Yes Man - Jim Carrey interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
JIM Carrey talks about why he said “yes” to Yes Man, taking on the film’s bungee jump for real, standing on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl and why he always maintains such a positive approach to life.
He also discusses why he likes to change genres as much as possible, reflects on working with Clint Eastwood during his early days and reveals his new comedy inspirations…
Q. What was the worst example in your life of saying yes to something?
Jim Carrey: Well, there was a short time in the military. It was very short and I didn’t pass the exam. But it was humiliating. I did Sea Cadets when I was a kid, I was 11-years-old and it’s like boy scouts, military style. They shaved my head and they cursed me out and basically I don’t regret it because now I know that I’m a useless maggot. And that’s important. I don’t really regret anything I say yes to, honestly. I kind of say yes to what is and what’s coming because I have a firm belief that what’s coming is going to top what’s been here already. It’s gonna be good.
Q. I gather the bungee jump was done for real?
Jim Carrey: My sphincter was so tight I could have made a diamond. Shortly after that De Beers bought my ass.
Q. Did you adopt that attitude towards all the things you were asked to do in the film?
Jim Carrey: There were several things in this movie that just beforehand you’re making a reckoning. Every time you show up on the set it’s like: “OK, I could die today! What do I say to Jesus, and how will I explain those nights in Amsterdam?”
Q. Is it true that you broke some ribs during a stunt?
Jim Carrey: [Laughs] I broke three ribs just doing the fall in the bar scene, so I was in great shape going into the really rough stuff! They put everything to the end of the movie because I had three broken ribs to work with, because halfway through the pratfall I changed my plan. I’ve done pratfalls my whole life, I know how to do them, but suddenly I decided it would be a good idea to get all four limbs up into the frame at the same time. I came down really hard. But the ex-gamer comedian in me kind of just got up, finished the scene, put an ice pack on it, sat down and asked if I could see it back. All I really cared about was: “Did it look cool?”
Q. You seem to have left the physical comedies behind you of late, so what brought you back to this?
Jim Carrey: That’s an illusion that I left them behind. I just do whatever I’m attracted to. It’s like the woman who stands out in the crowd, who for some reason you notice, that’s the one you’re supposed to dance with at that time in your life. That’s just what it is with scripts… they find you when you’re emotionally in the right place to do them. With Eternal Sunshine [of The Spotless Mind], I was broken hearted and Michel Gondry came to me and said: “You are beautiful like this!” I said: “But we’re not shooting for another year…” And he said [mimics French accent]: “Don’t get well!” So, I said: “I’m going to try to have a good time at least, I’ll be able to open the wound later, don’t worry.” But they find you at that time, so I’m never going to leave any particular style of doing this behind, or any particular type of expression.
But with regards to Yes Man, I have been a shut-in in my life. I am the guy you call up sometimes and the answering service is full… and it stays that way for a good month and a half while I take a rest and pee in a bottle and everything. Also, with this movie, I wanted to put something good out into the world and make people feel good. I was drawn to that because I feel like it’s time for a shift in the paradigm out there, from cynicism to faith and belief in a good future.
So, I wanted to put that out into the world and this attracted me in that way. I just think there’s no better thing to think about. We had dinner the other day and were talking about people’s reaction to the film so far and we said: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everybody who sees this movie in the world says yes at least once or twice more than they would have otherwise? Would that cause some sort of psychic shift in the planet, would it knock the globe off its axis, would it move the tectonic plates?” Maybe there’s some delusions of grandeur there, but these things do have an effect, so I really believe in that.
Q. How was it to be standing in the shadow of John Lennon?
Jim Carrey: That’s what inspired us… we didn’t know we were on camera in the scene when we sang the Beatles song. It was just Zooey [Deschanel] and I standing up there and sneaky Peyton [Reed, director] was running the camera without us knowing it. And, of course, I found myself standing in the place where John Lennon premiered on the west coast… so, you’re in that aura and all the other amazing artists that have sung on that stage. You’ve got to sing a Beatles song… and Zooey joined right in. It was a great moment.
Q. Is it true Jim that you once broke into the Hollywood Bowl with a girl for real?
Jim Carrey: That’s why it’s in the movie, I did have a rendezvous there. I was about 21-years-old and at that time the Hollywood Bowl had a chain fence in front of it. You could actually drive trucks onto the side of the stage to offload the equipment. I don’t know what I was thinking, I was out of my mind, I had met this girl and I just had this wild idea to drive in. She held up the chain, and I drove underneath and drove onto the stage at the Hollywood Bowl and shone the lights of the car across the stage and we went and made out on the stage. And then we got kicked out [laughs].
