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Jim Carrey - Biography

TalkTalk have created this exclusive biography of Jim Carrey - we believe it to be the most comprehensive on the web

Jim Carrey

Personal details

Name: Jim Carrey
Born: 17 January 1962 (Age: 53)
Where: Newmarket, Ontario, Canada
Height: 6' 2"
Awards: Won 2 Golden Globes, nominated for 1 BAFTA

All about this star


Arguments may occasionally rage over the acting abilities of Keanu Reeves and Brad Pitt, but no one, absolutely NO ONE divides opinion like Jim Carrey. With his elastic features, frantic mugging and screen-hogging antics, many believe him to be an intolerably childish clown, even more irritating than his brother in buffoonery Pee Wee Herman. Others though (and they can be counted in the multi-millions) see Carrey as continuing a long line of classic comedians stretching back through Jerry Lewis and Laurel and Hardy. They laud him as a comic machine-gun, only ever stalling his barrage for long enough to reload, then unleashing another hail of laughs. What's for sure is that no other comic actor, not even Robin Williams, can equal his manic intensity, and very few actors of any kind can match his extraordinary run of hits.

He was born James Eugene Carrey on the 17th of January, 1962, in Newmarket, Ontario (it's worth noting that both of America's biggest comic film stars - Carrey and Mike Myers - are Canadian). Newmarket was a neat and easy-going town just to the north of Toronto, and it was here that Carrey spent his early years with his three older siblings - Pat, John and Rita - and parents Percy and Kathleen. Kathleen suffered depression and was often chronically sick with illnesses both real and imagined. Percy, sharp-witted and highly amusing, was formerly a sax player in a big band, but had sold his sax and his dreams to take a job as an accountant. His wife's father habitually referred to him as "Loser", easily done as Percy was extremely mild-mannered. Indeed, Jim would later model The Mask's Stanley Ipkiss on him.

As a kid, no doubt trying to seize attention from the family, Jim became a serious extrovert. He loved Christmas when visiting relatives increased his audience. For years he obsessively studied TV shows, perfecting impressions of the stars (and also of his alcoholic grandfather) and putting on one-man shows in the basement. At Junior High School he insisted on performing for his classmates and the teachers soon realised that the only way to calm the boy was to allow him a 10-minute slot at the end of each school day. By the age of 10 he'd already tried to get a book of his poems published and mailed his resume to the producers of the Carol Burnett Show. He'd wear his tap shoes to bed in case his parents needed cheering up in the night - evidently he already had the capacity to be incredibly annoying.

But this happy(ish) life didn't last. While Carrey was in 9th Grade Percy lost his job and was forced to sell the house, relocating the family to Scarborough, a bleak industrial landscape on the edge of Toronto. Here, to make ends meet, the whole family took jobs as security guards or janitors at the Titan Wheels factory. Jim would work an 8-hour shift after school, scrubbing toilets and the like, the experience hardening his will to escape to a better life. Understandably, his school grades suffered as classes became a minor priority. Jim felt more comfortable vandalising the neighbourhood with his brothers and performing for his bedridden mother, occasionally sending her crazy by creeping around in his underwear and pretending to be a praying mantis (clearly the inspired lunacy had already begun). At one point the Carreys were caught up in a racial confrontation at the factory. "We temporarily became bigots", Jim would later recall. It was a bad scene all round, with the family at one time all living in a VW camper van.

At 16, Jim dropped out of High School altogether and, keen for a life in show business, concentrated on his stand-up act. Percy, now battling manic depression, was a keen stage dad and, being something of a comedian himself, helped Jim write his first routines. The boy had made his debut at 15 at Yuk Yuk's comedy club, dressed in a yellow polyester suit with tails, made by Kathleen and similar to the garb he'd later don in The Mask. And it was a disaster, a titter-free embarrassment. Yet Carrey was undeterred and carried on scoring slots at Toronto's clubs, perfecting his impressions of Michael Landon, Henry Fonda, Gandhi, a post-Armageddon Elvis and his own hero, James Stewart. Stewart was what Carrey wanted to be, an all-round nice guy but (unlike Percy) no pushover. Such was his devotion to the great man that when in the late Eighties he finally met him, he went ga-ga and thoroughly humiliated himself.

