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The untold truth of Jim Carrey

Thanks to his seemingly endless energy and fearless approach to physical comedy, Jim Carrey was on top of the movie world from the mid-'90s to the early aughts, experiencing a meteoric rise to fame after he turned his early small-screen successes into a staggeringly successful series of film releases. Pretty soon, the comedian was a bona fide hitmaker who, in his prime, commanded a whopping $20 million per movie salary and was well worth the cost. His films regularly topped the box office, with very few exceptions. His shtick sold, and sold well.

His ability to carry movies wouldn't last forever, however, and as time progressed, fans learned that there's a whole lot more to Carrey than some goofy faces and the dizzying penchant for slapstick humor that commanded so many crowds. From his humble childhood to his tumultuous relationship history and his newfound passion for political artwork, here's a look at some of the things you might not know about Jim Carrey.

A rough start

If it seems like Jim Carrey is a natural entertainer, it's probably because he started out young with a very personal audience. As he told 60 Minutes, when he was a child, his mother was unwell, and he desperately wanted to make her happy. "I used to go in there and do impressions of praying mantises, and weird things, and whatever," he recalled. "I'd bounce off the walls and throw myself down the stairs to make her feel better." Carrey wanted to be more than just the family jester, though, and wrote to Carol Burnett when he was 10, asking to be on her show and perform the hundreds of voices he could do. It'd take decades for that dream to come true, but his ambition for the spotlight was already strong.

Unfortunately for Carrey, his family's struggles took a toll on his own well-being. As a pre-teen his father lost his job, so he and his siblings took jobs at a factory cleaning machines to help make ends meet while he was in high school. Eventually, the rigorous schedule took a toll, and he fell behind enough that he decided to quit school. Soon after, his entire family left the factory that had made them all so miserable and chose to live in a van rather than struggle to make rent. "It sounds sad," he told Rolling Stone," but we were so much happier than we'd been being those people we didn't like."

Breaking into the biz

With the support of his father, whom Carrey compared to a "stage mother" for his enthusiasm, he started seeking out work as a standup comedian and found work at a Toronto club called Yuk Yuk. There he was spotted by Rodney Dangerfield, who invited the young talent to open for him. He eventually landed a starring role on NBC's comedy series The Duck Factory, and his career started to escalate from there with film roles in Peggy Sue Got Married and Earth Girls Are Easy. After an unsuccessful audition for Saturday Night Live some years before, Carrey made his big break with a place in the ensemble sketch comedy series In Living Color.

The series, he later said, proved to be "a gigantic, huge doorway" that would lead his career to the next level. "It was the thing, basically," he noted. "There was a lot of work that went into that, but that was the doorway." Alongside fellow breakthroughs the Wayans Brothers and Jamie Foxx, Carrey's four years on the show helped establish him as a force to be reckoned with, and soon the cinematic offers came rolling in. In 1994 alone, he had three massive hits with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber. Within a year, he was earning eight-figure paychecks.

Unconventional (and sometimes uncomfortable) methods

Carrey's particular (or should we say peculiar) brand of humor may have entertained the masses for years, but not everyone he's worked with has been a fan of his antics. Tommy Lee Jones, for example, was apparently unimpressed by his Batman Forever co-star during their time together. As Carrey would later remember of an off-set encounter, "I said, 'Hey Tommy, how are you doing?' and the blood just drained from his face. [...] he said, 'I hate you. I really don't like you.' And I said, 'What's the problem?' And pulled up a chair, which probably wasn't smart. And he said, 'I cannot sanction your buffoonery.'" 

It wasn't just his hijinks that had colleagues confused. Things got especially intense when he decided to employ some very serious method acting to become Andy Kaufman for Man on the Moon by — in his mind, at least — channeling the spirit of the late comedian. In Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, a documentary about the making of the movie, Carrey remembered, "Andy Kaufman showed up, tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'Sit down. I'll be doing my movie. What happened afterwards was out of my control." Indeed, he remained in character throughout production, and Carrey's complete surrender to Kaufman's essence seemed to freak out his co-stars on set.

A rocky relationship history

Like many in Hollywood, Jim Carrey's romantic relationships have tended to hit the skids in rather dramatic fashion over the years. His first marriage to Melissa Womer, with whom he shares daughter Jane, came to a halt after seven years (most of which took place before he hit the big time). Womer would later say that Carrey was an "extremely depressive person" and that she had to "sit up counseling him … until four or five in the morning on many, many nights."

