Mr. Carrey, have you ever had a spiritual epiphany?
Well, I have gone through a lot changes in the last few years and a lot of realizations — and I guess you could say awakenings about things. Everything is touched by that, everything I am doing creatively right now seems to point to the awareness of a lack of self. What are we? Why are we here? And the answer to both of those questions is: nothing, no reason, as far as I am concerned. It’s just about playing with form.
What do you think prompted those awakenings?
I guess just getting to the place where you have everything everybody has ever desired and realizing you are still unhappy. And that you can still be unhappy is a shock when you have accomplished everything you ever dreamt of and more and then you realize, “My gosh, it’s not about this.” And I wish for everyone to be able to accomplish those things so they can see that.
“Understanding suffering is the way to salvation because once you understand it, you have compassion, and the next thing you know, you are free.”
Is that what happened to you?
Yeah, sure. It didn’t happen to me. There is no me. But it happened. And it pushed me towards the realization there is no individual here. There are only energies.
Yes, they’re me. They’re me talking to me — whatever they are, no matter how bad they are. I have gone through some really tough times in the last few years and I would not wish them on anybody, but my God, my understanding of life and what is real and what is not real has expanded exponentially because of that. And my ability to understand suffering, which is a valuable thing. It’s the way to salvation because once you understand it, you have compassion, and the next thing you know, you are free. So what happened after that realization was essentially a very desperate and good energy of wanting to be loved and wanting to love and wanting to create and be admired.
Is it strange to look back on your films after having had these revelations? It must be like seeing someone else entirely.
I see someone who thought they were a person, who was trying to create characters but… How can I put it? Playing Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon in 1999, for example, I realized that I could lose myself in a character. I could live in a character. It was a choice. And when I finished with that, I took a month to remember who I was. “What do I believe? What are my politics? What do I like and dislike?” It took me a while and I was depressed going back into my concerns and my politics. But there was a shift that had already happened. And the shift was, “Wait a second. If I can put Jim Carrey aside for four months, who is Jim Carrey? Who the hell is that?”
And what did you find out?
I know now he does not really exist. He’s ideas.
What do you mean?
If you want to talk scientifically, break it down to a cluster of tetrahedrons that somehow believe they are athing. But they’re ideas — just ideas. Jim Carrey was an idea my parents gave me. Irish-Scottish-French was an idea I was given. Canadian was an idea that I was given. I had a hockey team and a religion and all of these things that cobble together into this kind of Frankenstein monster, this representation. It’s like an avatar. These are all the things I am. You are not an actor, or a lawyer. No one is a lawyer. There are lawyers, law is practiced, but no one is a lawyer. There is no one, in fact, there.
So nothing is real?
You know, I think you pretty much play your part as best as you can — but no, I don’t believe this is real.
You recently started painting. Has that helped ease these changes you’ve been experiencing?
Yeah. To me, it’s just another way of creating. It happened, it was inspired by broken hearts, and I’ve had a few. It was inspired by that, by the need to express something immediately and not wait for a green light committee or a script to be perfect or any of that stuff! “Here’s an idea, I don’t even know what it means yet. I’m going to paint it. I’m going to sculpt it. And then it will tell me what it means a year from now.” It’s just a fantastic feeling.
And I’m sure it doesn’t hurt to have that work exhibited as well.
And in Vegas of all places! (Laughs) I went to the absolute antithesis of art. I want to be in places that are accessible by real people. They might not be able to afford the painting, but they can see it. I’m sure I’ll do the gallery shows and stuff, hopefully sometime… But for now, I really want people to see what it is like for an artist to immerse themselves in creation. That’s actually how Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond happened. I was talking with Spike Jonze last year about what was opening up for me… We started talking about some behind-the-scenes footage of my experience filming Man on the Moon and becoming Andy Kaufman, which we then turned into the documentary. So… I am not finding roles. They’re finding me.
Do you think that the Andy Kaufman you became for the film found some sort of happiness in the end?
I think he was happy in the moment he was creating. No one can be happy with a career. The career is whatever it is. There are ups and downs, there are temporary things that happen, energies that happen. It’s hard semantically to talk about where I am coming from sometimes but I am extremely satisfied. Right now, the feeling is that there is great appreciation and there’s great gratitude and excitement and wonder about what this is turning into. This project happened organically: the footage was born out of playfulness and mischievousness and out of honoring an artist that was very pivotal and extraordinary. So in honoring that energy, rebellion, anarchy… There is definitely a satisfaction there, but it is not mine. It just is.