Thanks to his over-the-top antics and endless energy, Jim Carrey was one of Hollywood’s leading men from the mid-1990s onward. He experienced an explosive rise to fame with blockbuster hits such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb and Dumber, and The Mask.
After no time, he became a bonafide hitmaker whose films regularly topped the box office. But, as time went on, Jim’s comedic façade began to fade. Audiences learned that there was more to Jim than funny impressions and silly faces. Like many comedic geniuses, Jim had a dark side to him.
From his rocky childhood to his tumultuous relationships and sometimes questionable method acting, here’s an inside look at the untold truth about Jim Carrey.
Problems at Home
Jim grew up in a small town just 30 miles north of Toronto. His father, Percy, had dreams of becoming a saxophone player, but he took a job as a bookkeeper to make ends meet. When Jim was younger, he noticed that his father would have major mood swings. Some days Percy acted like he was on top of the world, but other days he was down in the dumps.
His mother, Kathleen, had her own set of problems. She grew up with alcoholic parents and would numb her childhood pain with painkillers. At a young age, Jim felt responsible for his parents’ happiness. “I remember having this actual thought when I was seven or eight years old,” Jim said. “I’m going to prove to my mother that I’m a miracle, and her life is worth something.”
A Natural Performer
Jim Carrey is a natural performer, but that’s because he started entertaining at such a young age. When Jim was little, his mother Kathleen was often sick and didn’t feel like getting out of bed, so he would do his best to make her smile. He would go into her room and start jumping around or make an impression of a praying mantis, anything that would cheer her up.
But Jim wanted to be more than just the family clown. He wanted to make audiences around the world laugh. When Jim was ten years old, he wrote to Carol Burnett, telling her that he was a master at impressions and asked to be featured on her show. The Carol Burnett Show formally declined, but Jim was happy just to get a response.
Terrified of the Grim Reaper
Growing up, Jim’s parents were heavy smokers, and he was always scared that they were going to die in the middle of the night. Jim even remembers locking himself in the bathroom to cry because the thought of them passing away, scared him so much.
It didn’t help Jim’s situation that his mom frequently spoke about her own mortality. “I remember being seven years old and my mother at the dinner table saying things like, ‘My brain is deteriorating at an incredible rate!’” Jim told The Hollywood Reporter. It took Jim a few years, but he came to grips with his mother’s comments about mortality. Jim realized that it was her own way of getting attention and love from her family.
A Comedy Dream
Despite his parents’ struggles, or maybe even because of them, Jim still had dreams of becoming a comedian when he entered his teen years. It was actually his father who encouraged him to start performing at Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club in downtown Toronto. But, as funny as Jim was, he bombed his first gig at the club.
According to Jim, all of the other comedians were dark and down about life, but here he was a fourteen-year-old kid in a yellow polyester suit doing impressions of Sammy Davis Jr. Not only did the audience not laugh, but they walked out of the building while Jim was mid-set. Jim kept his composure during his sets, but he would leave the building and cry on his way home. This public failure kept him from performing for almost two years.
High School Dropout
When Jim was a teenager, his father lost his job as a bookkeeper and was forced to work as a security guard at a Titan Wheels factory. The family moved into a farmhouse next to the factory, but they were allowed to live there on one condition: that Jim and his brother John work the 8-hour night shift at the factory as well.
So five days a week, Jim would go to school during the day and work as a janitor at night. Polishing bathroom floors and cleaning toilets left Jim exhausted, and his grades and morale suffered as a result. He was scared to make friends out of fear that they would find out about his living situation. At 16 years old, Jim officially dropped out of high school.
Family That Sticks Together
Working the graveyard shifts at the Titan Wheels factory was physically and emotionally draining for the Carrey family. Their working conditions were hard, their house was cramped, and there was often hostility between the Carreys and the other factory workers. By 1978, Jim and his family left their jobs at the factory. This meant, however, that their agreement with the factory owner was over, forcing Jim and his family out onto the streets.
Jobless and homeless, the Carrey family moved into their Volkswagen camper van. “It sounds sad,” Jim said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, “but we were so much happier than we’d been being those people we didn’t like.” Jim and his family felt like a huge burden was lifted off their shoulders, and they became a loving and happy family again.
Back on Stage
Soon, the Carreys began to get their lives together. Percy found a job, and the family moved into a new home. With more stability, Jim was able to focus only on his comedy. Percy, whom Jim often refers to as a “stage mom,” began driving him to open-mic nights all around town. “He always pushed me since I was a little kid, like a stage mother,” Jim said. “I still have the disease. All I can think about is the frame and how to fill it.”
In a very short amount of time, Jim went from performing at open-mic nights to working regular, paid shows. Eventually, Jim caught the eye of veteran comedian Rodney Dangerfield while performing one night at Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club in Toronto. Rodney liked Jim’s material and invited him to perform as his opening act in Las Vegas.