Soon after their divorce was finalized, he married Dumb and Dumber co-star Lauren Holly, but she filed for divorce within the matter of a few months, and she would ultimately credit paparazzi intrusiveness as the cause of their demise. He later dated other actresses, and even got engaged to Me, Myself and Irene co-star Renee Zellweger, but it wouldn't last — again thanks in part to the excessive media attention they received. Perhaps the most high-profile of his relationships was with Jenny McCarthy, and, yet again, their flame fizzled out for all the world to see, with his depression cited as a potential cause for their breakup. As difficult as all of those splits must have been for him, though, nothing compared to what would happen after he called it quits with his non-celebrity girlfriend Cathriona White.

Legal jeopardy

In 2015, Jim Carrey's ex-girlfriend Cathriona White took her own life in an apparent drug overdose, and the actor revealed that he was "shocked and deeply saddened" by the loss. Soon after he helped lay her to rest, serving as a pallbearer at her funeral, her family filed suit against Carrey, accusing him of having contributed to her death. He counterclaimed that the wrongful death claims were simply extortion by her loved ones, including her estranged husband. In the process of their dispute, however, the world got to know some very upsetting details about their history, including her allegations that he gave her a sexually transmitted disease and got her hooked on drugs.

In a note, for example, White seemed to echo some of his prior partner's concerns, writing, "You did good things for me but being with you broke me down as a person, Jim. I was promised Jekyll and instead I got Hyde. [...] You threw me away when you absorbed anything worthwhile that was left of me." White's family's lawsuit was ultimately dismissed in early 2018, but the troubling personal details that were revealed in the proceedings could not be unlearned by the public.

Taking a break

Jim Carrey's filmography started to become a bit thinner in the 2010s, particularly after the somewhat subdued response to Mr. Popper's Penguins. He still went on to take supporting roles in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Kick-Ass 2, but apart from reprising his fan favorite character Lloyd Christmas in Dumb and Dumber To, he seemed to abandon his post as a leading man in Hollywood in the years leading up to his return to television with his 2018 Showtime series Kidding.

For Carrey, the career slowdown was by design. As he told The Hollywood Reporter, "I just didn't want to be in the business anymore. I didn't like what was happening, the corporations taking over and all that." Even when he did decide to give show business another shot with Kidding, which features him in a somewhat meta role as a children's entertainment star, he didn't approach the new role with the same vigor. "I'm not back in the same way," he told the publication. "I don't feel I'm little Jim trying to hang on to a place in the stratosphere anymore — I don't feel like I'm trying to hold on to anything." One thing Carrey was happy to be known for, though, was his budding career as a political artist.

Painting quite a picture

Jim Carrey has been dabbling in artwork since he was a child, and even claims to have been featured in some exhibitions long before he was famous. However, audiences were still surprised to learn in 2017 that he'd committed the majority of his time in recent years to painting, as he unveiled a full-on exhibit of artwork in Las Vegas. "Your vocation chooses you," he explained of his passion for this new project. "When I really started painting a lot, I had become so obsessed that there was nowhere to move in my home. Paintings were everywhere. They were part of the furniture, I was eating on them. [...] I think I needed color."

Once the secret of his new endeavor came to light, Carrey began to put his name into the public sphere more and more by creating politically charged pieces that showcased his disdain for Donald Trump's administration; as he told The Hollywood Reporter, "I have to turn the uncomfortable things that I see in this world into art." In addition to using his artwork as an outlet, he's also become a vocal advocate for voter registration and often accompanies the Twitter release of his newest pieces with a reminder for fans to hit the polls.

A unique philosophy

If it weren't for his cathartic artwork, Jim Carrey fans might have had a reason to start worrying about the actor's well-being after he arrived for a red carpet interview in 2017 and started sharing his very unusual philosophies about existence. "There's no meaning to any of this," he awkwardly told a NYFW interviewer before adding, "I believe we're a field of energy dancing for itself." From there, things continued to go off the rails; at one point, he even declared "there is no me."

It wasn't the last time Carrey would offer his confusing commentary about the state of being. He told audiences at a Jim & Andy screening, "There's a character that's been playing me my whole life. In fact, there is no me. I think that's the truth of everybody. We're not an I, or me, or a my. There is energy given to people and a bunch of ideas about their heritage about their nationality, about all those things that are supposed to be anchors to a boat that doesn't exist." The kicker came when, in an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, he declared that his persona was nothing more than a "great character" and he was "lucky to get the part." In other words, the Jim Carrey that became such a legend of the comedy movie scene is history, and the actor who portrayed him for so many years isn't eager to step back into that role anytime soon.