- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 18, 2000

Jim Carrey, who plays the Grinch in the new movie "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," calls the experience "a real lesson in Zen."

The hyperkinetic comedic actor is referring to the Grinch's makeup. "I learned about pain deferred, being able to transcend it. It's amazing what we can get used to. We humans can live on Mars," he jokes during a recent press conference on a Universal Pictures sound stage. The heavily promoted $123 million movie opened this weekend to mixed reviews.

Mr. Carrey, who spent three hours every morning getting into his Grinch makeup, custom-made contact lenses and green suit of yak hairs sewed to latex-spandex, got a surprise show of support one day from director Ron Howard, who produced the movie with longtime Imagine Entertainment partner Brian Grazer. (Mr. Grazer also produced Mr. Carrey's "Liar Liar.")

Mr. Howard came to the set dressed as the Grinch, which Mr. Carrey calls "a cool move of solidarity." He notes, however, that Mr. Howard didn't go so far as to wear the contacts that caused Mr. Carrey so much pain.

"I think people will still recognize me" in the Grinch garb, Mr. Carrey says. "It's just a little bit of Playtex. I mean latex. Freudian slip," he exclaims with a laugh, then says loudly, "Freudian slip."

Makeup — especially noses — figure heavily in this tale from Whoville. Actress Christine Baranski, a glamorous Whovillian who captures the hearts of both the Grinch and the mayor (Jeffrey Tambor), says of Mr. Carrey: "He was buried [in his get-up]. We all said, 'Oh, but he's getting $20 million,' but you had to feel for the guy on a daily basis."

Mr. Carrey says he has always been "turned on" by Theodor S. Geisel's Grinch. When asked whether adapting the beloved Christmas story into a full-length feature for the screen may have ruined it, he says:

"It's never been done in this medium. If I spoiled it for you, I apologize. It's one of those things you're not going to say 'no' to. I'll say 'no' to a remake of "It's a Wonderful Life.' How's that?

"For me, the Grinch is about a change of heart, that a guy like this can be broken by Christmas … that he can be changed by the heart of a child," Mr. Carrey says. In the movie, "The Grinch is the outcast. He tried to join the club as a little kid… . We all need someone who reaches out to us. It's a universal story."

The movie offers a prologue to the reclusive Grinch's bitterness about Christmas and Whoville: His hairy face was ridiculed when he was young.

Mr. Carrey praises Mr. Howard and Mr. Grazer. "In this business, it's hard to find people who dance with their inner child without the use of stimulants."

Mr. Howard, he says, is "sweet," a description Mr. Carrey also applies to Taylor Momsen, the St. Louis youngster who plays Cindy Lou Who in the movie. "I like kids," Mr. Carrey says and then adds jokingly, "I know what it's like working with children. Small children run this town."

Mr. Carrey's own inner child apparently came out on the Universal lot during the 90 days of filming. "I often break up the day by jumping on a tram or charging it like a rhino or climbing inside it," he says. "And it's fun, because people just don't expect one of the top guys in Hollywood to come out of the studio and ram the tram."{box} {box} {box}

It's Seuss time in America. Not only has the Seuss movie — narrated by Anthony Hopkins — been released, but a Broadway show, "Seussical: The Musical," is scheduled to open Nov. 30. Universal Studios also is involved in that production and last year opened a theme park, Seuss Landing, at its Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Fla.

Mr. Grazer told reporters that Mr. Geisel's widow, Audrey, had decided to option the rights to the "Grinch" story in 1998 and had approached movie studios about it. Mr. Grazer says he had wanted to do the movie for a long time, but he had to make more than one proposal to Mrs. Geisel and bring in Mr. Howard before winning acceptance for his concept. "She left the door open for me to come back," he says.

"Given we had Mr. Carrey, we wanted to make it a performance movie," he says.

Mr. Howard says they took inspiration from other Dr. Seuss books and looked for themes running through them, such as "the truth seeker." They decided to expand the role of Cindy Lou Who and also explore the Grinch's background.

He says Mrs. Geisel liked their "mythological figure."

They're hoping for the best, the pair say — that the public will enjoy the movie and believe they kept the spirit of the book intact.

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