In Living Color
After his gig as Rodney Dangerfield’s opening act in Las Vegas, Jim had dreams of making it big. So he moved to Los Angeles and started booking gigs at comedy clubs in the area. After failing an audition for Saturday Night Live, Jim finally caught his big break as a regular cast member in the sketch comedy television series In Living Color.
From 1990 to 1994, Jim acted alongside Jamie Foxx and the Wayans Brothers, establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with. Soon, the big screen offers started rolling in. In 1994, Jim had thee blockbuster hits: The Mask, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and Dumb and Dumber. Within just one year, Jim was cashing eight-figure paychecks.
Trouble in Paradise
When Jim first moved to Los Angeles, he scored a gig at the infamous Comedy Store in West Hollywood. There he met and fell in love with a waitress named Melissa Womer. Melissa soon became pregnant and gave birth to Jim’s only daughter, Jane Carrey. Struggling to make ends meet, both Jim and Melissa worked two jobs, but as soon as Jim hit it big in Hollywood, he left her for someone else.
Melissa accused Jim of lying about their separation date to avoid paying her half of his $7 million paycheck from The Mask. While Melissa was struggling to keep it together for the couple’s daughter, Jim was involved in a very public affair with his Dumb and Dumber co-star, Lauren Holly.
Welcome to Hollywood
Jim and Lauren met in 1994 during auditions for Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Although Lauren wasn’t offered a part in the film, she and Jim formed a relationship that turned romantic while he was filming his next movie, Dumb and Dumber. The couple married in 1996, but their marriage was short-lived. In a TV interview with George Stroumboulopoulos, Lauren shared that their relationship catapulted her into the tabloid limelight.
Paparazzi began to scale the couple’s fence and even went as far as to report on what was in their garbage. Lauren shared that Jim would have fun with the photographers and would dress in a full clown suit to get the morning paper. Eventually, the couple became so consumed with escaping nosey paparazzi that their relationship eventually deteriorated. After eight months of marriage, Jim and Lauren divorced.
A String of Relationships
After Jim’s second divorce, he had a string of short-lived but high-profile relationships. He dated his Me, Myself, & Irene co-star, Renée Zellweger, from 1999 to 2000. He was also linked to actress January Jones, Danish model Anine Bing, and Russian ballet dancer Anastasia Volochkova.
Sources close to the actor have shared that Jim can be a hard guy to date. “Jim can run hot, and he can run cold. He is someone who desperately needs to be with someone, then just as desperately needs to be alone,” the source said. “But at the same time, he can be a very loving, very compassionate guy.” Jim has also admitted that his battle with depression cast a shadow over all of his romantic relationships.
Not As Happy As We Thought
After a string of short-lived relationships, Jim finally seemed to have met his match. In 2005, he met actress and former Playmate Jenny McCarthy, and, like Jim’s past relationships, the couple was a tabloid favorite. For five years, Jenny and Jim were considered to have one of the most fun-loving relationships in Hollywood. From hiring a plane to write love messages in the sky, to publicly supporting the birth of Jim’s grandson, Jenny and Jim were the picture-perfect Hollywood couple.
But, in 2010, the pair abruptly parted ways, leaving everyone stunned. The pair looked so happy to everyone on the outside, and it wasn’t immediately clear to the public why the couple split. But, as time went on, one thing became clear: the lovebirds’ carefree, fun-filled relationship had a dark side.
A Dark Side
The public speculated about what led to the couple’s seemingly amicable split. Was it Jim’s depression? The stress of having an autistic son? Or something more benign, like differences in opinion when it came to the press? Jenny finally cleared the air when she appeared on Oprah a few months after the couple announced their split.
“When it’s not fun anymore, you need to start investigating and do an inquiry into the relationship,” she says. “You usually see fights happening a little bit more frequently.” But two years later, the couple’s split wasn’t so amicable anymore. Jenny appeared on the Howard Stern Show and accused Jim of abandoning her autistic son, Evan, who was only three years old when the couple started dating.
It All Comes Down
Jim’s history of tumultuous relationships continued when he started dating makeup artist Cathriona White in 2012. The couple dated on and off until Cathriona took her own life in 2015. Jim told reporters that he was “shocked and deeply saddened” by his ex-girlfriend’s death and even served as a pallbearer at her funeral. However, days after she was laid to rest, the White family sued Jim for wrongful death.
They believed that he was the reason why Cathriona took her own life. The actor then countersued because he felt that the White family’s wrongful death claims were extortion, and he had nothing to do with her death. The dispute was very public and gave audiences an insight into their rocky and sometimes toxic relationship.
