Jim Carrey: Bare Facts and Shocking Revelations - Rolling Stone
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Jim Carrey: Bare Facts and Shocking Revelations

Funny-man and new face of Batman villian ‘The Riddler’, Jim Carrey pieces together thoughts on his life so far

Jim Carrey on the cover of Rolling Stone.Jim Carrey on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Jim Carrey on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Herb Ritts

Oh, please, don’t do that Jim Carrey puts his face just inches from a hole in a tall, wooden post and mutters into it. The live bat Carrey is trying to flush out pokes its hideous little snout out of an opening that looks too small for its busy, mottled-brown wings and stares back at the morphing human who now displays his own toothy grimace. Above and behind Carrey, fluttering shapes wheel and plummet.

“A Bat Colony right outside the place I’m staying – what are the chances of that?” asks Carrey. Indeed, he duels with the title character in the just-opened Batman Forever, playing the red-haired, green-suited Riddler, a human question mark who torments the brand-new Batman, Val Kilmer.

Hollywood seems far away from this clearing out in the Texas hill country west of San Antonio, where Carrey is filming Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. It’s the sequel to the surprise comedy smash that turned him from the quite-impossible-to-miss white guy on TV’s In Living Color to the star of three 1994 films (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber) that spotlighted his sprawling demographic pull, raked in a combined $550 million in global box office and raised his salary to a whopping $10 million a film. That was the sum the near-broke Carrey wrote on a 1990 check to himself “for acting services rendered” that he dated Thanksgiving 1995. By the time of his father’s death in 1994, he’d eclipsed that mark in yearly income, and he laid the check in his father’s casket. “One thing I hope I’ll never be is drunk with my own power,” says Carrey with his practiced deadpan when talking about his fresh mushroom cloud of clout. “And anybody who says I am will never work in this town again.”

The note of edginess in that joke is one the 33-year-old Canadian clown sounds often. Insincere Guy is the man Carrey most dreads becoming. After a long day on the set of the Ace sequel, Carrey is standing outside his borrowed ranch house, drinking a fine red wine at sunset. His demons are at bay for the moment, although he’s working on an untidy divorce, which may go to court in late summer, and on the replacement of Ace director Tom DeCerchio with longtime pal Steve Oedekerk (author of the script, which features a missing . . . bat). Carrey’s also awaiting reaction to his first megabudget epic – Batman Forever cost a reported $100 million. The movie audience is legendarily prone to the kind of spasms that vaulted Carrey to the top but is just as legendarily able to turn, as it did to comic phenom Eddie Murphy, and say, “What was your name again?”

Right now, Carrey is talking about the origins of his humor, obsessive energy and rage. The pain in Carrey’s past leads his estranged wife, Melissa, to say: “I’m nervous for him. I think creative people need to be aware of the dark side that accompanies those gifts they have. I’ve learned that the smile he wears is the biggest mask of all.” Carrey’s affection for his deceased parents alternates with unburied anger that comes out in virtual torrents, and his art (it is that, pratfalls, geek faces and all) proceeds from both wellsprings. “People think that I’m this weird guy,” Carrey says. “But I’m up there spewing out all my crap, you know. I guess the audience does it through me – they get that kick, seeing somebody else do it. I’ve always thought it was a really healthy thing.”

Carrey’s Riddler character begins as Ed Nygma, a brilliant if socially inept techie who’s hoping the employer he idolizes (Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne) will help him bring his crackpot invention to the world. When Bruce rejects him, Ed seeks revenge as he begins a series of transformations into an overamped villain in the scene-stealing tradition of Jack Nicholson’s Joker, Danny DeVito’s Penguin and Michelle Pfeifier’s Catwoman.

