”Give it to me, baby…Uh-huh! Uh-huh!…Give it to me, baby!”
Speeding like a crazed banshee down Santa Monica Boulevard, Jim Carrey is howling along to every song on the radio. Right now it’s the Offspring’s ”Pretty Fly (For a White Guy).” But no matter what’s thrown at him, he handles the entire Top 40 word for word, as if he had nothing better to do than sit around all day in his underwear watching MTV.
”Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, cinco, seis…. And all the girls say I’m pretty fly for a white guy!”
Zigzagging his black Mercedes convertible from lane to lane, Carrey is all over the place. And it’s not just in the way he drives, or the way he squirms, twists, and shimmies while performing his lead-foot karaoke. He’s literally all over the place: Every block another billboard, bus stop, or phone booth has his bigger-than-life puss plastered on it, hyping his new movie Me, Myself & Irene.
”Look at me. God, I’m everywhere!” Carrey actually seems slightly weirded out and embarrassed by his omnipresence. At a red light, the 38-year-old actor slides his tiny, blue-tinted shades down the bridge of his nose to get a nice, long look at one of the billboards that has him sneering as ”Hank” — the aggressively nasty, alpha-monkey alter ego of his good-natured, weak-willed highway patrolman in Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s split-personality comedy. Pointing to his 50-foot-high doppelganger, the actor deadpans, ”That’s the real me…Hank.”
Switching his mood as quickly as the traffic light turns green, Carrey downshifts into one of many unexpected moments of introspection. ”It’s amazing, a lot of my characters in the last couple of years have dealt with duality,” he says. ”My movies are like therapy sessions — they never fail to be in the pocket of where I am and what I need. With Irene, I was going through a lot of ‘Is it okay to be who I am?’ I can smile my way through life if I want to, but I don’t want to. And will I be accepted if I show the dark side a little?”
To some degree, Carrey’s concerns about mainstream acceptance haven’t been just his concerns. Ever since he chose to star in the back-to-back dramatic departures The Truman Show and Man on the Moon, some of Carrey’s fans have been scratching their heads, wondering why he’d abandoned the lowbrow comedies that vaulted him to fame to become ”Jim Carrey: Serious Actor.”
Of course, most of this has been blown wildly out of proportion — as if it were an unholy betrayal for the guy to stretch. But those same people who place so much significance on Carrey’s career choices may see Me, Myself & Irene as some sort of ”We told you so” surrender: He couldn’t cut it with the Academy, so now he’s talking out of his butt again. When that possible perception is brought up, Carrey explodes with laughter. ”That’s a good angle, let’s go with that one: ‘But this time he has a trumpet!”’ He adds, ”The hardest part about [not getting an Oscar nomination] was people’s assumptions that you were destroyed in some way. I mean, I saw tabloid stories that said Renee had to talk me into coming out of the house afterwards because I was so bummed out, or that she hired clown strippers to cheer me up.”
Carrey’s the first to admit there’s a side of him that was disappointed that Man on the Moon didn’t connect with more people. But another, more Zen-master side says that rather than worry about how others view his career ebbs and flows, it ultimately doesn’t mean squat because Jim Carrey’s at peace with Jim Carrey — not to mention happily in love with his Irene costar Renee Zellweger. More than anything, though, Carrey wants you to know that if this isn’t exactly what you’d like to hear right now, then you need to go peddle your pathology somewhere else, pal. Because you’re the one in pain.
By now, the first stage of Jim Carrey’s worldwide will to power has been well chronicled: Canadian stand-up toils in two-drink-minimum obscurity until finally scoring a smattering of small movie roles (Peggy Sue Got Married, Earth Girls Are Easy); struggling actor lands a gig on TV’s In Living Color and steals skits with his unhinged physical gymnastics and verbal kung fu; TV star parlays his human-tornado shtick into the box office sleeper smash Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and deftly follows it up with a string of give-the-people-what-they-want blockbusters: The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, and Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.
But when The Cable Guy, a darker, more acid-tinged comedy, hit theaters in 1996, Carrey (who was now pulling in a record $20 million per picture) seemed to take a critical spanking somewhat disproportionate to the quality of the film on screen. “I was a marked man at that point,” says Carrey. “I’d had a lot of success and then the $20 million tag went on that and it was just…I was set up for that one. It was my turn. But I was ready for that: ‘It’s my turn, cool, whatever.’ I’ve never had the sense that I’m owed anything.”