Jim Carrey

Also Credited As:

James Carrey, James Eugene Carrey
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Biography

From the stand-up stages of Canada to the breakout sketch-comedy hit "In Living Color" (Fox, 1990-96), award-winning actor Jim Carrey became of Hollywood's most bankable comedic stars during the 1990s, thanks to a string of zany blockbusters that began with "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" (1994). His Golden Globe-winning performance in the eerily promontory "The Truman Show" (1998) proved that there was also significant depth and substance …
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Job Title

Actor, Producer, Writer, Music, Other

Born

James Eugene Carrey on January 17, 1962 in Toronto, Ontario, CA

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From the stand-up stages of Canada to the breakout sketch-comedy hit "In Living Color" (Fox, 1990-96), award-winning actor Jim Carrey became of Hollywood's most bankable comedic stars during the 1990s, thanks to a string of zany blockbusters that began with "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" (1994). His Golden Globe-winning performance in the eerily promontory "The Truman Show" (1998) proved that there was also significant depth and substance beneath his hyperkinetic antics, after which point, Carrey divided his efforts between broad comedies such as "Me, Myself and Irene" (2000) and more esoteric indie dramas such as Milos Forman's "Man on the Moon" (1999) and Michel Gondry's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004). Carrey's unique sensibility and characterizations also proved a perfect match for big-screen adaptations of Dr. Seuss' fanciful classics, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (2000) and "Horton Hears a Who!" (2008), and he stayed atop the heap with comedies like "Bruce Almighty" (2003). Though his box-office clout diminished as he turned to uncharacteristic movies such as "The Number 23" (2007) and "I Love You Phillip Morris" (2009) - as evidenced by the muted response to "Mr. Popper's Penguins" (2011) - Carrey nonetheless remained one of Hollywood's biggest and more beloved stars.

Jim Carrey was born on Jan. 17, 1962, in Newmarket, Ontario. He was the youngest of four children to mother, Kathleen, and father, Percy; both performers themselves. Prior to starting a family, Percy was a saxophonist with a Toronto big band and his mother had been a singer, but when the couple settled down, Percy sought financial stability by landing a job as an accountant with a large company. From a young age, it was apparent that Carrey took after his father, then the notorious comedian of the family. Around the age of seven, while trying to cheer up his sick, bedridden mother, Carrey discovered the power of pratfalls and his wacky impersonations of animals. This led to a lifelong affair with the mirror, where he would practice morphing into well known figures like John Wayne, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Jack Nicholson, which he would unleash on his classmates at school. But as an early teen, Carrey's father was unexpectedly downsized and the class clown was forced to grow up quickly when the Carrey family accepted an offer to live onsite at a factory, in exchange for the labor of the entire family. Carrey attended high school during the day and worked eight-hour cleaning shifts every night until he could no longer keep up his grades or his energy, leading to the unfortunate choice of dropping out of high school. After a year, the family had had enough of the miserable situation and headed to the home of eldest sister Pat, where they lived in a tent on her front lawn and their VW bus in the driveway.

While living the gypsy lifestyle, Carrey's supportive and reliably funny father helped him put together a stage act, driving him to Toronto to debut at an open mic night at a comedy club. Unfortunately, the teen's impersonations tanked and gave him doubts about his potential as a professional entertainer. The family eventually got back on their feet financially and into another home. Now with more domestic stability, Carrey worked up the nerve to return to the stage with a more polished act. In a short period of time, the 17-year-old went from open mic nights to regular paid shows and a growing local reputation. Legendary comedian Rodney Dangerfield caught Carrey's act and invited him to open half a dozen local dates. H eventually brought Carrey to Las Vegas, after which the 19-year-old took a leap of faith and moved to Hollywood. The wide-eyed kid from Canada began taking the stage regularly at the famed Comedy Store and his career was ignited. In 1982, he appeared on the televised stand-up show "An Evening at the Improv" and the following year, debuted his act on "The Tonight Show." He was tapped for a couple of low-budget films, playing a sex-starved teen in "Copper Mountain" (1983) and a convincingly struggling young comic in "Rubberface" (1983).

Then newcomer Carrey was surprisingly cast as the lead in the sitcom "The Duck Factory" (NBC, 1984), a lively failure from producer Jay Tarses about life in an animation studio, in which Carrey played a quirky young artist. When the show was unceremoniously cancelled during its first season, Carrey found himself at a crossroads. He was growing weary of impressions, and also increasingly uneasy about basing a career on aping other well known people instead of establishing his own persona. Leaving the stage behind, he focused on film auditions, landing supporting roles, including one as a back-up singer buddy to Nicolas Cage in "Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986). When Carrey returned to stand-up, he retired his old act in favor of an explosively silly, fully improvised experiment. Some nights he hit it big with audiences; others he failed miserably, but fellow comic Judd Apatow loved what Carrey was attempting to do. The pair struck up a friendship and began writing material together. During that period of comedic exploration, Carrey developed an arsenal of characters, which, unlike his impersonation days, were whacked out creations from his own imagination.