Come 1979, the ultra-enthusiastic Carrey relocated to Los Angeles in the hope of hitting the big-time. Fairly quickly he won a regular slot at the Comedy Store, winning standing ovations in the main room. Spotted by Rodney Dangerfield, he was taken out on tour as the veteran's support act and fondly recalls an evening backstage at Caesar's Palace when he swapped rapid-fire gags with Dangerfield and a proud and overjoyed Percy. Yet he didn't seem to be able to make the next step up and watched - not with resentment but a profound sense of worry - as the likes of Arsenio Hall and Sam Kinison strode past him to stardom. His fear was only increased when, having been invited onto Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, he performed his impressions but was not invited to join Johnny on the couch for a career-making chat. He thought his chance had gone forever.

In the meantime, Carrey was building a small and pretty unimpressive screen CV, mostly finding roles in Canadian productions. He made his debut in All In Good Taste, where a journalist infiltrated the porn industry and many, many breasts were on show. Carrey appeared briefly as the guy's cameraman when he visits a massage parlour, both men having to go naked. More than a few famous actresses have first appeared in the nude. So did Jim Carrey, revealing his buttocks to the camera but covering his pride and joy with a 35mm camera.

Next came Introducing... Janet where a stout girl wins favour with her classmates by cracking self-deprecating jokes about her weight, then decides to try a career in stand-up. Carrey would appear very briefly as a comedian who helps her along, his presence allowing unscrupulous producers to later repackage the movie as Rubberface. The movie was followed by Club Med where Carrey played the goofy buddy of tortured comedian Alan Thicke, the pair seeking fun and frolics at a ski resort where they encounter such star performers as champion skier Jean-Claude Killy and singers Rita Coolidge and Ronnie Hawkins. It was, as you can imagine, desperate stuff. There'd also be a guest appearance as a Jerry Lewis impersonator, alongside Dabney Coleman and Geena Davis in the TV series Buffalo Bill, about a frustrated mid-West talk-show host.

It was all going a little too slow for the ambitious Carrey. No big film roles were coming his way. Joel Schumacher later recalled that he was blown away by Jim's audition for his 1984 comedy DC Cab, but still couldn't hire him, recognising that Carrey's ferocious energy demanded a vehicle all of its own. Still, a breakthrough of sorts came when Jim was taken on as Skip Tarkenton, the star of series The Duck Factory. Here he played a young animator who works on the Dippy Duck Show, suffers from major insecurity and usually bears the brunt of office shenanigans.

Film-wise too things were improving. Richard Lester's Finders Keepers saw him amongst a bunch of oddballs seeking a stashed fortune on a train from California to Nebraska (Beverly D'Angelo and Louis Gossett Jr also featured). Then came his first starring role proper in Once Bitten, a comedy horror movie with Lauren Hutton as a vampire countess who must feed on the blood of a virgin in order to keep her youthful looks - Jim playing her randy victim who thinks he's got lucky with a glamorous older woman then finds himself sleeping all day and feasting on raw meat.

Now making good money, Jim took the opportunity to move his parents from Toronto down to his place in LA. But just as he was looking set fair it all fell away. The movies were failures and the under-rated Duck Factory was canned after a mere 13 episodes. Within a year his money had run out and his parents were proving to be a bind, just mooching about the house, smoking and watching TV. Jim reached such a state of desperation that he began to dream of strangling his mother and started a painting of his father, armed with a stop-watch and a gun, called Waiting Around To Die. Eventually, he was forced to send them back to Toronto - the hardest thing he had ever had to do.

