Playboy: You've drawn clear lines about not discussing whom you date. Did you get burned?
Carrey: You do learn that if you're telling the truth it's going to piss somebody off. But the press knows. They know that the celebrities who stand in front of the paparazzi are, you know, half going, "Just be cool. It's okay. This serves a purpose. It gets the publicity out," and half going, "These are the fucking people who follow me around! What am I doing?"
Playboy: The attention defines some entertainers.
Carrey: Yeah, there definitely are people out there who would do anything to get some publicity. I'm not qualified to speak for everybody. I'm kind of in rarified air. The main thing is, I just don't believe in meanness.
Playboy: Comedy is sometimes mean.
Carrey: Sometimes I trip into it as a comic, but I have trouble reconciling that, too. Try to find a comic who isn't angry when he's 70. Why is George Carlin pissed off? He's brilliant. But the man is so angry it's getting unnerving. It's like he practically doesn't want to live on this planet anymore. I try to understand why that's happening, because I don't want that. I want to be a loving human being. I want to look at the world with joy and gratitude and see the things that are good about life.
Playboy: Your newest movie is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is about a couple who have their relationship erased from their brains. Why did you do it?
Carrey: What drew me is the idea that everybody has someone they'd rather erase: "Gosh, if I could just suck that out of my brain and my heart and never deal with it again, it'd be fantastic." Everybody identifies with that, has some relationship that hurts so bad that they just wish they could make the ghosts go away. You can't, of course.
Playboy: The hardships you and your family endured after your father lost his job have been well chronicled. Would you erase that pain?
Carrey: Well, there was only one time when I felt something really horrible was going on. That was when we were all doing the job at Titan Wheels [a tire manufacturer]. The whole family was working. My dad was doing the night shift, and I was doing afternoons and going to school in the daytime. I saw it changing us, making us hateful and bigoted. I empathize with kids who go to school and can't understand or don't want to understand what the teacher is saying. I was so angry then, I just wanted to bash someone's head in.
Carrey: Yeah. I used to carry a bat on my cleaning cart. This factory was half Jamaican and half Indian--you know, Sikhs. Everybody had daggers and knives, and it was like a race war going on. I was in the middle of it.
Playboy: What did they do to make you so angry?
Carrey: They'd taunt me. They'd pile their chicken bones two feet high in the corner of the cafeteria because they knew I'd have to clean it up. Or they'd take a shit in the sink. Constantly trying to push my buttons to the point where I walked around with a cleaning cart and a baseball bat, just waiting for my opportunity to crack a skull. It was bad. I wanted to hurt somebody. I was caught up in anger. So I get how that feels. I understand.
Playboy: Would you be who you are now without those experiences?
Carrey: It definitely gave me an edge. And I don't think anybody is interesting on-screen unless they have an edge of some kind. There's a reason Russell Crowe is popular, besides being an excellent actor. The guy is an edgy dude. And all of us kind of live vicariously through guys who can bust some heads for us. I think an edge is interesting to watch. To have that, you've got to risk.
Playboy: In Living Color gave you your start, but it wasn't Saturday Night Live. Would you rather have done SNL?
Carrey: I never made it in the normal way everybody makes it. I tried out for Saturday Night Live. The day I auditioned I went over to NBC, and as I'm getting ready I'm going, "Am I meant to do this?" I got out of my car, and an NBC page was standing on the ledge on the 10th floor of the NBC building, trying to work up the nerve to kill himself. And I just went, "This isn't going to happen. This is not going to happen today." Because I read the universe all the time and generally get my answers real quick.
Playboy: That could be taken as some kind of sign.
Carrey: Yeah, and all these news crews were coming out of the building. And this guy was shuffling toward the edge, trying to decide whether to kill himself or not.
Playboy: Did he?
Carrey: I don't know. I never heard. I went in. So the whole time I was in there I was thinking, Is he dead? Did he die? But I never watched the news. I forgot about it. That's how desensitized I was. It was all about whether I was getting on the show or not.
Playboy: On In Living Color you were known as the white guy. Did you have any idea who'd be the biggest success? Surely it wasn't going to be the Fly Girl named Jennifer Lopez.
Carrey: God bless her, man. She went for it. That's a driven woman. Unbelievable how well she has done. Incredible. But she's paying for it big-time, too. I didn't really have any notions about it, honestly. Sometimes I'd talk with Damon Wayans, who by year three had started getting opportunities and was on the way out of the show. He was tired a lot of the time, and I'd say to him, "But this is it, man! We made it already." I was aware that this was a rung on the ladder, but I wanted to enjoy it. What if it wasn't? What if this was as high as I was going? So I worked it to the very last show. Probably a little desperately.
Playboy: You've convincingly beaten the crap out of yourself in Liar Liar and Me, Myself & Irene. Does it hurt?