The Carrey who would spend eight hours before a set of mirrors perfecting faces, the Carrey who can’t stop himself from working all day and well into the night for weeks on end, is no stranger to darkness and compulsion. The Riddler is “like any sycophant,” says Carrey. “The type of guy who’s basically saying he loves you more than life itself but deep down he hates you more than death – because he’s grown to resent you.” The object of much hero worship lately (fawned over by studio chiefs and schoolkids alike), Carrey walked on the star-laden Batman set as the guy who turned up when the first choice Robin Williams wouldn’t. “I’d never seen his work,” Kilmer says. “So I got Ace Ventura, and all I had to do was watch the opening deliveryman sequence. I called up the studio and said, ‘Well, this’ll be fun.’ “

Carrey felt likewise, even playing against hard case Tommy Lee Jones, cast as Harvey “Two-Face” Dent, a disgruntled former district attorney who shares the Riddler’s hatred for Batman. “They’re not as odd a couple as you would think,” says Batman Forever director Joel Schumacher. “The truth is, Tommy can also be brilliantly funny. And Jim can also be a great actor.” Although Carrey’s raffish cane-twirling went awry one day – “Cracked me right in the family jewels,” says Jones – the veteran actor found Carrey “just a down-to-earth good guy and rather inspiring in his boldness in that character.” Says Schumacher: “Tommy is used to stealing the show. He definitely met his match here and many times was surprised by it. It kept everybody on their toes. Jim is such an athlete, and athletes know their personal best.”

Carrey agrees. “I got in my innings,” he says. “Don’t worry about me.”

Dinner is waiting inside as Carrey’s Little bat pal finally hops out of his hole, flares wings and membranes and darts into the darkening sky. But Carrey lingers, drinking a second glass of red in disciplined if savoring doses and sharing a reminiscence. He’s talking about his need for concentrating on the task at hand, whether he’s about to enter a frame, rewrite a joke or work at the drawings and sculptures he’s done since childhood.

“I drew, and it’s kind of still the same way – not quite as intense – but I used to draw in my room,” Carrey says. “And when my mother asked me to take the garbage out, I would just go insane and break everything and knock shit off the shelves, just lose it. I was concentrating, I was so lost in it, it was like being in the womb, like meditation or something – you don’t care about anything.

“I did pencil sketches and stuff like that,” Carrey continues. “I won a couple of art exhibitions, actually. I was pretty good at it right from the start.” The drawings were naturalistic, as opposed to his Daliesque later efforts. “I didn’t get weird till I was older,” he says. “My parents would come into the room and ask, ‘What are you drawing?’ It would be my dad looking at his watch with a gun in his hand. ‘It’s a portrait of you,’ I said. ‘It’s called Waiting to Die.'” Although the pond in front of Carrey gathers enough light to show the odd ripple, his face can barely be seen now.

“I started making figurines, and I did a few of these paintings that just were really weird concepts – animals and stuff,” Carrey says. “And I remember my sister coming down to visit me in L.A. and looking at the paintings on the wall and going, ‘Are you OK?’ “

Carrey leads the way up the grassy rise to the house, where, as we walk into a lamp-lit room, he acknowledges with a swirl of one hand the slightly disturbing wall decorations – about 30 stuffed and mounted animal heads, all tusk, tooth and fur. “And I’d say, ‘Yeah, I’m OK – I have an outlet What do you do?’ “

This is the carrey one gets used to over a couple of days – an unexpectedly studious sort with a sense of mission that never quite turns grandiose. He’s very seldom “sssmokin’ ” like his masked creation but, rather, solicitous, unhurried (until he hits the dirt path leading to the film set) and often wistful as he reflects on his life. While Pauletta, his hair person since In Living Color, shellacs his topknot into its Ace wavy form, he listens to alternative rock – Live, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Green Day – very loud, dutifully shouting answers over the blaster and the hair dryer. He makes eye contact, infallibly, and he regards people who come his way with an attentiveness some find almost daunting. “He’s one of the few comedians who you can invite to a dinner with friends,” says Mask director Chuck Russell, “who is just as interested in everyone at the table as they seem to be in him.”