Despite his difficult situation, Carrey's ambitions remained intact. It was now that he took a ride up to Mulholland Drive and looked down over Hollywood, visualising massive stardom for himself. On a piece of file card he replicated a cheque for $10 million, made out to himself and post-dated for Thanksgiving Day, 1995. Incredibly, the visualisation would actually work, and just in time. Only three days before Percy's death, Carrey would be offered $10 million for The Mask 2, delighting his father no end. Carrey would slip the original piece of card into his dad's breast pocket before they closed the coffin.

But that was later. In order to reach his outrageous goal, Carrey knew things would have to change. He ditched his impressions and, reviving the crazy skits from his earlier act (Worm Man being just one of his characters) launched himself on a stranger, zanier course that would later see him compared to Aristophanes and Buster Keaton. The French in particular would consider him a genius, calling him the son of Jerry Lewis and the new Tati.

To get there Carrey began to pull out all the stops. On the comedy circuit he gained a reputation for fearlessness and ruthless upstaging. Guesting on The Arsenio Hall Show he pretended to be overcome by nerves. Stepping shyly out from behind the curtain he stood in apparently terrified silence before the audience as, gradually, a dark stain spread out across his crotch.

With the new act, things were looking up, yet there was still more disappointment to follow. In 1986, he auditioned for Saturday Night Live, alongside Dana Carvey and Phil Hartman. On his way into the NBC building he noticed one of the company's employees up on the NBC sign, threatening to jump. A large crowd was gathered beneath, waiting to see. Not an ideal situation for a comic needing to be at his absolute funniest. Unsurprisingly, Carrey failed the audition - though it's just as likely he wasn't chosen because he would have upstaged the lot of them. There would be further blows when his next two film roles didn't help his career, despite the movies' high profiles. First he played Kathleen Turner's loudmouth classmate and Nic Cage's best friend Walter Getz in Francis Ford Coppola's back-to-the-past comedy Peggy Sue Got Married. Then came a small part in Clint Eastwood's fifth outing as Dirty Harry, The Dead Pool.

Still Carrey persisted. With his stage act ever improving, he was now a prime stand-up draw. He also found love, in 1986 meeting waitress Melissa Womer at a comedy club. They would marry the next year, with Melissa producing a daughter, Jane Erin, soon after.

Two years would pass between The Dead Pool and his next role, but it would be worth the wait. In Earth Girls Are Easy he was Wiploc, one of three aliens (the others being Jeff Goldblum and Damon Wayans) who land in a Californian manicurist's swimming pool, enjoy a cosmetic makeover and proceed to get it on with the hot bikini babes surrounding them. It wasn't a big hit, indeed it wasn't very good, but Carrey did impress his co-star Wayans. This would prove to be his making.

1989 merely brought comedy consolidation, a brief appearance in a Mike Hammer mystery and a short uncredited role in a second Clint Eastwood feature, Pink Cadillac. The new decade, though, would bring outrageous fortune. Unbeknownst to Carrey, Keenan Ivory Wayans was putting together an all-black comedy show, In Living Color, and was looking for a token white guy. At the suggestion of his brother Damon, he chose Jim - an excellent choice for all concerned as Carrey's army of loony characters helped make the show a huge hit when it was launched in 1990. Fire Marshall Bill in particular captured the imagination of the nation, and caused some controversy when the TV authorities noted the dreadful safety advice the accident-prone Bill was dispensing to young children.

As said, In Living Color was a great success and really boosted Carrey who was given his own TV special in 1991. And Carrey would not be the only one to use the show as a springboard. The whole Wayans family would be feted for their efforts, as would Jamie Foxx and Chris Rock. Even the regular dance troupe, The Fly Girls, produced winners in choreographer Rosie Perez and bootie-shaker Jennifer Lopez.

But Carrey would not hit the heights immediately. His first step back into the movies was in a serious role, the first of several attempts at ordinary "acting". This was in the TV film Doing Time On Maple Drive, concerning a severely dysfunctional family hiding behind a veil of niceness - Carrey playing the alcoholic older brother. He'd receive high praise for his role but, because of what happened next, it would be 6 years before he again attempted a full-on dramatic part.

