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During Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, Jim Carrey speaks about a time when he stood in front of the paparazzi-flocked Los Angeles restaurant The Ivy, paused and said nothing. The photogs, unaccustomed to a celebrity acting so nonchalantly in front of their flashing bulbs, didn’t know how to react, Carrey recalled. So when the actor walked onto the stage after a New York screening of the Chris Smith documentary and stood still, staring out into the crowd somewhat awkwardly after they took their seats from a standing ovation, it seemed like the actor was once again testing his audience.
The doc, which has the full title, Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond — Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton, explores how Carrey lost himself during a two-yearlong method acting process to play late comedian Andy Kaufman for the 1999 biopic Man on the Moon. During filming, Carrey embodied Kaufman, and his alter ego Clifton, with such dedication that the cast (including co-stars Danny DeVito, Courtney Love and Paul Giamatti), crew and even Kaufman’s family only referred to the actor as Andy or Tony, depending on the day. Jim & Andy explores Carrey’s acting process through interviews with the actor now and never-before-seen video footage from the set, filmed nearly 20 years ago.
The on-set footage, shot by Kaufman’s girlfriend Lynn Margulies and comedy partner Bob Zmuda, was an idea of Carrey’s, as he wanted to use the documentary-like footage as the press kit for the movie. As Carrey explains in the film, however, Universal Studios told director Milos Forman the footage was unusable because they didn’t want people to think Carrey was an “asshole.”
When Carrey did finally take his seat at the post-screening panel, held Tuesday at the Museum of Modern Art, the actor was joined by Smith and producers Spike Jonze and former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, who was in the audience and called to the stage by the group. Carrey explained that he had initially wanted the footage out there right away, but instead had been “resigned to watching it over and over again, naked in a chair,” while it sat in his personal archives. “I wanted people to see the movie and wanted people to see what was happening during the making of the film. But Universal was really nervous about that, and my persona,” he said with a laugh. But many years later, Jonze eventually told Carrey, “I could do something about it, maybe,” and asked for him to send over the videos.
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