On the audition circuit, Clint Eastwood got his hands on Carrey's tape and upon seeing impressions of himself, he found Carrey bit parts in "The Dead Pool" (1988) and "Pink Cadillac" (1989). His performance as a psycho rock star in the former film landed Carrey a small role in "Earth Girls Are Easy" (1989), where he met actor Damon Wayans. The comic actor appreciated Carrey's unique persona and introduced him to brother Keenan, who, at the time, was developing a sketch show for the new Fox network. When "In Living Color" debuted in the fall of 1990, Jim Carrey was a full-fledged cast member and the sole white male in the urban-oriented comedy. The show was an instant hit and brought a totally fresh, modern approach to the sketch show genre - from its contemporary hip hop theme song and live dancers (the infamous Fly Girls) and its largely African-American cast. It proved to be the perfect outlet for Carrey's unique, totally over-the-top physical comedy style. He brought with him several of the characters he had been developing in his stage act, including the accident-prone Fire Marshal Bill and the deep-voiced female professional bodybuilder, Vera de Milo. He also put his impersonation skills back to use with memorable send-ups of Ross Perot and the "Juiceman" infomercial giant. In 1991, the suddenly hot new TV comic starred in his own Showtime special, "Jim Carrey's Unnatural Act."

By the third season of "In Living Color," Carrey was one of the few remaining original cast members, and was revered for his steady stream of characters. But he, too, was preparing to move on to bigger things, agreeing to take his first lead in a big Hollywood picture, provided he was allowed to rewrite the weak script to suit his mostly over-the-top vision. "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" (1994) was an unexpected runway hit; a non-stop showcase for his distinctive brand of physical humor and outrageous riffs, including an extended sequence where he talked out of his posterior. While most critics dismissed the juvenile humor of the film, audiences flocked to theaters to the tune of $125 million dollars, transforming Carrey into a bankable box office star overnight. "The Mask" (1994) firmly established his Hollywood clout as it garnered over $20 million in its first weekend and earned the actor a Golden Globe nomination for playing an everyday schlub who finds a magical mask that transforms him into an egotistical, over-sexed cartoon superhero. The film also boasted an extended song and dance sequence with Carrey impressively belting out and dancing to the classic Desi Arnaz rumba number "Cuban Pete."

The year 1994 marked Carrey's final season as a full-time cast member on "In Living Color," and he followed it up with a third box-office hit "Dumb and Dumber" (1994). A sort of reverse-heist film that was thin-on-plot but chock full of hilarity, the Farrelly Brothers' picture, which co-starred the more serious actor Jeff Daniels, further showcased Carrey's flair for low-brow physical comedy and also landed Carrey in the gossip columns for his whirlwind romance and marriage to co-star Lauren Holly. One of Hollywood's more closely watched couples, the twosome would endure a passionate on-off relationship for a couple of tumultuous years before finally tying the knot and then divorcing less than a year later. He was next tapped to revive the ailing "Batman" franchise with his casting in "Batman Forever" (1995). Not unlike Jack Nicholson's Joker or Michelle's Pfeiffer's Catwoman, Carrey's orange-wigged, green-jumpered Riddler did purloin the mostly disappointing film by walking away with the best lines and notices of the cast. Continuing his hot streak, the inevitable sequel, "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls" (1995), opened with a record-breaking $40 million box office take its first weekend. Some thought it better than its precursor, but many considered it lazily conceived and Carrey's performance nowhere near as inspired the second time around, though it did feature the memorable sight of him passing through a hippopotamus anus. "Allllll-righty then."

With four certified blockbusters to his name, Carrey had established himself within a relatively short period of time as one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood; certainly the highest paid comic actor. But for his next feature, the ever-evolving talent tested the boundaries of his tried and true "hapless, hyper, overconfident" characters with the decidedly dark comedy "The Cable Guy" (1996). Whether it was audience hesitation to see Carey in a different context or Carrey market saturation - his $20 million paycheck was receiving undue attention - "The Cable Guy" marked Carrey's first career dip. Playing a lonely, slightly menacing cable TV installer who infiltrates the life of one of his customers (Matthew Broderick), he was able to punctuate his trademark craziness with touches of dramatic compassion, but not everybody appreciated the added elements of his performance. Carrey's core audience of kids who turned out expecting to see adolescent zaniness did not like the sinister aspects, and word-of-mouth killed the movie after its initial brisk business.

The following year, "Liar Liar" (1997) restored Carrey's luster with another Golden Globe nod and box-office receipts of more than $180 million. It was a more sophisticated role, where Carrey went beyond side-splitting antics by actually playing a recognizable human being, and his convincing sincerity gave every indication of his growing desire to explore more dramatic territory. He got that opportunity the following year when playing Truman Burbank, the unwitting star of the most popular program on TV, "The Truman Show" (1998). Under the expert direction of Peter Weir, Carrey eliminated egregiously big mannerisms in the creation of an insurance man who suspects a conspiracy around him, eventually learning that his whole life has been broadcast as a 24-hour-a-day television show. The combined brilliance of Weir and screenwriter Andrew Niccol provided Carrey a successful change of pace role, and the actor's impressively disciplined performance earned him a win at the Golden Globe Awards.