What happened was this. Once In Living Color had established his name, Carrey was offered the script of a movie called Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. It was the kind of vehicle for his idiosyncratic brand of comic mayhem that Joel Schumacher had envisioned years earlier, allowing him to really let rip. At first he was too busy then, in 1992, he agreed to it. For 4 months, after rehearsals for In Living Color, he'd work from midnight till four on the script, perfecting the craziness of Ace Ventura - his first masterpiece.

As the title suggests, Ventura specialised in crimes involving animals and the movie saw him searching first for Snowflake, a dolphin trained to perform tricks at half-time at the upcoming Superbowl, then for kidnapped Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino. Throughout, Carrey would mug wildly, twisting his body into ludicrous shapes and behaving like a snotty child in an adult's body, often using overblown politeness to attack the likes of Dolphins publicist Courteney Cox and copper Sean Young. Despite the beautiful women there was no sexual chemistry here, indeed no hint of sex at all (apart from the odd innocently wicked leer). This was simply Carrey at his childlike best - needy, selfish, smug and hilariously untamed.

Made for just $12 million (of which Jim received $350,000), the film went ballistic at the box office in early 1994, quickly taking over $72 million. Now all those hours spent before the mirror working on his rubberfaced gurning were paying off. A few months later came his next headlining feature - The Mask. Here he was mild-mannered bank clerk Stanley Ipkiss who discovers an ancient mask that's long rested at the bottom of the bay. Putting it on he's transformed into a super-active, wisecracking, all-singing, all-dancing superhero who takes on the Mob while spinning debutante Cameron Diaz around the dancefloor at immensely high speeds. It was another fabulous performance, like a hi-octane Ace Ventura with the childishness replaced by a hint of menace (it was actually intended to be a horror film before the part went to Carrey), and went gold at the box office. It also revealed that love-hate division when Jim was nominated for both a Golden Globe and a Razzie.

As if to prove that he always goes that one step further than anyone else, Jim ended 1994 with a third smash hit, Dumb And Dumber, the movie that broke the Farrelly Brothers. Carrey starred as Lloyd Christmas, a dopey, infantile loser who hangs around with fellow prat Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels), cracking inane jokes and breaking things. Basically, they are child-men, romantic dreamers forever on the edge of puberty, with no hope whatsoever of achieving their grand goals. But, by God are they funny, particularly when chauffeur Carrey drops rich girl Lauren Holly at the airport, picks up the briefcase she's left (full of money for the people who've kidnapped her husband) and feels duty-bound, with Daniels in tow, to deliver the case back to her at her home in Aspen. Surfing across the country on a tsunami of silliness and crudity, they bicker, fight and cause all manner of accidental death before finally forcing a thoroughly bizarre love triangle on poor benighted Holly.

Dumb And Dumber was a classic and another smash hit. Made for $16 million, it netted $246 million world-wide, meaning that 1994 had seen Carrey generate over $550 million. In one year he had gone from token white guy to the biggest film star on the planet. Unsurprising then that High Strung, a movie in which he'd guested back in 1990 found itself a release. This starred and was directed by Steve Oedekerk (soon to direct Carrey in Ace Ventura 2), a Comedy Store pal of Jim's and a writer for In Living Color, the movie being a monologue to camera interrupted by visitors arriving at the door. One would be a young Kirsten Dunst, the last would be Carrey, as Death.

Despite the opportunities now open to him, Jim's success also brought with it a serious loss as his marriage to Melissa Womer broke down. The pair would be finally divorced in 1995, leaving Jim free to wed Lauren Holly, recently divorced from Anthony Quinn's son Danny. Having watched her on TV back in the bad old days when she starred as Julie Rand Chandler in the soap opera All My Children, he'd finally met her on Dumb And Dumber. Indeed he might have met her earlier as, having successfully tested for Courteney Cox's role in Ace Ventura, she turned the part down.

