Venice: Jim Carrey Talks "Psychotic" Journey of Becoming Andy Kaufman

In a new documentary, Carrey says that the late comic took over while filming 'Man on the Moon.'

Behind-the-scenes footage from Jim Carrey's 1999 Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon has been repurposed for a new documentary, premiering at the Venice Film Festival. 

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – The Story of Jim Carrey & Andy Kaufman Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton features footage that was originally shot for an electronic press kit of Man on the Moon.

The new film, assembled nearly two decades later after studio heads had rejected the original project, shows the extensive lengths that Carrey went to become Kaufman, who died in 1984, for the film, and in turn, Kaufman’s alter ego Tony Clifton.

“It was psychotic at times,” said Carrey in Venice, adding that he didn’t leave the character once. He even did a two-hour phone call with Ron Howard (who gamely played along) as Kaufman to give notes on their 2000 pic How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

"Jim Carrey didn’t exist at that time,” he said. “Andy actually affected The Grinch as well.”

Carrey, who believes Kaufman took over while he filmed Man on the Moon, explained, “The true author of the project is Andy and his genius, the fact that he committed so completely to what he did, really made that possible and made it essential for me to lose myself. I don’t feel like I made the film at all. I feel like Andy made the film.”

At one point in the documentary, Carrey as Clifton was tormenting director Milos Forman so much that “Andy” hinted that “Jim” could go back to simply doing impersonations, which Forman declined.

Carrey discussed the line between himself and his characters throughout his work and life. “I feel like my personality was something that I thought was everything to me at the beginning of this incredible journey I’m on. Doing characters for the films, especially with Andy, the realization starts to hit you after awhile that even you are playing the character as a character,” he said. “This [documentary] experience as well kind of draws some realizations especially that there’s a character that is playing me my whole life.

“I think that’s the truth of everybody. There’s an energy that has been given a label and a bunch of ideas about their heritage and about their nationality and all those things that are supposed to be anchors to a boat that doesn’t exist,” he continued. “We spend our life running around looking for anchors. 'Oh, I’m Italian, that’s who I am.' The fact is you don’t exist. You’re nothing but ideas. We take all those ideas and cobble them together and make sort of a personality charm bracelet, an ID bracelet we wear in life. But that’s not who we are, because we’re nothing. And it’s such a fucking relief.”

In the doc, Carrey also discusses how every story he tacked in his films paralleled what was currently happening in his life. He talks about how his impact on Hollywood has been through these authentic experiences. From experiencing a heartbreak before 2004's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which helmer Michel Gondry selfishly asked him to hold onto for a year before the film’s start date) to being constantly watched in real life and in 1998's The Truman Show, Carrey believes that none of his roles were accidental.

Ace Ventura happened because I wanted to destroy Hollywood, not be a part of it. I did it to make fun of the leading man, to make fun of the guy with the answers, the Sherlock Holmes meets Clint Eastwood kind of actor,” he said. “To me, there always has to be a subversive aspect. You don’t have to go far, you just have to go to an honest place. Honesty is subversive. In the city of masks, I hear it said that most of us are wearing one, and when somebody is authentic, it becomes very difficult for everyone to wear their masks. They start to really look at masks.”

Carrey also admitted that he is hoping to step behind the camera one day. “I’ve thought about it many times. It probably will happen at a certain point,” he said. “I would like to direct at some point if I wasn’t acting in the film.”