Fresh from his triumph with Weir, Carrey campaigned heavily for the part of enigmatic comedian Andy Kaufman in Milos Forman's "Man on the Moon" (1999). The biopic offered the best of both worlds: as the wildly inventive Kaufman, Carrey could exercise his genius for impressions and improvisation, while at the same time, inhabiting the tortured soul of the late comic. For all the pre-release hoopla, the film was ultimately little more than a standard biopic, hitting all the significant milestones but offering little insight into what drove Kaufman. For his portrayal of the complex character, though, Carrey earned a second Golden Globe. He returned to anything-goes style comedy, reuniting with the Farrelly Brothers for "Me, Myself and Irene" (2000), a far-out romantic comedy that pitted Carrey against himself as a man with a split personality, vying for the affections of Renee Zellweger. Although there were some inspired moments of sheer lunacy, the film failed to reach the comic highs of earlier efforts from both Carrey or the Farrelly Brothers, due in part to an overload of gross-out moments and the darker shadings of one of Carrey's personalities. He and Zellweger embarked on a year and a half-long relationship sparked by their work together.

Director Ron Howard next sought Carrey to play the classic Christmas curmudgeon in the live-action version of "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (2000). Although the expanded screen story stumbled occasionally, Carrey carried the ball across the finish line in one of his wildest, and most appropriately cartoonish, performances yet, helping the film to rake in tremendous box office receipts and earning another nod from the Golden Globe Awards. In another bid to balance comedy with drama, Carrey signed on to writer-director Frank Darabont's "The Majestic" (2001), a 1950s Capra-esque fable about an amnesiac Hollywood screenwriter who is mistaken for a small town's long-lost WWII hometown hero. Carrey's earnest turn could not overcome a wealth of tepid reviews, and audiences skipped the film for the most part. He rebounded with another zany comedy, playing a TV newsman who unexpectedly receives God's omnipotent abilities when the deity decides to take a break in the hit "Bruce Almighty" (2003), which successfully reunited the actor with his "Liar, Liar" helmer, Tom Shadyac.

In one of his finest performances and most rewarding projects, Carrey teamed with director Michel Gondry and notorious screenwriter Charlie Kaufman for the film "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004). In the delightful serio-comic romance, Carrey's Joel Barish undergoes a procedure designed to erase away all memories of his recent heartbreak over a break-up with impetuous free spirit (Kate Winslet), only to decide mid-process he wants to preserve her in his mind. Although the independent film was not a commercial blockbuster, it was easily the best attempt to tap both the actor's considerable serious and comedic talents and he was again honored with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor, Drama. Later that year, he followed up with another bravura performance; this time in his more familiar high-comic mode, adding uproarious verve to the otherwise uneven adaptation of the children's book series, "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" (2004) as the amusingly villainous Count Olaf.

A remake of the 1976 classic comedy "Fun with Dick and Jane" (2005) appealed to the actor on a personal level; its plot revolving around the aftermath of a middle-class husband unexpectedly losing his job. Much lighter than his own real life history of homelessness, Carrey and wife Tea Leoni resort to armed robbery to retain their deluxe suburban home and luxury cars. The film was not the biggest of Carrey's hits, but it was a steady contender over the holiday season and brought in over a $100 million. Also adding to the sometimes tortured comic's happiness at the time was his growing relationship in 2005 with former Playboy model-turned-actress Jenny McCarthy. He would form an instant bond with her autistic son, Evan, and along with his now teenage daughter, Jane, form a ready-made family. Following the critical and box-office flop "The Number 23," which cast Carrey against type in a psychological thriller (2007), he slid easily back into the top box-office slot for the opening weekend of "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!" (2008). Carrey voiced the beloved elephant for the CGI-animated feature, which received overwhelmingly positive reviews and delivered family crowds en masse.

Later in the year, Carrey returned to live action as the star of the comedy "Yes Man" (2008), co-starring Zooey Deschanel and Bradley Cooper. The rubber-faced actor played a down-and-out man who has gone nowhere in life, thanks to always saying no to everything, until he signs up for a self-help program that teaches him the power of saying yes. Though not very well reviewed, "Yes Man" had a decent performance at the box office. For the first time in his career, Carrey portrayed an array of characters, starring in Disney's 3D animated take on the classic Charles Dickens tale "A Christmas Carol" (2009), voicing Ebenezer Scrooge, as well as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the film also featured Robin Wright, Bob Hoskins, Colin Firth and Gary Oldman. Carrey mainly laid low during the following year, in part due to his split from McCarthy. Sticking to family fare, Carrey next appeared on the big screen as the title character of "Mr. Popper's Penguins" (2011), which performed admirably numbers-wise, but lacked hearty critical and audience enthusiasm.

After uncharacteristic small-screen guest spots on "The Office" (NBC, 2005-2013) and "30 Rock (NBC, 2006-2013), Carrey reunited with previous collaborator Steve Carell for an intentionally showy role as a flashy magician in "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" (2013) but, despite the draw of both actors, the film tanked commercially and critically. He bounced back and regained some edgier credibility, however, with his supporting part of Colonel Stars and Stripes in "Kick-Ass 2" (2013), which did well despite his pre-release reservations about the movie's excessive violence.