The late Andy Kaufman was comedy’s Master of Morph, a multi-personality dervish who plunged so deeply into his shtick that the real guy became invisible. Almost every name actor in Hollywood wanted to play him; Forman (”Amadeus”) made them audition via videotape. ”I told everybody, ‘Look, I don’t dare to cast this role blind,’ ” he recalls. ” ‘I need to see how you see yourself as Andy Kaufman in his different personas.’ ” The contest boiled down to a dead heat between Carrey and Edward Norton. Says Forman: ”I told Universal, ‘I will be more than happy to do the film with either one. You decide.’ ”
Carrey, with his Midas-like box office track record, was impossible for the studio to refuse. The elastic-faced thespian hurled himself into Kaufman’s menagerie of psyches so thoroughly that crew members addressed him as Andy or Latka, Elvis or Tony Clifton – Kaufman’s raunchy lounge lizard of an alter ego. ”When he was Tony, he was a nightmare,” laughs Giamatti, who plays sidekick Bob Zmuda. ”He smelled like rotting cheese. It was bizarre. People would really have to prepare themselves for the day Tony was there, because he was just going to grope women and smell like cheese and be insane.”
Like Kaufman, Carrey got his neck wrenched in a ”brawl” with Lawler, a pro wrestler. ”I don’t know whether it was for real or not, but it sure looked nasty,” Giamatti says. ”I got my leg screwed up in that scene, and I had to wear one of those flexi-casts for the rest of the shoot. It was a free-for-all. It was nuts.” BUZZ FACTOR: 8
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