BRUCE ALMIGHTY - Q&A with Jim Carrey and director Tom Shadyac
Movie Interview by Toby White
In London's Dorchester Hotel, an eager press gathered to hear what BRUCE ALMIGHTY star, Jim Carrey, and director, Tom Shadyac, had to say about making the film. It's worth noting that many of Carrey's answers are delivered in various voices and that many of the faces he pulls and antics he gets up to may be lost in the translation to text.
JIM CARREY: Now let's all just lighten up. [picking up a dictaphone from the table and whispering into it] I like you better than all the other people...No, no [picking up another] I like you much better, you're my favourite.
Mr Shadyac, this is your third collaboration with this gentleman [gestures Jim Carrey], do you have a shorthand going when you work together?
TOM SHADYAC: Well, Jim and I...[Carrey begins to mime] can speak without even speaking, really...yeah we do have a shorthand, I worked nearly half my professional life with this guy [Carrey begins more tomfoolery, Shadyac shushes him]
Does he let you finish a sentence?
TOM SHADYAC: No, he finishes it for me.
Mr Carrey, how cool is it being a movie god?
JIM CARREY: [thinks] Jeez, this is hard, why isn't Morgan Freeman doing this with us? Morgan was always being asked about being God it's no wonder he didn't come on the road with us, he couldn't deal with it at all...
TOM SHADYAC: There were two roles he never wanted to play, God and the devil, because he never wanted to have to answer the question, "What was it like to be God?" So, Jim, what is it like?
JIM CARREY: Fortunately, I was not God. I was a flawed human being who had the power temporarily...I can't answer that [to Shadyac] you answer that.
TOM SHADYAC: I don't have to, it was your question.
JIM CARREY: What's it like being a movie God? Me- I-...Pertaining to what?
Well, you're the number one box office and you hold sway over everyone else...
JIM CARREY: Oh, well, that is like an all-you-can-eat salad bar, baby. It's as it should be.
Is there anything you wanted to do as God that Tom wouldn't let you do?
JIM CARREY: Well, some of the scenes were cut short, like Steve Carell when he's reading the news and I'm messing with him, we took it much further, his head burst into flames and it got really quite violent and horrible...but Tom's always there to rein me in though.
TOM SHADYAC: There were lots of things that didn't make it to the film, Jim discovered Bigfoot at one point.
JIM CARREY: I fall from an aeroplane, the parachute doesn't open and I hit the ground but fortunately I land on Bigfoot [laughter] everything's going right for me as a reporter. Yeah, so that bit didn't get in, as with all my favourite stuff, I don't really understand why [he throws a scowl at Shadyac]
How people react to you or deal with you has a lot to do with the people's perception of you, how do you deal with that?
JIM CARREY: Oh, gosh...err...I'm enjoying my life actually. The fame part of it was a bit of a freak out for a while and there are definitely times when it's not so great to be special and known by everybody; when you're wearing something wrong or whatever but I like my life, I'm good with my life, at a certain point I just decided to pick it up and wear it and have fun with it.
Is there a demand to be funny?
JIM CARREY: I don't feel any pressure to be funny at all. I could sit in this room and be serious for an hour and you guys could go away and make me much funnier than I am [laughter].
What's it like working with Morgan Freeman and what's his take on comedy? Is he funny?
JIM CARREY: In short [he feigns spitting]. No, Morgan Freeman is so class, he's so cool and he's so...scary. He terrified Tom - it was hilarious. Tom didn't know what to do with Morgan. First day I met him, I walk up to him and say, "Hi, Morgan, I'm so glad you're doing this movie" and he said, "Nice to meet you too, now never touch me again." [Laughter] He's got that way about him, you fold under the pressure, he's got this, like, laser that goes right to your soul and he raked Tom over the coals something awful but [to Shadyac] you knew he was joking but you were still so uncomfortable.
TOM SHADYAC: Oh, I know and I would say to him, "Morgan, you are just f-ing with me in every way".
JIM CARREY: It was, like, "Hey Morgan, maybe you should come into this a little more gentle." [Impersonates Morgan Freeman] "Why would I want to do a fool thing like that?" and Tom would be, like, "I... I... I..."
TOM SHADYAC: He was like a rock and if you get any nervous energy around Morgan Freeman, it just magnifies...
JIM CARREY: It was a relief that Morgan was so cool, actually, totally willing to have a sense of humour about himself. To me he's one of those guys that every actor is afraid of, if you're on screen with him you've got to be ready and...he'll burn your soul if you're not careful. [Laughter]
Tom, what was it about him that made you know he could do the comedy?
TOM SHADYAC: Well, Morgan has a great sense of humour, just the way he greeted Jim, he has a charming sense of humour about him. Our God had to be funny, he couldn't just have that presence, the whole movie is really about God having a sense of humour. I mean look what he created. [He points at Carrey]
Jim, has playing a reporter made you take pity on the press?
JIM CARREY: You know it wasn't so much about the reporter aspect for me as being about somebody who was just ungrateful with what he has. I don't know that I learned a heck of a lot about being a reporter but it was interesting to look at the other side, for example, I learned a lot about 'sweeps week'. In America, sweeps week is everything. The most cherished, professional reporters become skin-hound flesh-peddlers during sweeps week, it's hilarious. But no, it's more about, I mean I have been the guy that has everything but has been so one track-minded that he can't see his blessings.