A Trail of Letters
Before she died, Cathriona left notes around her house about how she was sad about the breakdown of their relationship. She also told friends that she was in love with Jim, but their relationship was like a rollercoaster, and she felt like Jim was slipping away from her once again. Cathriona also accused Jim of introducing her to a life of drugs and mental abuse.
In one of her notes, the makeup artist echoed some of Jim’s prior partners’ concerns when she wrote, “You did good things for me, but being with you broke me down as a person, Jim. I was promised Jekyll, and instead, I got Hyde.” She also accused Jim of giving her a sexually transmitted disease, which has since been proven to be false.
Ruffling Some Feathers
It wasn’t just romantic relationships that Jim had problems with, he also had rocky work relationships. Actor Tommy Lee Jones reportedly hated working with the actor during the 1995 batman installment, Batman Forever. The relationship was so tumultuous that even when Jim tried to be nice, Tommy refused to reciprocate.
The night before shooting their biggest scene together, Jim randomly ran into Tommy at a restaurant. Wishing to clear the air, Jim walked up to Tommy to say hi, but, as he approached, Jim could see the blood draining from his face. “He said, ‘I hate you. I really don’t like you,’” Jim shared in an interview. “And I said, ‘What’s the problem?’ and pulled up a chair, which probably wasn’t smart. And he said, ‘I cannot sanction your buffoonery.'”
He’s Just Jealous
Jim was a goofy character and was known to make everyone laugh on set, that is everyone but Tommy. Batman Forever came directly after Jim’s three blockbuster hits: The Mask, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and Dumb and Dumber, and the way Jim walked around set like he owned the place seemed to really bother Tommy.
It wasn’t just the way Jim was treated off camera. “Tommy is, and I say this with great respect, a scene-stealer,” director Joel Schumacher said. “Well, you can’t steal the scene from Jim Carrey. It’s impossible. And I think it irked Tommy.” Jim, however, has a different theory. He believes that Tommy had a problem with the comedic direction of the film and not with him.
The Real Grinch on Set
World-renowned makeup artist, Kazuhiro Tsuji, is the man behind countless special effects looks for films such as Men in Black, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Darkest Hour. However, the time he spent working on How the Grinch Stole Christmas was something out of a nightmare. Kazuhiro said Jim was really mean to everyone on set.
He would just suddenly disappear and then completely destroy the set, throwing a wrench in a very tight shooting schedule. Jim was also forced to undergo eight and a half hours of makeup every day, and it became so demanding that Kazuhiro couldn’t take it anymore. Kazuhiro stepped away from the project for a few days to clear his head and he started therapy a few days after the film wrapped.
Man on the Moon
Jim caused a stir during many other productions, but nothing compared to his time filming the 1999 biographical comedy-drama, Man on the Moon. Jim portrayed comedian and entertainer Andy Kaufman, who was known for his experimental and quirky comedy. To prepare for the role, Jim decided to transform into the comedian by staying in character for nearly four months, both on and off-screen.
He acted like Andy, spoke like Andy, and even wanted to be called Andy during the film’s production. Even after director Milos Forman yelled cut, or when Andy’s father visited the set, Jim never broke character. It was mesmerizing, but often freaky for everyone on set to see how committed Jim was to transform himself into the late-comedian.
Where Would Andy Be?
In the Netflix documentary, Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, Jim claimed that he was, in fact, possessed by Andy while sitting on the beach in Malibu. It all started after Jim drove to the beach after hearing that he was cast for the role. He looked out to the water and asked himself, “Where would Andy Be?” Jim convinced himself that Andy would be trying to communicate with him telepathically.
So Jim began to concentrate and almost immediately, he says, nearly 30 dolphins poked their heads out of the water. Then, out of nowhere, Andy appeared, tapped Jim on the shoulder, and said, “Sit down. I’ll be doin’ my movie.” From then on, Jim claimed, everything was out of his control.
Always the Prankster
The only time Jim didn’t want to be called Andy was when he was channeling troublemaker Tony Clifton, Andy’s alter ego. When Jim acted as Tony, he caused quite the ruckus on set. One time, Jim put a paper bag over his head and crashed a red convertible into a wall while yelling, “I got it! I got it!”
Another time, he marched over to Steven Spielberg’s production company, Amblin, to complain about the movie Jaws. “I would like to see the real shark,” he said. “This shark is a phony shark!” Jim also took to smoking and drinking heavily and even passed out in his trailer after finishing a bottle of Jack Daniels. Crew members found him and had to carry him outside to get some fresh air.
The most interesting aspect of Jim’s method acting, however, was the way that Andy’s family accepted the actor. When Andy’s parents and siblings visited the Man on the Moon set, Jim remained in character. Oddly enough, the family accepted Jim’s method of acting and interacted with him as Andy.
