just getting the perspective in the moment that’s the hard thing and getting to that point as quickly as possible.
Q: Have you always been funny? Did you dream of being a huge star when you were a kid?
Jim Carrey: When I started out performing as a little boy, I was trying to make my mother feel better and laugh because she was sick and in pain all the time. I found out that I had that power to relieve her. It started out that way and expanded and I knew I wanted to do this. What I do as an art form is try to make people feel good and if I do try to make them feel bad, it’s for a reason. There’s something I am trying to say.
Q: Who was your inspiration?
Jim Carrey: My dad. I always dreamed of being like my [late] dad. He was an amazing character. Talk about animated – he was a cartoon. When he told a story when I was a little kid, I used to look up at him and watch the entire room fall to pieces. That was it. I wanted to be just like him. He was so funny and talented and just made people feel good.
Q: What has been your greatest challenge?
Jim Carrey: Authenticity. Really that’s it – being what you want to be, rather than what you think you should be in order to make it or be accepted; to fly in the face of people who say: “You shouldn’t do this or that.” It’s saying: “You don’t understand, if I don’t do those things then I’ll die and spend my life in hell because I wasn’t true to myself.” So, there really isn’t a choice. If someone says, “why do you do drama?” [rather than just comedy], I say: “I just do.” I get to do a lot of different things and I can’t not do them because someone thinks it’s not a good idea, I have to do whatever is right for me.
Q: Are you a perfectionist? Do you have to get it right?
Jim Carrey: I’ve done scenes where I didn’t think I was completely in them. I never feel completely like ‘I did it’. Acting is divine dissatisfaction. It’s the greatest thing in the world to do, but you are never satisfied with it ever.
Q: Can you talk about your next project?
Jim Carrey: I’m doing a film right now with Bob Zemeckis, a classic version of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens with Gary Oldman, and we are doing the real Dickens version. I’m playing Scrooge at four different ages and I’m playing the ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Future. This kind of film (performance capture 3D animation) presents its own problems and challenges because you’re in an empty warehouse that has cameras on the walls and there’s nothing for you there except your imagination. So, the work you have to do is ask yourself: “What did it smell like in Victorian England in that era?” Okay, it smelled pretty bad. What was the atmosphere like? It was cold, freezing cold, because they only had coal fires. You have to create the world. How do I make this character real for myself?
Q: What are your goals?
Jim Carrey: Just more creativity. I want to be a positive force in the world, I would like to make people happy. I’m having such fun right now. I’m really in a good place in my life. And I still have this childlike joy in doing my job, which is the greatest gift for me.