There's a scene in the film where the Almighty talks to you about having a "spark", are you aware of your own spark?
JIM CARREY: I wrote it. That scene comes from something somebody said to me when I was 19 years old and I was playing a club called Dangerfield in New York and this thug bartender - I couldn't tell if he was mafiosa or what was going on - but he said to me [adopts mafia-style Italian New York accent] "Kid, you've got a divine spark, whatever you do protect that spark" and it stuck with me in my head and I always kind of believed in that spark and I wanted to put it in the movie.
Is it harder playing the Grinch or playing God?
JIM CARREY: Definitely the Grinch. The Grinch was tough, man. Wearing that suit was like being buried alive. This one was a pleasure, I'd go into make up and they're like, "Cover the zit", and I'm out of there. [Laughter]
Who would you want to bestow those powers on and why?
JIM CARREY: I did bestow Tom with those powers. [Laughter] Hmm...who would I want to give those powers to...[thinks]
JIM CARREY: I'm not allowed politicians? Hmm...that Beckham dude. [Laughter] I mean what's wrong with jolly old England? What you have to go off to America for?
Were there any protests from people who were offended by the depiction of God in the film?
TOM SHADYAC: There were no protests so to speak but there is a certain section that is not even open to the idea of exploring God. Very early on I heard about a radio show where the host was saying, "This movie is blasphemous" and he hadn't even seen it but virtually all of the callers that got through to that radio show said they did not find it blasphemous at all. It's not a movie that makes fun out of God it is God having fun with us.
JIM CARREY: It's about human frailty, not God's frailty. I mean, there's always going to be a problem with somebody somewhere but this has had an incredibly wide range of acceptance. Tom had an interview with some religious press in America and they asked, "How come they're living together and they're not married?" and Tom said, what did you say?
TOM SHADYAC: They said, "Tom, how can we recommend this to our audience when there is a couple that lives together in sin?" Just that morning I'd been reading some of St Augustine's Confessions and I urged their audience not to read it because it starts with a guy sleeping around and drinking but God does not start with perfect characters and neither do we. You cannot tell stories with perfect characters or else there's nothing left to tell.
Jim, did you feel upstaged by your canine co-star?
JIM CARREY: The dog was, like, a pound puppy they got about a month before. Everybody was in love with this cute thing but it wouldn't sit still for a second, I mean how they managed to get it to do that thing it does...
The character goes a long way to win his love back, Jim, what's the most extreme thing you've done to win love?
JIM CARREY: Oh, I'm such an idiot when it comes to that sort of stuff, I'd buy electronic billboards to flash signs up saying, "Turn left now, love is waiting round the corner" and I'll be waiting there with a bunch of flowers. I'm an idiot that way.
Comedy aside, you've also had some success with serious roles, what motivates you now?
JIM CARREY: I love acting, playacting. I love pretending and telling stories so whether they be serious or comedic, it doesn't matter to me. The thing about this process is that Tom and I get together and we have a hoot, we have so much fun. I wish there were cameras on the set all the time to show people what it's like on set and I hope that glow is reflected on the screen. I don't sit in my hotel room and go, "You're the King of Comedy, man", I'm not always looking for the laugh, I mean there are some serious moments in this film and I wouldn't have been able to do those if I hadn't done the serious roles that I've done. I mean, I'm never gonna let someone put me in a box and just file me away under G for Goofy.
Isn't it frustrating though when you make a quality dramatic film and you don't get the audience reaction that you want, you don't get the box office you should have got?
JIM CARREY: No. And you know why? Because the Lord is my shepherd [laughter] and I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures and leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul...
JIM CARREY: [seems stumped, the audience chuckles] He leadeth me in the path of righteousness [the audience applaud] Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear NO evil, for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me...thou preparest a table before me [more laughter] in the midst of mine enemies, thou anointest my head with oil, my cup RUNNETH OVER...
TOM SHADYAC: Come on, there's a little more.
JIM CARREY: SURELY goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. [Huge applause from the audience] So no, it doesn't concern me.
Bruce goes to a dark place in the film, have you ever?
JIM CARREY: Of course. It's almost always about a woman. Love lost, love yearned, love whatever. That's generally the thing that brings men to their knees. I don't know. I've never lost a job that I then thought, "Lord, why?" There's absolutely dark places I've been to, I've been on my knees many times. The only way I ever get out of it is to start looking at what I have. There's always a way out. I don't want to take it all the time but the exit out of agony is always in front of you and yet you don't take it because you want to indulge in the "why, why?" but the easiest way out is just to go [licks a pencil tip and begins writing a list] "Hmm, let me see, the grass is green today, the park is gorgeous...I saw a really pretty girl about five minutes ago...I had a really great conversation with this old guy on the elevator, err...I got a freakin' excellent car..." and if everybody did that before they went to bed at night there would be no unhappy people. If you think you have nothing and you sit down and make a list of all the things you're grateful for, you can't help but be happy.
Have you a motto or maxim in life, then?
JIM CARREY: Be grateful. Find something to be grateful for.