Damn, I lost control again. To him.
–Jim Carrey, “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond”
There is method acting, and then there is flat-out spiritual possession. The Netflix documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond gave an extensive behind-the scenes look at the making of the 1999 bio-pic Man On The Moon, starring Jim Carrey as the late iconoclastic comedian Andy Kaufman—and Carrey’s approach to the role was “unique,” to say the least.
By the end of this documentary you may not have been able to say with 100% certainty that Carrey was possessed by the spirit of Kaufman during the making of this film. But you would have been convinced that something indeed had happened.
Anyone following Carrey’s trippy public public appearances and statements over the last year will be given some much-needed context with Jim & Andy. Long story short: Carrey took his “method acting” so far with Man On The Moon that people on the set were seriously wondering if he indeed had a complete mental breakdown.
Either a breakdown…or he was putting everyone on. Just like Kaufman.
My take on it? I’ll refer to probably one of the most genuinely uncomfortable scenes in the documentary, where Carrey, in full Kaufman regalia, stares into space and speaks in a monotone about Carrey himself as if he was no longer present.
He’s afraid if he gets healthy, he won’t have creativity…
Watching that scene it is clear that “something” went down with Carrey at that moment. Call it a nervous breakdown, call it “channeling” Kaufman (or something “Kaufman-like,” as I will explain shortly), call it a full-on possession…that was not a put-on. That was some 100% creepy shit.
And by calling it “creepy,” I mean no disrespect to Carrey. But I do question the healthiness of setting out to get so “method” playing a real-life person, as Carrey originally set out to do. Think about it: as an actor you are paid great amounts of money to essentially perform sustained dissociation. And you perform this sustained dissociation often on little sleep, surrounded by an environment filled with alcohol, drugs, and other temptations.
From the very beginning, Carrey made it 100% clear that he genuinely thought he was spiritually communicating with Kaufman–claiming to have talked to his ghost “telepathically.” He was given various personal effects of Kaufman’s (including one that has his blood on it) that he wears. He insisted on acting only like Kaufman (and Kaufman’s negative alter-ego Tony Clifton) on-set—he would not respond to being called “Jim” even by the movie’s director Milos Forman.
Carrey’s journey living within/through Kaufman went so far that he constantly picked fights with Kaufman’s wrestling arch-enemy Jerry Lawler, even when the cameras weren’t rolling. As they say, “shit got real”—with Lawler getting constantly provoked by Carrey almost to the point (and a little past the point) of committing violence.
Lawler told an interviewer how confused he was that Carrey would fuck with him “for real” like that…as he claimed Kaufman and him, back in the 1970s, were only doing a “routine” and that the comedian was usually polite to him.
This brings me to question what exactly Carrey was “channeling” on that movie set back then. If the real Kaufman wouldn’t pick fights with Lawler off-camera…but Carrey would…
…was it indeed Kaufman that Carrey was channeling?
Or was it some…”idea” of Kaufman? Some…essence?
Something…that wasn’t really Andy Kaufman? But…something?
Another interesting aspect of Jim & Andy is Carrey—being interviewed for the documentary last year, with his famous grey beard—basically admitting what I postulated in my post “The Jim Carrey Saga Part 1: Hollywood’s Shaman”—that virtually all of his movies had a deep spiritual connection to some aspect of him, an “absolute manifestation of my consciousness at that time.”
He particularly singles out The Truman Show (1998) as basically representing his conception of reality, saying the film “really became a prophecy for me.”
…this is the dome; it isn’t real. This is the story you create.
And in life you create what he refers to as the “avatar”—the “role,” if you will—and the rest of one’s life is involves a decision whether or not to “peel away” that avatar…
…being yourself & facing the abyss as to whether that’s okay with everyone else.
Playing so many different roles—so deeply “channeling” them—did Carrey ever feel OK with himself? Is that why his movie output slowed so dramatically by the mid-2010s?
2017’s Carrey ends Jim & Andy by asking:
I wonder what would happen if I just decided to be Jesus?
He was referencing (I think) this idea of taking on other roles/avatars. But it was also a call-back to an earlier comment he made regarding Kaufman’s reality-bending almost “trollish” brand of comedy. Carrey felt that whether a person found Kaufman’s comedy funny or off-putting was a necessary “weeding out” of the normies from the those mundanes who took everything so literally; and that this had a parallel with the “this wafer is my flesh, and this wine my blood” speech of Jesus.
But did Carrey maintain that playful sort of non-literal attitude towards himself and his work on projects like Man On The Moon?
Or did he let himself become utterly consumed, as his character Walter Sparrow did in the 2007 movie The Number 23?
Whatever the case, by the end of the documentary I got the same feeling I had watching some of his more colorful recent public appearances…he’s done with all of it. He’s ready to cast off the Avatar.