“My performing started out as a mixture of things,” Carrey says. “It’s really not all angst and I-gotta-go-onstage-or-I’m-gonna-kill-somebody kind of thing. Some of it is the anger, but it was born from really, truly just wanting to be special and to be noticed and wanting to make people laugh. It really was born from that, so it comes from a good place. It’s just – the tools are your anger, the took are your sadness, the tools are your joy, the tools are voices, faces – the tools are all those things.”

Jim finishes first and then disrupts the class,” is one teacher’s evaluation that sticks in Carrey’s memory.

“I’d whip through my work and then go on a rampage,” Carrey says. “But I had a great teacher in grade seven, and she was clued in.” If he would leave the less extraterrestrial children in peace all day, the teacher promised, Carrey could have 15 minutes in front of the class at day’s end. So he would spend his spare moments making notes on that day’s bits, from dinosaur imitations to an impression of a faculty member who he says would eye the boys in the locker room. “Even then I was ruffling feathers,” he says.

For Carrey and his family in the Toronto suburb of Burlington, these were the relatively good rimes, but they were not to last. Carrey is the youngest of four children. After the birth of his sister Pat, his mother, Kathleen, suffered four miscarriages over several years before the arrival (in quick succession) of brother John, sister Rita and Jim. “Immediately from the time I hit earth [on Jan. 17,1962], I was weird as hell – this kid is weird,” Carrey says. “They tell me that to get out of eating, I would go into, like, a convulsive shake in my highchair, until it was impossible for them not to completely break down laughing.” His father, Percy, was of French descent (the family name was originally spelled Carré), a frustrated sax and clarinet player who’d scrapped his big-band dreams for the reality of an accounting job. Then, abruptly, he was laid off.

“It makes you mad at the world, you know?” says Carrey. “When you’re a kid – ‘How can the world do this to my dad?’ ” Both parents had been subject to spates of depression – “Sometimes you could feel it in the air, just a sense of doom” – and his dad’s mood darkened. “To first of all give up a dream, to settle for something safe, and then have that not pan out is a real double whammy,” Carrey says. “My dad was a great guy, too – you’d meet him for five minutes and thought you knew him for 50 years.”

In what Carrey calls the nothingland of Scarborough, Ontario, Percy Carrey found work in the massive Titan Wheels factory, where the Carrey kids reported after school to labor as janitors and security men, living feudal style in a big stone house next to the factory. Jim was 14 and entered “a horrendous time in my life. I hated everything and everyone.” He began 10th grade in “a new big-city school,” and each night after classes, “we had to clean the whole, gigantic factory – huge. I can’t tell you how many times I walked down to the plant and saw my brother beating the piss out of a sweeping machine, you know, with a fucking sledgehammer, just going, ‘Fuck you and your mother’s sister’s cousin’s friend.’ “

Such outbursts recalled earlier days when Jim and his brother, John, would get hosed on beer and go on vandalism sprees. Soon, Jim went from straight-A grades to falling behind in class, exhausted from his nights of rage. “I was 15,” he says, “pushing this sweeper down the damn hallway of executive offices of people I don’t respect in any way because they’re, you know, oppressing my father. I’d bury my arm in the wall, then I’d go through hours of elaborate conniving to come up with an alibi of how the sweeper went insane.”

The family worked shifts amid Jamaican and Indian co-workers engaged in what Carrey saw as “a race war. I got totally caught up in the middle of it,” he says. “We were all so angry, I lived my life just waiting for somebody to look at me the wrong way. I wanted it. I wanted to fucking do somebody in.” His dad, once a model of colorblind piety, temporarily became a bigot – and the rest of the family along with him. Carrey, though he did chuck a bench at a co-worker who braced him, avoided the bloodshed. Convinced that his only future would be in the factory (“maybe make foreman one day”), he quit school.

“I remember telling my father,” Carrey says. “He was sitting in the security office pulling a shift – this brilliantly funny guy – and I tell him I’m quitting school. ‘I’m going to quit school because I can’t handle it anymore. I don’t understand anything they’re saying.’ All I wanted was to sleep after pulling eight hours in the factory.

