Jim, obviously Bruce Almighty takes you back to your roots, both comedically and working with Tom Shadyac and Steve Oedekerk. Coming from a string of dramatic pictures, most recently The Majestic, one has to wonder whether you prefer comedy or drama.
Carrey: I like being creative, basically, period. I mean we (looks at Shadyac) have a blast. We always have a blast when we get together. Whether we’re doing a movie or we’re locked in a cabin somewhere in Alaska, stripping each other of our, what was it, our main mode of operandi? We had a very strange game we played up in Alaska last time we were there, where he wasn’t allowed to control and I wasn’t allowed to say ‘me’ or ‘I.’ We had nothing to say to each other.
Shadyac: I’m a director and he’s an actor.
Carrey: It was hilarious.
So was it at all important to you after The Majestic to go back to your comedic roots and why this particular script?
Carrey: I think it’s important never to look a gift horse in the mouth and never to overlook your talents– what you’re good at– and so I really don’t consider that. Tom comes and says, ‘We have this concept that’s really cool,’ and I say, ‘Wow, that sounds like a blast,’ and we get to sit in a room together again– Steve Oedekerk included– and hash it out like we did with ‘Ace’ and ‘Liar Liar.’ It just sounds like a great creative challenge to me, so it doesn’t matter whether it’s dramatic or comedic to me.
There’s a certain aspect of your character’s professional life– not being taken seriously in the news world– that seems to hit a little too close to home. Does Bruce’s rant about how he’s never taken seriously and always has to go back and do the funny, entertaining piece to make people happy depend on precisely the fact that you’ve been trying to do drama and now almost seem forced to go back into comedy?
Carrey: Everybody has those thoughts, you know, creatively. Like ‘Oh, will I be accepted doing different things,’ and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to do a lot of different things, so I feel very good that way. But it is a great story line and a great character trait. We all kind of like face, you know, how do we define ourselves, and I don’t have that many limits on myself. Maybe some other people will try to limit me, but I’ll never limit myself. I think this movie is more about somebody being grateful for what they have. Sitting in front of a banquet table and saying, ‘Hey, there’s no grapes,’ you know, that kind of thing and saying, ‘I can’t eat this without the grapes’ or whatever it is… I just think it’s about appreciating what you have as well as exploring.
Over the years you have obviously become known for your improvisational skills. What percentage, if any, was improv on Bruce Almighty?
Carrey: Ninety-nine point nine percent, just right off the top of my head.
Shadyac: I’ll answer part of that and let Jim go because I think the mistake that most people make is to think that, because Jim is so creative and he has this genius about him that– see how I suck up, by the way?– but he is so creative that you just put Jim in a room like this with another actor and you say ‘improv.’ No, this is very carefully thought out. Jim and I and Steve Oedekerk, we go through every scenario. It’s not unusual for Jim and I and Steve to take a whole day to write one joke. And then based on that structure and that well thoughtfulness, Jim gets to go. It’s really a well thought out process. Based on that structure, Jim gives us 20 options that may not have been there had we not had that day to sit there and think about that scene.
Carrey: You have to know what you’re doing going in and then hopefully you think of 50 other ideas as you’re doing it, and it’s always been a combination of everything.
Shadyac: This is going to be on this movie, Jim and I decided we’re going to let people in a little bit into the process because we’ve done this so many times together.
For instance, right now my hand is on my groin. You might not know that. It keeps me up and ready to answer the questions.
Shadyac: But you’ll see when you get the DVD how we literally have 20 options. For example, when Jim lit the candles in this movie, you know with God’s powers there’s 20 options that we have again, based on improvisation and also forethought.
It seems like an interesting evolution in the way the concept of God is portrayed on film. In the fifties we had the Bible’s version…
Carrey: I loved all those movies, by the way. Loved those movies! “The Ten Commandments,” “The King of Kings” and all that stuff. Great.
… but now we see him like he’s just like a regular guy. Do you think this says anything about the way society views the concept of God and spirituality?
Carrey: We’ve always tried to humanize Him in some way. He’s probably just, you know, a shaft of light in a doorway or something like that. How’s that for poetry?
Shadyac: Yes, it’s beautiful.
Carrey: You want to kiss me now, don’t you?
Shadyac: Yes, I do.
Carrey: But we’ve always tried to personalize Him, so to me I think I wanted God in this thing to be the guy whose absolutely dignified and has this austere quality and this kind of no-nonsense-ness to Him, but at the same time has a sense of humor. Because God made our sense of humor. And that’s what we don’t get a lot of, you know, is God kind of messing with your head? And I loved that Morgan (Freeman) was able to totally come out of that thing that he does so well and mess with my character and be silly. Reduce himself.
The interview continues in part three of JIM CARREY COMES UNDONE>>>