Carrey: I hurt myself on Me, Myself & Irene. I'd sprained my ankle during rehearsals in the scene where Renée kicks me in the mouth and sends me over the fence. So for the rest of the film, when I'm running after the car, jumping on the car and doing all this stuff--it's all with a sprained ankle. I still have scarring on my bones. I don't generally hurt myself that much, but there were a lot of bumps and bruises on that movie. And I was in hell in that Grinch costume, too. It was like knives were stuck in my eyes.
Playboy: Because of the thick, colored contact lenses?
Carrey: Yes. It was just the worst situation comfortwise you could possibly imagine. But still, when they said "Action!" I was free, you know? There's something about that suspended life moment. When they say "Action!" I'm free.
Playboy: You grew up loving Jimmy Stewart and played a role he would have taken in The Majestic. It didn't do well.
Carrey: It was a beautiful movie. I think what it missed was some humor. If you're going to do a hats-off to Frank Capra you've got to have the part when the gymnasium floor opens up and everybody falls in the pool and he's stepping on her robe and she's naked, jumping behind a bush. This film took itself a little too seriously. Too sentimental. It's odd when people go, "Well, how do you feel that this failed?" I never see it as failure. How can it be? This was 500 people working for four months. We turned on a town and gave them significance. I learned to be a better actor and met Martin Landau. Andy Kaufman? A frigging triumph! I don't think it was meant to do a lot of business, because Andy didn't do a lot of business. We were true to him and polarized the same people.
Playboy: What about The Cable Guy?
Carrey: Huge success! It has become this weird cult movie. So much focus was put on the money I made, and people came gunning for it. It's not Shakespeare, but there's some funny shit in that movie, man. It was dark. The mistake the movie company made was to tell people it wasn't dark. The audience got surprised. It's a dark, psychological, in-your-face comedy. I felt I'd done something fairly brave and that we had huge laughs doing it.
Playboy: You aren't big on sequels. Did it bother you when New Line cast a lookalike for Dumb and Dumberer, a widely panned Dumb and Dumber prequel?
Carrey: Yes, it did. It was an odd kind of compliment and an odd, creepy thing to do, to dress somebody up and try to pass him off as me. That shouldn't happen until you're dead, right? I felt for that guy. He did a good impression.
Playboy: Would you coax your 16-year-old daughter to go into show business?
Carrey: No one coaxed would ever fucking make it. If she has a burning desire beyond belief to make it in this business, she'll do it. No one can make it otherwise. No way. There are too many fucking humiliating things. She's going to be accused of nepotism. But she has talent, and that will prove her or not prove her. She's really a smart girl with a beautiful voice. She'll make it if she commits.
Playboy: Having been forced to leave school for financial reasons, are you a stickler about her getting a degree?
Carrey: I want her to. I feel there's some kind of solace that comes with finishing things. I don't think about it so much anymore. I left halfway through 10th grade, but I read and I have a hunger for information and knowledge. Psychology has always fascinated me. One reason I love acting is that you always have to figure out where a character came from, what his parents did to him, what happened here. It's like being a psychologist of some sort.
Playboy: You've been married twice; now you live alone. Do you miss having somebody around?
Carrey: It's less about that than about wanting to be real with somebody. I want to love somebody without walking around in a secret turmoil and feeling like I've been made to be something I'm not. Somebody I can be nakedly honest with--that's who is going to win my love.
Playboy: Given your current level of fame, how do you date a woman and know if she's responding to you and not to your stardom?
Carrey: Sooner or later the monster shows its face.
Playboy: How do you know?
Carrey: I think we're all innately psychic. We're like dogs, man. We smell it. Sometimes we deny it, but we know it. We know when somebody loves us because they love us. I'm pretty sharp.
Playboy: Do you still go into relationships with an open mind, or are you cynical?
Carrey: The scariest thing for me is to change my mind and possibly hurt somebody. I don't think about being hurt as much as I think about possibly waking up one day and wanting something else and hurting that person. That's the fear, I guess. I want to have a lifelong love; I just don't know if that's real anymore.
Playboy: Maybe you'd be a better husband now because you are less needy.
Carrey: I wasn't needy. I was perhaps not as tolerant as I could be. Perhaps I just picked people who were not good candidates to begin with, who weren't necessarily a good match.
Playboy: Given your spirituality and your desire for dramatic roles, are you still a comic at heart?
Carrey: It is difficult because I've trained myself to be this comedic mind. That entails looking at something and deciding what's funny about it. What's funny about anything is what's wrong with it. So you're judging what's wrong with something or someone all the time, every day of your life. Down the line, that's got to take a toll. You can't end up being a happy guy if you spend every minute of your life going, "President Bush--what a fucker!" You may think that from time to time--and I certainly do--but I also don't believe that he necessarily thinks he's doing something wrong. Some people can look at life and go, "That's the beautiful thing, that's the beautiful thing. Hey, there's a beautiful thing." And that's where I'm trying to put myself.