“He never showed a lot of emotion,” Carrey says. “That wasn’t Dad. There was just one tear. That was it. It was done. He said, ‘You’re a man. You’re 16. You’ve had to be a man. You have to make your own decision at this point.’ “

With its anger and self-loathing reaching a peak, the family quit the factory and set themselves adrift in a VW camper van. “It sounds sad,” Carrey says. “We went to a couple of campgrounds, and we pitched a tent on my sisters lawn, and we lived like Gypsies, but we were so much happier than we’d been being those people we didn’t like. We didn’t have a place to live, but it was like somebody lifted a goddamned burden off our shoulders, and we became loving, happy, laughing people again, people that had food fights every Sunday.” Carrey leans in, both sheepish and proud: “The first time my brother brought his fiancee to dinner, she got like a half a pound of butter stuffed down her bra.”

Sitting by campfires with his future brother-in-law Al, Carrey took lessons in sexuality (“Al would say, ‘First you massage the nipples . . . ‘ “). “When I turned 15,” Carrey says, “I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to reach 16 without losing my virginity.'” He went with his older brother and sister to a party where “we got totally fried, which is what you did up there,” and was invited upstairs by a 25-year-old. Using Al’s techniques, Carrey came of age: “Me and this really skinny girl. And I remember Styx’s ‘Grand Illusion’ was playing. Oh, it’s pretty frightening, isn’t it? And then, of course, I never saw her again.”

Meanwhile, his father helped Jim find outstage outlets for the comic antics that had outgrown the living room. “My dad used to say, ‘He’s not a ham, he’s the whole pig,'” Carrey recalls. “He always pushed me, since I was a little kid, like a stage mother. I still have the disease – all I can think about is the frame and how to fill it”

Part of Carrey’s success has been his grasp of what the media need. He knows how to feed the seals, from duck-walking through infotainment-show visits to much quieter reminiscences like this one. The stories are scarily true, the aspirations just a tad hyperbolic: “I just want [Ace II ] to be killer funny, you know?” says Carrey. “Kick-ass, piss-your-pants, run-out-of-the-theater, rip-your-dick-off-and-throw-yourself-into-traffic funny.”

At a club called Yuk Yuk’s, in downtown Toronto, Carrey cajoled his muse. He had the stomped-down bitterness of all great comics; he had his comically limber body and frighteningly mobile face; he had a true gift for mimicry; he had nothing to lose. Getting over with the crowds but stymied by the limitations of being the funniest guy in Toronto, the kid who had sent his resume to The Carol Burnett Show at age 10 – and who is still an avid consumer of things Hollywood (first film seen: “Either The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes or Blood Beast From Outer Space”) – headed to Los Angeles.

“I was 17, I’d saved my money, and I came down to get on at the Comedy Store,” Carrey says. He ended up “looking like some choirboy – at Sunset and Vine.” He was impressed by the palm trees, by the women in lipstick and pumps who approached him as if “it was Sadie Hawkins Day – ‘You wanna date?’ I didn’t know from a hooker. I had no idea what the hell that was about.”

Carrey soon retreated to Toronto, not to return to Los Angeles for two years. At Yuk Yuk’s the MCs would nail him with the typical provincial joke: “Our next act just got back from the Comedy Store, in L.A. – where he had great seats.” By 1981, Carrey had honed his stand-up act, building on such barbed impressions as a zealously smiling Michael Landon, Gandhi sneaking potato salad during a hunger strike and (more reverently) Jimmy Stewart displaying his relentless positiveness: “Well, I guess we’re gonna have ourselves a nuclear holocaust” Tommy Davidson, who was later to work alongside Carrey on In Living Color (and the Ace sequel), remembers his fellow comic’s arrival on the local stage when Carrey hit L.A. for good at age 19: “We were very critical, watched a lot of comics all the time, but he was just plain good. The first time we saw him, we were in awe of the things he could do.”

Judd Apatow, then a stand-up and now a consultant to The Larry Sanders Show, instructed his manager, Jimmy Miller – brother of comic Dennis – to see Carrey (“He’s freaking people out”). Carrey would do his “post-Armageddon Elvis,” tucking in his arms and making little flippers of his hands. “Then,” Apatow recalls, “he would sing an Elvis song, do all the Elvis karate moves but with these little arms. Sometimes the place would go nuts, and other times people were frightened.”

