Jim Carrey Photograph by Jeff Riedel
Nancy Miller
January 20, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

Jim Carrey made our 2004 Entertainers of the Year list

It’s fitting that Jim Carrey has signed on to play Steve Austin in the big-screen adaptation of The Six Million Dollar Man. The bionic box office star — already Hollywood’s $25 Million Man — got bigger! stronger! faster! this year, immobilizing his spastic face for a small, well-received indie role before releasing it into a humongo, big-budget crowd-pleaser.

Carrey kicked off the year by quietly blowing away art-house audiences in Michel Gondry’s heart-twisting, brain-scrambling tragicomedy, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Floppy-haired and crumple-faced, Carrey sank deep into the role of Joel, a frowsy, lovelorn introvert so devastated by the breakup with his girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet), that he arranges to erase her from his memory. ”I made a choice to go hiding in this character. I wanted to be withdrawn and let others get drawn into me,” says Carrey. ”Kate plays the flamboyant part, I’m the quiet one, and the love story is the star.” Quiet part or not, Carrey still stands out. ”Chris Rock came up to me,” he recalls, ”and he said, ‘Watching you in that movie was like watching Sugar Ray Leonard win the Indianapolis 500. I had no idea you could do stuff like that!”’

We do, however, know Carrey can — and should — do stuff like this: In Brad Silberling’s $140 million lollypop, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, he fiendishly indulges in the role of Count Olaf (among a number of other colorful characters), arch-nemesis to the long-suffering Baudelaire orphans and the film’s Hoover, gloriously sucking up the laughs frame by frame. Which, by the way, is just fine by him. ”It’s exultation — not compromise…I don’t want to bore the hell out of people, or myself, by sticking to a pattern and always doing the same crap,” he says. No worries there.

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