The daughter of university lecturers and with an English Literature degree of her own, Holly was from a very different background to Carrey's. She was also an increasingly busy actress, having just starred as Bruce Lee's wife in Dragon. After Dumb And Dumber she'd move on to Harrison Ford's Sabrina, then played the feisty stewardess brilliantly menaced by Ray Liotta in Turbulence. Under this kind of pressure, it's no wonder the stress quickly told. Married in September 1996, the couple would be divorced by the following July, after a barrage of publicity including tales that Carrey, still in his early thirties, was having to use Viagra to improve a work-crushed libido. Jim's marriage woes would continue to blight him into the next century. In 2003, Womer filed with the Los Angeles Supreme Court, claiming that the $10,000 a month Carrey was paying was not sufficient to meet the needs of young Jane, then pursuing her own career in entertainment.

Now Jim was in the big league and, ever willing to risk it all, stepped up to play The Riddler in Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever (he actually replaced Robin Williams, who'd later replace him in Death To Smoochie). It was another sterling performance, particularly at the beginning when, as suicidal computer geek Edward Nygma, he breaks down and plots revenge upon the world by using a nasty little box to suck the mind from every TV viewer in Gotham City. Such was Carrey's presence that Tommy Lee Jones, as partner-in-crime Two-Face, was forced to pull out all the stops, the pair engaging in the kind of screen-hogging duel seldom seen in modern cinema.

Next came Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, reuniting Carrey with Steve Oedekerk (who'd go on to write the excellent Nutty Professor and Nothing To Lose, as well as Carrey's Bruce Almighty). Here Ace has exiled himself to a Tibetan monastery having, in an outrageous mimicking of Stallone's Cliffhanger, failed to rescue a racoon. Then he's drawn back to find a disappeared bat, the sacred symbol of some African tribe. Naturally, Jim felt the need to top the original and thus achieved the kind of comic anarchy beloved of young audiences. Regurgitating to feed a baby eagle, sticking his arm down a man's throat and climbing out of the bottom of a mechanical buffalo, he went all the way, enjoying another $100 million hit for his pains.

Now came his first huge payday (he received $20 million, the most ever for a comic actor) and his first major cinematic risk. Directed by Ben Stiller, The Cable Guy saw Carrey as a lonely workman who badgers his way into the life of customer Matthew Broderick then turns psychotic when his friendly overtures are rebuffed. Though the part was originally written for Chris Farley, Carrey was again superb, mixing his usual lunacy with hefty doses of a very real pain, culminating in a tragic speech in the middle of an enormous satellite dish. It was a major step on from the burgeoning desperation he brought to Edward Nygma and, of course, audiences didn't go for it at all, the movie being Jim's first significant flop.

Amazingly, it was now claimed that Carrey was in terminal decline. Critics had not liked the way Schumacher had camped up Tim Burton's Batman franchise, When Nature Calls was just a sequel and The Cable Guy had failed at the box office. Hence, so the reasoning went, Jim was finished. Well, that kind of zaniness could only ever have been a flash in the pan. 1994 had been his 15 minutes and that was that. Wasn't it?

Far from it. Carrey's talent proved far more enduring as he bounced back immediately when he re-teamed with Ace Ventura director Tom Shadyac for Liar, Liar. Here he played Fletcher Reede, a lawyer who lies in court, lies to his wife and lies to his young son, disappointing them both constantly. However, when the boy's birthday wish is that this situation change, Carrey finds himself unable to fib for a full 24 hours, casting his life into total confusion. Having had sex with his dominating boss Amanda Donohoe, he's asked how was it for him, "I've had better" jumping from his mouth before he can stop it. Then there's trouble in court as this new truth-telling destroys his defence of an hilariously adulterous Jennifer Tilly.