What scared Carrey was the idea of opening for Vegas lounge acts 10 years down the road. Even as new manager Miller was ready to book him in bigger venues, Carrey dug in his heels and scrapped his impressions. “I deleted that program,” says Carrey. His good looks and comic zest got him a leading role on an NBC series called The Duck Factory, but the sitcoms stories of life in a cartoon shop didn’t last. It was at this point that Carrey, perhaps too impulsively, addressed his old family obsessions. “From about age 19,I became the parent in my family,” says Carrey. “When I got Duck Factory, I decided to be the hero son – ‘OK, I’ve got a big show on NBC, I can move you down to live with me.’ They lived with me for a while, until I ran out of money.”

Carrey pauses. It’s hard to know if his honesty is unwavering; it is often compulsive. He starts over: “I didn’t run out of money – I ran out of patience, and I had to move them back to Canada. I was having bad dreams – I was strangling my mother in my sleep.” Carrey the seasoned absurdist seems to be talking – but his expression shows he’s now in touch not with his humor but with its dark roots. “I still supported them until I ran out of money. I went bankrupt.”

Smoking, snorting and slacking off (until a pal told him he’d become a creep), Carrey marked time. He missed a few chances at solvency in those early ’80s. Linda Ronstadt came to the Comedy Store in search of an opening act and ended up with a temporary boyfriend. Was this affair the end of Carrey’s adventures with older women? “Well, you know, I felt I had things to teach her,” he says. “And, no, there was the thing with Ruth Gordon.”

Carrey would often chat with Melissa Womer as she waited tables at the Comedy Store. An aspiring actress who’d moved from Arizona to L.A. at 17, she saw his knack even in his offhanded repartee with fellow comics. “The dude is no flash in the pan,” says Melissa Carrey in the California argot that pokes through her earnest philosophical bent. “He is what legends are made of.” Sadly, she will be seeing the legend mostly on billboards once the dust from their contentious divorce case clears. Her spin on their early days is doomed to seem self-serving, but it’s more out of sorrow than anger. “I miss him very much,” she says. “I still love him with all my heart. I’d take him back in a second, because he’s my friend and he has just lost his way.”

From the time of their first brief exchanges at the Comedy Store, it took almost two years for the romance to flower. Carrey had abandoned his successful onstage guise, watched his sitcom tank and was stewing over his direction, getting ready for his Dada stand-up phase. “He was in a deep depression,” Melissa says, “in front of a TV, eating potato chips and Häagen-Daz.” Then-roommate Phil Roy, who has watched his “Heaven Down Here” songwriting collaboration with Jim become a hit for Tuck and Patti, recalls “chili and white bread every single night” as Jim’s only choice for a hot meal in those days. Melissa recalls the wedding on March 28, 1987, as “an absolutely perfect day,” ending with the couple sitting over untouched mahi-mahi at sunset in a hotel in Santa Monica, Calif., “bawling like idiots” at their happiness.

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.”

Carrey had laid eyes on Lauren Holly – she was on the short list for the female lead in Ace that Courteney Cox eventually played – yet wasn’t moved to act territorial when director Tom Shadyac asked Holly out on a couple of dates. To hear Shadyac tell it, Carrey was indeed torn up by his marital problems – so much so that on a shooting day covering part of Ace’s climactic scene in a Miami boathouse, Shadyac found his star in tears in the trailer, embarrassed but willing to shoot after he carefully dripped water into Shadyac’s eyes, then led him to the set as if the two had been having a teary personal moment over Shadyac’s problems.

By the time Carrey returned to L.A. and took up residence in his own apartment, the separation was real enough, with each dating others. But no formal declaration had been made, says Melissa, until the day she picked up the phone as she was giving Jane a bath. ” “We need to talk. I want to come over,’ ” she recalls Jim saying. “I’m on my way somewhere,” she says she told him (she was due for a shrink appointment).

