Finally stepping back onstage, Jim Carrey exorcised demons even as he did his comic stunt flying. Almost out of guilt over coming so close to becoming a Vegas type, Carrey, says Apatow, "changed with a vengeance. About '87, he had just returned to stand-up after taking a two-year break, and he was onstage completely improvising his act. He would go onstage and ramble like a madman. Some of it was hilarious, and other parts of it wouldn't work at all, but they would be so daring or so odd that I couldn't get enough of it If it bombed, he would sit on the floor, and he would supposedly be talking to his wife: "Yeah, honey, pretty soon we're going to be on Easy Street' And then he would just start crying."
This is the Carrey who would crawl into the baby grand piano onstage and remain there, legs dangling, through the next comic's set, the Carrey who came out for a Comedy Store TV special wearing only a sock over his genitals, who would imitate fleeing cockroaches or do "worm boy" for extended periods. If he got heckled, Carrey says he would "put the audience through total living hell. I will either be the most entertaining person that you've ever seen or your worst enemy. I'm like a rat – when you back me into a corner, man, I fucking lunge."
The adventurous saw something in Carrey. Francis Ford Coppola talked to him for just five minutes about a part in Peggy Sue Got Married before saying, "Yeah, you're the guy," and cast him. He did Earth Girls Are Easy with Geena Davis and Once Bitten, in which Lauren Hutton's bloodsucker pulls the ultracherry Carrey off a Hollywood street ("I'm gonna be a vampire? I'm a day person"). He made the TV drama Doing Time on Maple Drive mostly as a calling card for the serious roles he eventually wants to do. Carrey was steady and affecting as the son who drinks, but he's not one to dwell on psychological prep work: "The superwhirliness of the underpresence of the character, you know, it's just bullshit I was basically going moment to moment, trying to make it real That's what it comes down to. You're playing house, and the one who does best wins. Like now, Tom Hanks plays house the best"
It's a simple compliment – if there's one career Carrey and his managers would love to emulate, it's that of King Tom – but that word now reverberates. Carrey does not lack confidence, but he does feel the stakes in acting are raised to a terrifying level when an actor portrays an unmasked, unpomaded, brain-empowered normal citizen: "I call it sea level – if they don't accept that, then it's really you they don't accept."
Melissa Carrey has been living on $25,000 a month in temporary alimony and child support (the couple's daughter, Jane, will be 8 in September). When her husband offered $500,000 to settle their divorce, Melissa balked – an insider says she's demanding between $5 million and $10 million. The couple is now headed for a hearing that will begin on Aug. 21, which will determine whether their actual date of separation was June 15, 1993, as Jim claims, or November of that year, as Melissa claims. Because California is a "no fault" divorce state, uncoupling couples split their community property down the middle. On the very day in June that Jim Carrey says marked the separation, he signed his $450,000 deal to make The Mask. The corporation he set up in 1994 to control his career is named Pit Bull Productions, and he appears – even under the threat of a series of very public court dates in the arena that O.J. has made famous – unwilling to compromise.
Is the fight worth it for a man who could raise the money he's fighting over in about the same number of work hours he'll spend in court? Melissa's attorney, Suzanne Harris (who deposed Jim for a day last summer) says that question is beyond her expertise, but given Jim's family history, "if I were psychoanalyzing him and just speculating, I would think that maybe money strikes some deeper chord in him than even he knows."
"I don't give a shit about money," insists Jim Carrey. "I just want to get to a judge, and he tells me what to pay. And that's all. That's all. If he tells me, "You owe her everything,' then, you know, so be it. I create my own thing. All you want is a ruling. Bring it on."
Leave it to Howard Stern to distill the public's mistaken notion that the exit of Melissa Carrey was occasioned by the arrival of actress Lauren Holly in Jim's life. "You dumped the wife," Stern said to Jim's face in an appearance on Stern's talk show last year. "Who's that piece of ass you're with now?"
"They keep calling me a home wrecker," says Holly, Carrey's girlfriend since Dumb and Dumber boosted her from TV's Picket Fences onto the feature-film map. "I feel for Melissa, but they were completely apart when Jim and I met." A minute's study of Carrey's time line bears her out, even allowing for the five months of '93 that are in dispute as to the date of formal separation.
The accusation that Carrey discarded the faithful spouse for the trophy goddess deeply offends him. Sentences that usually spin mellifluously out of him are now coughed up with a coating of grit: "All these things come up – like, well, he went Hollywood, and he left his wife, and shit like that. Well, it wasn't about that, you know, it was fucking everything was up in the air. Everything. You know, how the hell did I know that Ace Ventura was going to be a hit? I didn't."
Carrey has publicly complained that he would come home from walking "on the moon" as Ace and be unable to handle the old domesticity. Melissa recalls saying: " "You must come home and put your feet back on the ground and take your garbage out like everyone else, or I can't be married to you.' And basically, he called my bluff."
Melissa traces Jim's devotion to "being lost in this alpha state where hours go by" back to his childhood. "His mother says, Jim, go wash your hands and face,'" she says. "And it infuriates him because she pulls him out of that state. He imagined that's what she must have done to his father. At the end of their lives, when his parents were sick and old ... he avoided calling them because of the feelings they would stir in him."
"She's lucky to be out of my life," says Carrey. "I'm in a different time zone at this point. I was headed there when we were together, so it's OK. Everything is fine. This is the way it's supposed to be."
Melissa Carrey admits that during the first month her husband was on location in Miami for Ace, "I yelled and screamed a lot." She doesn't really dispute co-manager Eric Gold's contention that late-night phone calls – her midnight being Jim's 3 a.m. – helped wear his insomniac client down as he strove to carry his own movie vehicle. And she doesn't deny that the marriage had deep divisions from years of mutual neuroses. "I have my problems," Melissa says. But she holds to her theory that what broke up the marriage was Jim's arrival, literally and figuratively, as a star: "The day he first walked on that set as Mr. Carrey," she says, ushered in the divorce. And soon, she says, euphemistically, "he decided he wanted to enjoy success from the perspective of a single man."
If those weeks on the first Ace set were terrifying, Jim Carrey is past brooding over it. "I don't think there can be a creative person on earth who doesn't have extreme highs and lows," he says. "Otherwise, you're just boring. Some of the best work I've ever done has come out of those lows. There will be times in my life again, I'm sure, when I get in a dark spot That's just the way I am."
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