Back on familiar ground, Carrey tore the place up again, winning a second Golden Globe nomination. Before the awards ceremony, a clearly delighted Jim would quip about his competitors "It's insane . . . I mean, Nicholson, Hoffman, Jackson, Kline - I don't see how I can lose". And audiences reacted well, takings approaching the $200 million mark. Clearly reports of his demise were somewhat exaggerated. But Carrey himself was not comfortable with this situation. Feeling that audiences would eventually grow tired of his manic comedy, he decided to forsake the mindboggling wage packets (he took $12 million rather than the usual 20) to test himself with Peter Weir's The Truman Show. Here he was Truman Burbank, an insurance salesman in a small seaside town, happy with the simple things in this American idyll. What he doesn't know is that his whole life is a lie. Born on TV, he's lived ever since on a huge film-set enclosed within a vast bubble. His wife, his relatives, his friends are all actors under the direction of Ed Harris's Christof, the philosophical, beret-wearing producer of the show, who sees Truman as his son. But sons eventually do not do their father's bidding and Truman gradually, painfully begins to suspect something is going on.

The Truman Show was a superb movie, brilliantly conceived and executed. And Jim, no longer relying on his comedy, was a revelation (well, a revelation to anyone who hadn't watched what he'd done in Batman Forever and The Cable Guy). At last he won a Golden Globe but was seriously miffed that he wasn't nominated for the Oscar, feeling that comedians were unfairly overlooked. Nevertheless, he was soon at it again with Man On The Moon, Milos Forman's biopic of the surreal and confrontational comedian Andy Kaufman (Carrey, who shared Andy's birthday, also owned his bongos and played them for Forman during his audition). Yet again Jim was excellent, managing to bury his own neediness and immerse himself in Kaufman's character (his background in impersonations came in handy) to the extent that Danny DeVito, Kaufman's co-star in the TV series Taxi claimed his performance was "eerie".

The movie was not a huge hit, but Carrey had proved to most (some people just CAN'T like him) that he could really act. He took a second Golden Globe and was yet again ignored by the Academy. He reacted by generating another massive wedge with two comedies in 2000. The first saw him back with the Farrellys for Me, Myself And Irene. Here he was a mild Rhode Island state trooper who lets the world kick him about, his wife for instance delivering him three black babies then dumping him. One of his problems is a split personality that he controls with medication, and this comes to bite him when he's ordered to transport crime suspect Renee Zellweger. Losing his medicine, he flips between good guy and bad guy, both halves of him falling for his young charge and starting an internal war.

Another showcase for Carrey's demented antics and the Farrellys' gross-out humour, it was another big success. Tellingly, though reviews were not great, takings actually improved in its second week. Word-of-mouth had struck again. Jim moved on to Ron Howard's How The Grinch Stole Christmas, playing the misanthropic beast that attempts to ruin festivities in Whoville. His costume and prosthetic makeup was so uncomfortable he received torture resistance advice from a Navy SEAL, but it was all worthwhile. Jim was Golden Globe-nominated for the fifth time and the movie made $260 million at the US box office, selling more tickets than any other movie of 2000.

Just as Carrey's split personalities had both fallen for Renee Zellweger in Me, Myself And Irene, so did the man himself. It seemed a great match - the world's greatest clown and an upcoming comedienne of evident class who'd charmed everyone with her performance opposite Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire. But the massive publicity and Zellweger's extended stay in the UK filming Bridget Jones's Diary put an end to it, the couple splitting at Christmas, 2000, after less than a year together. Jim would later be spotted with actress January Jones and Bolshoi ballerina Anastasiya Volochkova.

Carrey moved on to the Capra-style rom-com The Majestic, directed by Frank Darabont, highly renowned for his Stephen King movies The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Here Jim played Peter Appleton, a blacklisted screenwriter who's called up before the House of Un-American Activities Committee in 1951. Involved in a car accident, he suffers amnesia and ends up in a small town where he's thought to be the MIA soldier son of former cinema owner Martin Landau. Not unlike the French hit The Return Of Martin Guerre, the movie sees the town and its people brought out of post-War depression by the arrival of a possible imposter and, as a devout hymn to America, you'd have thought it would be a major hit. It wasn't.