” ‘I’m going through with it’ he said.”

“With what?”

” ‘With the divorce.’ “

Jim Carrey filed on Nov. 1; the news arrived via People magazine before the court papers reached Melissa, and the rest has been a protracted wrangle (with Melissa signing a separation agreement, Jim’s camp points out, giving an earlier date of separation than that she’s now claiming). Perhaps the emotional nadir for her came on the day she went to Salt Lake City to visit Jim during his four-day convalescence from the gallbladder removal that interrupted Dumb and Dumber’s shooting. Melissa had informed his assistant Linda she would be in town but knocked on his hotel door without a call.. She held a dozen balloons for Jane and a couple of presents for Jim. The door swung open on a small group that included Holly. “I walked in the door, and I knew,” Melissa says. “Everybody got real quiet. Jim got real nervous. And Lauren ran out of the room.”

Holly had resisted the liaison from the first, hating the cliche of actors dating their co-stars. In fact, when her couple of dates with Shadyac had developed into simple friendship, he’d told her she and Jim Carrey were an ideal match. “I got furious that he was rude enough to imply that I’d have an affair with my co-star,” Holly says. Carrey, too, refuted Dumb producer Charlie Wessler’s insistence that he would fall for Holly. Despite it all – Holly even changed hotels in Salt Lake City to resist the inevitable – their co-star Jeff Daniels woke up one morning in the Stephen King suite in the Stanley Hotel, in Estes Park, Colo., to a surprise. “I was up at 7 a.m., packed and ready, and Lauren was in the suite next to me – I could see her door,” Daniels says. “And it opens, and Jim comes out. That’s when I first realized that perhaps they were together.”

Melissa Carrey reiterates that Holly’s not to blame for her woes. Most important, the couples daughter, Jane, “likes [Holly], and that’s what counts. She’s a nice person.” And Melissa says she’s gotten past the worst of it, “the panic attacks and extreme emotional depression.” The evening she can’t forget is their 6th anniversary, March 28, 1993, when Jim was just days away from leaving for the Ace Ventura: Pet Detective set. He brought her to a catered dinner in a grand Beverly Hills hotel ballroom, and Phil Roy played with a jazz trio hired for the occasion. She went through so many Kleenex, “they had to bring me a trash can.” What she took at the time to be a landmark is a bittersweet memory now.

The bottle with dinner is long gone, the bottle without dinner has just bitten the dirt, and the only things airborne around Jim Carrey’s ranch-house porch are the moths beating themselves against a low-watt yellow bulb. Carrey does not appear to be substantially wounded by the three-plus hours of tasting. Early history with his mothers alcoholic parents – her father would taunt Carrey’s dad, “call him a loser” – has left him with little patience for drunks. Similarly, he can’t stand formula jokes: “As soon as I hear somebody saying, These two guys . . . ” something blanks out in my head, and I don’t even want to . . . I don’t even want to live anymore.”

A greater hazard of the profession is overzealous fans. Recently, Carrey dared a noisy bar in San Antonio and “got women jumping on my back.” One asked Holly, “Can I hug your boyfriend?” but quickly abandoned the idea when Holly said, “Can I hug yours?”

Then, too, there are the hounds of the media. Even in his well-fenced home not far from the O.J. Simpson mansion, in Brentwood, Calif, Carrey has been filmed from his own back yard. Impatient as Carrey is with all that, Apatow feels that Jim’s spiritual side – when he lived with Melissa, he went to not only his Catholic services but also her Presbyterian ones – helps him: “There is that aspect of Jim that I think finds peace in the greater plan. So he doesn’t have to be that mad at Hard Copy.”

