When Jim Carrey says yes, he means yes. Take, for example, his work as a grumpy guy who decides to change his ways in the new holiday feature “Yes Man.” To be more positive, the character decides to say yes to every request, from taking guitar lessons to learning Korean.
Carrey agreed to actually take the music and language lessons to be more believable in the role.
That’s Carrey. The actor has pushed himself in each of his movie roles since making the leap from the cast of “In Living Color” in 1994. Saying yes to such movies as “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” “The Truman Show,” “Bruce Almighty” and “Dumb and Dumber” has made him one of the most bankable movie actors working.
This unbridled approach to his job comes from positive thinking.
“I like to enjoy life. I engage in life, so I would say I’m a ‘yes man,’” Carrey says during an interview at the Beverly Hilton Hotel to promote his new movie that opens Friday. In a blink, Carrey’s comedy side takes over as he adds, “I’ve said yes to so many things, from a sex change to gastric bypass surgery. So it’s always paid off for me. I’ve kept the weight off. I have; I work hard at it.”
His penchant for saying “yes” meant jumping off a bridge for “Yes Man.” That’s right - in this day and age when everything from an alien spaceship to a walking tree can be created through computer technology, Carrey strapped a bungee cord to his ankles and took a swan dive. There was one thing going through his mind as he made the leap off the bridge.
“Death. Death. A lot of thoughts of death. Thoughts of crossing over were actually going through my mind. It was very strange,” Carrey says.
Sometimes it is hard to tell when the rubber-faced comedian is being funny and when he is being serious. In this case, there’s a lot of truth to his words.
Director Peyton Reed tried to talk Carrey out of doing the jump, but the actor said he was going to make the jump one way or another, so Reed might as well film it.
The jump, which was the final scene shot because of the insurance company’s concern over Carrey having an accident, is just the latest example of what he will say yes to when it comes to making movies. Carrey went through hours of makeup to become the personification of the green gift grabber in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” The same went for his work in “The Mask.”
And the bumps and bruises he has sustained doing pratfalls are almost too numerous to count. He cracked three ribs during a fall in “Yes Man.”
He pushes himself for one reason: He likes to make people laugh. And in these tough economic times, Carrey is convinced comedy can help.
“I believe that moviegoers can create their reality, and they’re going to go, ‘You know what? There is no recession. There is no problem. I’m going to spend my money. And I’m going to walk out with a smile on my face and say yes to life as is,’” Carrey says. “If there is a message, it’s just engage in life, say yes more than you do no. Maybe a little bit more than you did before. And life turns out all right. Usually you regret the things you say no to.”
Carrey has also been willing to say yes to some serious movie projects such as “The Number 23,” “The Majestic” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Although his movies have grossed nearly $4 billion worldwide, his comedies always do better at the box office. “Bruce Almighty” made more than $242 million at the box office, for example. “The Majestic” pulled in less than one-tenth that number. But that is not going to keep him away from dramas.
“I like doing everything. I love it all. It’s just being creative. I just like being creative, whatever way I have to do it. I just want to tell stories. It’s really the storytelling aspect that’s great,” Carrey says. “Ultimately, it’s not the money. It’s certainly not the fame because it’s a pain in the a—.
“It’s really the person in the seat you think about when you sit in the rooms and write and you do all the things you have to do. It really comes down to thinking about someone sitting in a seat laughing.”
His efforts to make people laugh have often included a lot of broad comedy. Reed and Carrey sat down before the filming of “Yes Man” to establish what the comedy tone for the movie would be.
“Jim really reins himself in a lot in the movie. It was the first comedy he’d done in a few years, and he really wanted to put a different spin on it. He wanted it to be a Jim Carrey studio comedy, but he also wanted it to be a little more grounded and based in reality,” the director says.
Hidden behind all of Carrey’s positive energy is a lingering wish that maybe he had said no to a couple of things in his life. He regrets agreeing to learn Korean. The weeks he trained to say the few phrases in the movie were the hardest he ever spent on a movie.
And then there is that deep, dark moment from his days growing up in Newmarket, Ontario.
“I was 11 years old, and I joined the Sea Cadets, which is like a military version of Boy Scouts. They shave your head and they humiliate you and they yell at you and they parade you around in front of the rest of the people you know in the town,” Carrey says. A smile appears on Carrey’s face as he adds, “But you know what? If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t know that I’m a useless maggot.
“So I’m glad. So ‘yes’ always leads to something good.”