After the attacks of September 11th, 2001, when Carrey donated $1 million to the families of the dead, he embarked on another period of fierce activity. Deciding against rejoining Joel Schumacher for Phone Booth, he went instead for Tom Shadyac, Steve Oedekerk and Bruce Almighty. Here he played a wannabe TV anchor man, frustrated by his lack of success and fearful of losing his fiancee, sweet kindergarten teacher Jennifer Aniston. Blaming God for all his troubles, he's suddenly visited by the Man Upstairs himself (Morgan Freeman) who gives him divine omnipotence to see if he can do any better. It was extremely charming and amusing stuff, and gave Carrey another $200 million hit (a high return was now imperative as Jim's wage had now risen to $25 million).

After this came Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, another freak-out from the pen of Charlie "Being John Malkovich" Kaufman. Here Jim and Kate Winslet played lovers who endure a tumultuous relationship until Winslet decides to undergo a new-fangled operation to have all memories of their time together erased. Carrey decides to copy her but, in the midst of the op, discovers his earlier passion for Winslet and, from deep within his own mind, tries to stop the process. Naturally, Tom Wilkinson, the inventor behind all this madness, cannot allow this to happen and sends aides Kirsten Dunst (Jim's co-star back in the little-seen High Strung) and Elijah Wood in to get him, the pair pursuing him through his own memories.

Following this would come a film adaptation of the first Lemony Snicket novel, A Series Of Unfortunate Events, where Jim would play Count Olaf, plotting to murder the orphaned kids of a dead distant relative, and constantly changing his appearance in order to get at them, Carrey obviously relishing the chance to play up his wicked side. Then there'd be Fun With Dick And Jane, a remake of the 1977 George Segal/Jane Fonda romp. Here middle-class couple Carrey and Tea Leoni get into money trouble when executive Carrey in caught up in an Enron-style scandal and resort to robbery to maintain their lifestyle. It could have been a successful social satire, but instead went for slapstick as the pair eventually sought revenge on Carrey's cheating boss Alec Baldwin. Nevertheless, Carrey and Leone made a sweet and successful comic pairing.

In some regards, Carrey was settling down. In 2004 he'd become a US citizen - though he'd made it very clear that he was proud to still be Canadian. He'd also form another romantic attachment, at the end of 2005 becoming involved with Playboy playmate turned actress Jenny McCarthy (together the couple would attend the high-profile wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes). Workwise, though, Carrey was spending a great deal of time in pre-production chaos. A much-anticipated Spielberg remake of The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, which would finally place Carrey in the shoes of Danny Kaye, would be held up indefinitely. Used Guys, a sci-fi comedy where Carrey and Ben Stiller would be slave-gigolos on a female-dominated planet, would suffer budget problems, as would Ripley's Believe It Or Not, initially mooted to be directed by Tim Burton.

The next Carrey project that did make it to the screen would be the strange psychological thriller The Number 23, a number historically significant to both the Discordian religion and the likes of Aleister Crowley. Directed by his former Batman Forever helmsman Joel Schumacher, this would see Carrey as a middle-aged dog catcher given a crime novel by wife Virginia Madsen. Reading it, he discovers many similarities between himself and the detective protagonist (who Carrey also plays), and begins to obsess over the titular number, possibly a dominating force in his life. Gradually slipping into madness, he must seek out the book's author to discover the truth about himself and the world, the film becoming both a numerological mystery and a taut family drama. Very different would be his next release, a return to Dr Seuss with the animated Horton Hears A Who where Carrey would voice an elephant who suffers the scorn of his big-eared peers when he claims a speck of dust is actually a tiny, populated world. Originally, Seuss's book was filmed in 1970 as a 26-minute short and was an absolute classic. This new version, like the Grinch, would be vastly extended and, also like the Grinch would feature the town of Whoville - though arguments still rage among Seuss enthusiasts as to whether these Whovilles are one and the same place.

After years of struggle and self-doubt, Jim Carrey is now the world's premier comedian and looks set to remain so for years to come. He has also revealed enough acting ability to show that he may well follow fellow-clown Robin Williams into a successful "serious" career. So you'd better get used to having him around. Love him or hate him (and you must do one or the other), you can't ignore him.

Dominic Wills

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