Carrey says his pursuers “are just silly. Like when I see them around with the cameras and stuff, I just feel sad. That there are human beings that choose that for themselves. Because at some point you’ve got to look back on your life and go, “What good did I do?’ “

Carrey has finished off this thought at the return of his houseguest Phil Roy, who has been out for drinks and steaks with the ex-dirt-bike racer who is Carvey’s driver on the shoot. Roy is induced to pull out his acoustic guitar – a beautiful black-toned thing that was a gift from Carrey – and together, with feeling and volume, they sing “Heaven Down Here.” After the opening line – “What are you waiting for? Believe in me . . . ” – the message is in the melody, which Carrey passionately embroiders. “Watch out who you play that for, man,” Carrey says in the silence afterward. “You’ll never get rid of them.”

Carrey is profoundly glad to have Holly to concentrate on. “When we first met, she called me the runaway train,” he says. “I’ve been in the station for a while now.” He had found his several months of dating around “horrifying. I hated it. I had suddenly become a big star. And I realized – not trying to be egotistical – I could get laid every hour on the hour. I quickly found out that I’m not the dog that I thought it was maybe possible for me to be. The bottom line is, I really want to love somebody. I do. I just don’t know if it’s possible forever and ever. But I’ll work on it. I’ll try. I am not going to end up at the Roxbury, sitting in a booth with bodyguards on both sides, going, 1 want her.’ That’s just not me.

“At a certain point I really do want to find somebody that I can watch their hair turn gray,” Carrey says. “I am absolutely head over heels in love right now. It’s wonderful. Lauren Holly is absolutely the most beautiful woman on the face of the earth to me right now, and she is brilliant, talented, selfless, caring, loving, the best combination of everything you could ever think of.” Carrey interrupts himself long enough to step a couple of paces off the porch and answer nature’s call. “I just don’t want to live a lie, that’s all,” he says. “Lauren and I have been real careful about not being that cliche – the tattoo on the arm. I’m with Lauren because she really makes me happy. And the day that I don’t make her happy, you know, I hope she fucking leaves me in the dust.

“I hate when I see people go on talk shows,” Carrey continues, “and they just married the supermodel of the century, and they are like ‘This is it, absolutely.’ That to me is arrogant in the face of nature. It’d be an incredibly wonderful thing if I end up being, like, 80 years old, and me and Lauren are heading out having a great old time. But as soon as you say you know, the universe will prove you wrong.”

The phone has rung twice tonight – none other than Holly waits for the talking to end – and Carrey is ready to sum up, return the calls and maybe get a few hours of sleep before tomorrow’s early call.

“I get upset because Jim doesn’t sleep when he’s shooting,” says Holly. “He just gets so adrenalized.” The upside of their enforced separation, she adds, is that “I get to go to sleep, relax.”

Melissa Carrey insists the manic behavior is a holdover from the dark days when Jim would sit on the floor and howl “Jim is an extremely depressive person. I know, because I would sit up counseling him through it until 4 or 5 in the morning on many, many nights. At night he has to face himself, and he so much does not want to do that that this adrenalin rushes up in him.”

Holly offers a different take. “Many comedians have had pain and tragedy – he’s had a lot in his life,” she says. “But he doesn’t dwell there. He dwells in a really normal, nice space where he’s just kind of sweet. I don’t date a guy who’s Mr. Darkness.”

Jim Carrey looks appreciatively at the wide sweep of lawn before him, the still pond beyond. “After four weeks, I’ll be ready to get out of here,” he says. “Enough beauty already. I’m pretty citified. I like to be able to kind of open the window and hear people’s voices, you know? I like to hear life.”

Life has been mostly movie sets for a while now. Carrey will pay that price. Perhaps, as Melissa Carrey says, “he is completely the byproduct of his creativity.” In Carrey’s words it’s “tunnel vision. I have a team that works like dogs, doing creative things with my career, but I’m constantly holding them off – ‘Look, I’m in a project now, don’t come to me with 17 other projects, because I don’t want to be one of these guys that lives their life just excited about tomorrow and fucking up their work today. It’s basically, I’m painting, leave me alone. It goes back to my bedroom and drawing pictures. You know? Don’t bug me – I’m drawing right now.”

This story is from the July 13th, 1995 issue of Rolling Stone.

In This Article: Jim Carrey


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