- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 22, 2000

NEW YORK

''You probably have a whole number planned on me right now," Jim Carrey says, suddenly self-conscious during an interview. Then, adopting the voice of a writerly alter ego, he offers his suspicions about how an article on him might come out:

"He seemed to talk about psychology a lot… . Maybe he was worried… . He's a Zelig-type person."

Fact is, he does talk more than a little about psychology, really doesn't seem all that worried about what might get into print and concedes that he is Zelig-like.

In his latest movie, "Me, Myself & Irene," the 38-year-old actor shows some of the chameleon qualities of Woody Allen's famous character, but they're two sides of the same man a Rhode Island state trooper who suffers from split-personality disorder. After years of being treated like a doormat by everyone and making Barney Fife look like a stand-up guy, the trooper finally snaps. Unless on medication, he's foul-mouthed, hard-drinking and hot to trot.

Mr. Carrey says he can relate all too well to the character and his niceness-to-a-fault.

"It's familiar territory to me," he says. "My father and myself. This just runs in our family … me not so much anymore."

"I was real aware of it growing up. My dad was just the sweetest guy in the world and would give you the shirt off his back and then blister up in the sun that kind of a guy. But you know, every once in a while, I'd see him kind of lose it, because he didn't express his stuff."

Mr. Carrey says he no longer sublimates his rage that way.

"I try to tell people when I'm upset or when they're doing something that's intrusive or whatever it is, and it just makes things a lot easier, a lot more even."

How did he manage to break the pattern?

"Years of combing the self-help section," he says. "I've always been fascinated with psychology and why people are motivated to act the way they do. That's why I'm an actor."

This is when Mr. Carrey begins to wonder how he's sounding as he discusses that kind of "between-the-lines stuff."

He quickly spins out of it, though, when asked about moving back into comedy after two films that showed his serious acting chops, "The Truman Show" and "Man on the Moon."

For one thing, he doesn't want to be predictable. "It's about throwing the hounds off the trail," he says.

It's also about appealing to a lot of different people. "I'm not necessarily looking to drag the same audience to each movie… . I am a Zelig-type of person in that respect."

In "Man on the Moon," the biopic about comedian Andy Kaufman, Mr. Carrey subsumed himself in the character to the point that director Milos Forman said: "I really can say that I never worked with Jim Carrey. I worked with Andy, Tony (Kaufman's cheesy lounge-lizard character) and Kaufman's other characters Latka, Elvis and Foreign Man."

After that, Mr. Carrey and the Farrelly brothers, who worked together on 1994's "Dumb and Dumber," agreed to reunite for "Me, Myself & Irene," and Peter Farrelly recalls telling him:

"Listen, man. Why don't you look at this as a vacation? Just have fun and go home at night and be yourself."

Bobby Farrelly said Mr. Carrey didn't have to go through such intense method acting for their movie, "though he did fall in love with Irene in this one."

(Mr. Carrey and co-star Renee Zellweger are an item, but despite what has been reported, Mr. Carrey says he hasn't gotten her a ring.)

Both Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the directing-writing team who also made "Kingpin" and "There's Something About Mary," say they are glad to see Mr. Carrey back in a silly comedy.

"It's kind of ironic that he got a lot of attention for 'Man on the Moon' and 'The Truman Show' but, truthfully, 50 people could have done 'The Truman Show.' Nobody could have done this but Jim. There's just nobody that could pull it off all of the physical stuff," Peter Farrelly says.

The brothers predict Mr. Carrey will continue to try throwing the hounds off the scent by making unpredictable career choices.

"I think he'll probably go back and forth from now on," Bobby Farrelly says. "It'd be a shame if he didn't do comedy at all anymore. He's just too good at it."

After a notable run as "the white guy" on the Fox sketch-comedy program "In Living Color," the tall, lanky Mr. Carrey, with his Gumby-like body, became a movie star in 1994 with "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," then "The Mask" and "Dumb and Dumber."

He broke through the $20-million-a-movie salary barrier, then stumbled with "The Cable Guy," a box-office disappointment that critics excoriated.

He won back-to-back best-actor Golden Globes for "The Truman Show" and "Man on the Moon" but was snubbed by the Academy Awards both times.

Next, he's returning to a serious role in "Phone Booth," a thriller directed by Joel Schumacher about a man who picks up a ringing phone and is told by a caller with a sniper rifle that he'll be shot if he hangs up.

"It's a story about crucifixion and salvation basically what we all have to go through if we really want to deal with our mistakes," Mr. Carrey says. "It will not be 'Fun Jim Carrey Guy.' I will be the guy facing his own demise and his own self-realization."

Come fall, his live- action rendering of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" will hit theaters, and he says the trick to playing the Dr. Seuss character was realizing the Grinch was hurt not a mean, angry troll.

"I love exploring this stuff," he says, reverting to his psychological ruminations. "I love figuring out what a character's made of, why he might be the way he is. It's fascinating stuff."

It's not hard to figure out why Mr. Carrey says he's conservative with his investments and why he believes in hard work and saving.

His financially strapped background is well-known: His father lost his job when Mr. Carrey was 13, and he, his parents and two of his three older siblings took jobs as janitors and security guards at a factory near his hometown of Jackson's Point, Ontario. Eventually, they lived out of a van and a tent pitched on the lawn of his sister's home.

A ninth-grade dropout, Mr. Carrey started stumping the stand-up circuit when he was 15, and despite it all, he says warmly that most of what he has achieved resulted from his parents' encouragement.

"They didn't call what I was doing 'stupid.' They'd say it was creative and funny… . I love my background," he says.

If life puts some boulders in your way, that's OK, he says.

"That's what life is: like Navy SEAL training."

Anything that's "adversive" makes you a better person, he says.

Adversive? "I just made a new word. Look at that."

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