“He wasn’t being shticky when he was being Andy with us,” Carol Kaufman-Kerman told Newsweek. “He was almost trying to give us a gift. He was giving us a gift.” Jim even met with Andy’s biological daughter, who only found out who her father was ten years after Andy’s death. Jim invited her to the set and had a long conversation with her that consisted of them, “telling each other that they love each other.”
Returning to Jim
Jim didn’t break character for nearly four months while shooting Man on the Moon. While audiences consider Jim’s portrayal of Andy his best performance to date, Jim was never quite the same after filming wrapped. Jim completely lost himself in the role, and, when it was time to come out of character, he had forgotten what it meant to be Jim Carrey.
How did Jim talk, walk, and react? While some people don’t understand why Jim went to such great lengths to play a character, Jim explains that he wanted to pay tribute to the late comedian. His method of acting allowed him to channel Andy in a way that was not only true to his character but preserved his legacy.
The Role That Almost Wasn’t
Jim has played many memorable roles over the years, but he wasn’t always the director’s first choice. In one of Jim’s best movies, Dumb and Dumber, he plays Lloyd Christmas, but it turns out that the only reason Jim got the role was because actor Steve Martin turned it down. Our apologizes to Steve Martin, but we cannot picture anyone else better suited for the role than Jim.
The actor was also the second string pick for the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The film’s director actually offered the role of Joel to Nicholas Cage, who turned it down. Although Nicholas would have done a good job, fans definitely stand behind Jim’s performance.
The 1994 film The Mask was one of the reasons why Jim was such a blockbuster success. Many people don’t know this, but the iconic yellow suit that his character wears has a special story behind it. It was actually modeled after the yellow polyester suit that Jim’s mother made for his stand-up comedy shows back when he was a teenager.
Kathleen wasn’t the only one who inspired Jim. His father, Percy, also made his mark on one of Jim’s most memorable films. Anyone who has seen the 1997 film Liar Liar knows about the claw. It was one of the most endearing parts of the entire film and was actually based on a gimmick that Percy would do with Jim and his siblings when they were younger.
Finding His Voice
Jim is known for his crazy, over-the-top characters, like his role as Ace Ventura in the 1994 film Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. To find the correct voice for Ace, Jim combined several past characters’ voices that he had created. Some were from his stand-up comedy days, while others were inspired by characters from his sketch comedy TV show, In Living Color.
Ace Ventura’s infamous catchphrase, “Alrighty then!” also has roots in Jim’s past. It turns out that Jim took this phrase from his stand-up days, and there are even YouTube videos of the actor using the phrase. The “Alrightly then!” phrase was so catchy that people couldn’t stop saying it after watching the film for the first time.
Man of Many Talents
If fans had to pick the funniest scene from Dumb and Dumber, many would pick the scene where Lloyd and Harry pick up Mental and relentlessly annoy him in the car. While Jim’s “most annoying sound in the world” is hands down the film’s funniest bit, many people don’t know that the iconic scene was actually improvised on the spot.
While Jim is known for his improv skills and most directors encouraged it, one director, in particular, told Jim that he was not allowed to improvise. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Jim was told that he had to stick with the script, while the rest of his co-stars were routinely encouraged to improvise on the spot.
Any film that cast Jim was an instant hit, but, by 2010, audiences saw less and less of the actor. Many critics believe that Jim had a way of polarizing his audience, and producers never knew if people were going to love or hate him. The actor’s over-the-top comedy worked well in some roles but failed him in others.
The Top Ten website ranks Jim as the 47th worst actor of all time, but the comments range from “I can’t stand this guy” to “He’s hilarious! Why is he on this list?” Many film producers and studios don’t want to take on the risk of their film flopping because of a casting choice, so they continuously chose not to cast him.
Show Me the Money
For most of Jim’s career, any movie he starred in instantly became a blockbuster hit. His 2003 film Bruce Almighty raked in a whopping $484 million worldwide, while The Mask and How the Grinch Stole Christmas made $351 million and $345 million, respectively. But, as the years went by, Jim’s movies made less and less money.
His 2013 film The Incredible Burt Wonderstone only brought in $30 million on a $27 million budget, meaning that the film only made a $3 million profit. Studios and producers want to cast actors whom they know will bring in the big bucks before filming a big-budget film. Unfortunately, Jim no longer fits in that category, and studios don’t want to take the risk.
Taking a Break
After his filmography began to thin in the 2010s, Jim took a step back from his post as a leading man in Hollywood films. While critics believe that the reasoning behind Jim’s career slowdown is because studios don’t want to cast him, Jim says that it actually stems from his own decisions.
“I just didn’t want to be in the business anymore,” Jim said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “I didn’t like what was happening, the corporations taking over and all that.” Even with his return to show business in the Showtime show, Kidding, Jim says that he didn’t come back with the same enthusiasm. These days, Jim prefers to be known for his budding career as a political painter.