Q. Whose idea was it to cast Rhys Darby as Norman, and how was it working with him?
Jim Carrey: It was Peyton’s idea, Rhys, and he’s just absolutely brilliant. He’s got that Peter Sellers madness inside him and it just worked out so perfectly because my character is broken and doesn’t want to be involved with anybody, and doesn’t want to seen by anybody. And this character, played by Rhys Darby, is so full of love and so wants to be my friend that it becomes incredibly painful for me. The worst thing in the world when you feel broken is to have somebody coming at you with open-faced love. Rhys was just genius at it, it was great… very childlike.
Q. In terms of your comedy being so physical, would you consider making a film without dialogue to emulate the achievements of people like Harold Lloyd?
Jim Carrey: Well, you know, anything’s possible. It’s not something that I have a desire to do, I think those were born out of the necessity of the technology of the day, and I think that rather than think in those terms I would think in terms of how I can use whatever technology is available today to make the best type of film that I can make. I just did a version of A Christmas Carol with Bob Zemeckis, in motion capture, and they’re so excited because they think they’ve finally got it down… you know, the motion capture technology. So I say, embrace what you can do, use everything that you have available to you rather than roll back. But anything’s possible. I could play a mute, you know.
Q. You started out as a stand-up on the Canadian comedy circuit, and were lauded by a journalist writing in the Toronto Star – any thoughts about returning to performing live again?
Jim Carrey: He was a huge help to me, he was one of the first big articles I ever got and, of course, it was the Toronto Star, so it was a big deal. That was a very pivotal moment for me, it was the thing that catapulted me in Canada to being known nationally. So, I’m really grateful to him for that… he gave me a lot to live up to as well, he said something like: “He’ll be bigger than Richard Pryor in six months!” It was crazy. It was really fun.
As for returning to stand-up, anything’s possible. I don’t know where the muse is going to take me. I think of a lot of things that I might want to say to an audience, and that absolutely could happen at some point. One of the things I thought about is doing a self-help seminar, in my own way. So, you know, those things occur to me all the time. And also to do plays and things like that. I don’t ever want to stick myself in one category. I do really love making movies, but the thing about live performances is you don’t have to wait around. Literally, we’re still waiting to see what the reaction is to the film, and we made it a year and a half ago, so it’s a slower process. But it is enjoyable.
Q. You were also in a couple of Clint Eastwood movies back at the start of your career – what would the younger you have made of your subsequent success?
Jim Carrey: Briefly, yes. Well, obviously, I feel like I’ve lived the dream for sure, I’m the luckiest guy in the world and I never forget that. I always feel like I’m proof of positive thought and manifestation, and that faith is more important than talent. But if you have both you’re really doing something.
So, those early days, there were so many times when I went up and down and had those little thrills and then was washed up and somebody would say: “He’s had his shot, it’s over…” It’s just been this kind of – almost – a meditation on just belief and faith and just enjoying those moments so much. And I loved getting to know Clint Eastwood, he’s such a gentleman and such an amazing artist. And yet there were times after that where I thought nothing was happening. It wasn’t a steady climb, it was all over the place, and I really appreciate all of it now.
But I never thought I was finished when people said I was finished, or any of that stuff. I always had this undying belief that even if I was in a wheelchair and I could only move my finger, somehow I would become the guy who does the amazing thing with his finger.
Q. Didn’t you suggest something for a scene in one of Clint’s films?
Jim Carrey: Well, the first thing I ever did with Clint Eastwood was The Dead Pool and I was the one who chose the Guns ‘N Roses song for the film. I had a choice of Night Train or Welcome to the Jungle. [Producer] David Valdes gave both songs to me and I took them back to my hotel room. This was days before we did it, and I said: “Welcome to the Jungle is the song, it’s amazing!” They said they’d cleared that, so it was good. And so I did this whole routine to Welcome To The Jungle…
But preceding that I auditioned for Clint in a room. He wasn’t there… they would send the tapes up to Carmel for him to see. But all I did in the room was a thing I called Post Nuclear Elvis, where I would do this odd Elvis mutation, with short hands and flipper arms, doing all the Elvis moves. And Clint just absolutely went out of his mind over this thing. He said [in a convincing Eastwood impression]: “I show it everyone who comes into my house. It really breaks the ice.” Or something like that. We’ve been friends ever since. He just liked that I was that out there.
Q. Who are you comedy inspirations these days?
Jim Carrey: You know, comedians – I don’t know about comic actors, there’s a lot of great comic actors right now. Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller, all of these guys are doing amazing. Judd Apatow, everything he’s doing is phenomenal. We go way back, we’ve written for years together, so eventually I’m sure we’ll find something that we want to do that he’ll direct. But I love all of his work. Seth Rogen, there’s a lot of guys out there that are really fun to watch.
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- Jim Carrey interview
- Zooey Deschanel interview
- Yes Man UK Premiere photos