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The Role Jim Carrey Says Made Him Lose His Identity

One of Jim Carrey's biggest trademarks, as both an actor and comedian, is his ability to fully embody a character. From the absurd, to the dramatic, Carrey has poured himself into many different roles. He has been the chaotic and omnipotent Mask, the eccentric and brilliant Ace Ventura, and the sympathetic Truman Burbank. He is so flexible in demeanor and action, that he can switch from his normal self to a perfect Grinch in just a few seconds.

As with all great method and character actors, however, there are times when the lines between Carrey and his roles become blurred. For some actors, truly embodying a character requires a certain level of authentic transformation. Some take this to extreme lengths, like Christian Bale rapidly losing and gaining weight between his roles in "The Machinist" and "Batman Begins." For Carrey in the 1999 biopic "Man on the Moon," however, his transformation was purely psychological. In the end, Carrey said he almost lost his identity.

Carrey channeled the spirit of Andy Kaufman

"Man on the Moon" tells the story of real-world entertainer Andy Kaufman, a performer whose elaborate characters earned him fame throughout the 1970s and '80s as one of the world's premiere anti-comedians. Kaufman's characters, such as obnoxious lounge singer Tony Clifton, were strange and often put off audiences. He also rarely broke character, usually only appearing as himself if there was some other twist, such as the time he took his entire audience out for milk and cookies. So, when it came time for Jim Carrey to portray Kaufman — along with his multitude of strange characters — in "Man on the Moon," Carrey pulled out all the stops.

"The true author of the project is Andy and his genius," Carrey told The Hollywood Reporter. "The fact that he committed so completely to what he did, really made that possible and made it essential for me to lose myself. I don't feel like I made the film at all. I feel like Andy made the film."

Across its entire production, Carrey never stopped his impersonation of either Kaufman or one of his characters, per NPR. Even while working on "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," it was "Kaufman," not Carrey, who helped give notes to director Ron Howard. Carrey would go on to win a Golden Globe for the performance, which later became the focus of a 2017 Netflix documentary "Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond."