In the 1990s, Jim Carrey was Hollywood’s king of comedy, appearing in family favorite films like “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” “The Mask,” “Dumb and Dumber” and “Liar Liar.”
Twenty years later, Carrey’s life had taken a very different turn. He was no longer making hit movies, he lived a reclusive life and he was dogged by controversy. But he’s recently been back on our screens in the comedy series “Kidding,” and his box office appeal will be tested in 2020 with the “Sonic the Hedgehog” release. Welcome back, Carrey … but where have you been all this time?
Last updated: January 29, 2020
Tough Times At Home
Born James Eugene Carrey in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, on Jan. 17, 1962, Jim Carrey was the youngest of four children. When he was 12, his father lost his job as an accountant and was unable to get a similar role. As a result, the family had to live in a van for nearly a year and even stayed in a tent in a relative’s backyard. In 2011, Carrey opened up to “Inside The Actor’s Studio” host James Lipton about how hard that period was, revealing that his dad losing his job was a “kick in the guts” for the whole family.
Driven By Darkness
Carrey showed a talent for impressions and physical comedy from a young age, and in an interview with 60 Minutes in 2004 revealed that it came from a dark place.
“I had a sick mum, man,” he said. “I wanted to make her feel better. Basically, I think she laid in bed and took a lot of pain pills. And I wanted to make her feel better. And I used to go in there and do impressions of praying mantises, and weird things, and whatever. I’d bounce off the walls and throw myself down the stairs to make her feel better.”
Big Break In Comedy
Carrey honed his skills at comedy clubs in Toronto and eventually caught the eye of comic Rodney Dangerfield, who signed him up as a supporting act. By 1979, the 17-year-old was opening for other successful comics, like Buddy Hackett. In 1983, Carrey left Toronto for Hollywood and bagged a role in a made-for-television movie called “Introducing… Janet.” More TV appearances followed on programs like “The Duck Factory” and “Jim Carrey’s Unnatural Act.” He got his big break in 1990 with a regular role on the comedy show “In Living Color.”
Big Screen Success
It wasn’t long before Carrey moved to the big screen, making his debut in 1984’s “Finders Keepers.” Within 10 years, he hit the big time with the 1994 comedy “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.” In fact, 1994 was a seminal year for Carrey. He also starred in the hit movies “The Mask” and “Dumb and Dumber.” He quickly won over audiences with his expressive, wacky, slapstick style.
Carrey was married to actress Melissa Womer from 1987 to 1995. He and Womer share a daughter, Jane — the only person Carrey follows on Twitter. Here she is on the red carpet in 2008 with her dad and his then-girlfriend, Jenny McCarthy.
Carrey met his second wife, Lauren Holly, on the set of “Dumb and Dumber,” but their 1996 marriage lasted less than a year. Carrey also dated his “Me, Myself & Irene” co-star Renee Zellweger from 1999 to 2000, and Jenny McCarthy from 2006 to 2010.
Carrey dominated the box office for the rest of the 1990s, churning out movie after movie: “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls” and “Batman Forever” in 1995, and “The Cable Guy” in 1996 (for which he became the first actor in history to command $20 million a picture). The Hollywood Reporter gave a glowing review of Carrey’s 1997 release “Liar Liar,” writing, “Carrey has never been better — that is to say funnier, or more controlled. He’s reached a higher performance plateau here, playing a real human being we care about rather than a goon figure.”
Playing It Straight
After the success of “Liar Liar,” Carrey took his career in a whole new direction. He proved he wasn’t a one-trick pony by turning to straighter roles, starting with 1998’s “The Truman Show.” And it paid off — he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor for his role, giving a long, emotional speech in which he poked fun at his previous comedic movie career and thanked people, such as director Peter Weir, for taking a chance on him and seeing more in him than “just funny faces.”
‘The Tom Hanks Of The Golden Globes’
In 2000, he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor again, for “Man on the Moon.” This time around, he called himself “the Tom Hanks of the Golden Globes” and joked that the film was in a “confused” category.
“I was a little shocked that it was in the comedy or musical category, actually. But you know, I’ll go with it,” he said before breaking into song.
Carrey’s acceptance speech at the MTV Movie Awards in 1999 was even more bizarre. He appeared with long, stringy hair and a bushy beard to take the award for Best Male Performance for “The Truman Show,” and he dedicated his golden popcorn to his “new biker friends” before bursting into song (Eric Clapton’s “Let it Grow”) and casting an eye around the room for attractive women. “Peace, love,” was his departing shot.
Suffering For His Art
Filming “The Man on the Moon” clearly took its toll on Carrey. He remained in character as the groundbreaking actor and performance artist Andy Kaufman (or Kaufman’s vulgar, addicted alter ego Tony Clifton) for the entire four-month shoot, both on screen and off. Carrey refused to let any cast or crew see him without his prosthetics, meaning he wore a paper bag on his head when he wasn’t in full makeup.
More Movie Hits
In 2000, Carrey took on a more lighthearted role, playing the green, grouchy Grinch in the movie adaptation of the famous Dr. Seuss children’s book of the same name. But by 2004, he was back to straighter roles, starring alongside Kate Winslet in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”
The film received great critical acclaim and won a slew of awards, including Best Screenplay at the 2005 BAFTA Awards and a 2005 Oscar for Best Writing, Original Screenplay. Carrey was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor for his role as Joel Barish, but the gong went to Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Aviator.”
In an interview with IGN in 2004, the actor commented on the comparison between the goofy, typically “Carrey” role and his more serious parts.
“It’s a Jekyll and Hyde situation,” he said. “[The roles] just come as they come.”
In 2007, the actor starred in the psychological thriller “The Number 23,” which was even more of a departure from his usual slapstick role. Unfortunately, the film, which features Carrey as a man who becomes obsessed with the number 23 after reading about it in a strange book that seemingly mirrors his own life, wasn’t a success.
Becoming A US Citizen
After living and working in the U.S. for decades, Carry got his American citizenship in 2004, partly to gain the right to vote in U.S. elections. (A few years earlier, he joked that he was trying to memorize all the U.S. state capitals in his citizenship efforts.)
“This country has helped define me and make my dreams come true. I always felt growing up that America was a big brother, protecting us in the schoolyard,” Carrey said at the time. However, he stressed that his Canadian identity would always be very important to him.
“I have no intention of giving up my Canadian heritage, and all those who loved and supported me,” he said. “My upbringing in Canada made me the person I am. I will always be proud to be a Canadian.” To this day, Carrey remains a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada.
Taking A Risk On ‘Yes Man’
Carrey is proof that it’s not always the big paycheck projects that earn actors the most money.
For 2008’s “Yes Man,” he agreed to forgo his standard $20-million plus 20 percent of the film’s gross profits in favor of 36.2 percent of back-end profits. Industry insiders considered this to be a huge risk, particularly because Carrey previous two projects – “The Number 23” and “Fun with Dick and Jane” hadn’t been hits.
But Carrey’s gamble paid off, revealed The Telegraph. “Yes Man” grossed a whopping $230 million globally, giving him the tidy sum of around $32 million — earning him significantly more than several of his other notable box office successes, such as “Liar Liar” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
After “Yes Man,” Carrey appeared in a string of kids’ movies, like “A Christmas Carol” (2009), “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” (2011) and the much-hyped sequel to one of the defining films of his early career, “Dumb and Dumber.” In “Dumb and Dumber To” (2014), Carrey reprised the role of Lloyd Christmas alongside Jeff Daniels as Harry Dunne.
Ad-Libbing With Hollywood Heavyweights
Starring in the 2013 release “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” alongside Alan Arkin, Olivia Wilde, Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi, gave Carrey the perfect opportunity to indulge his love of ad lib.
“We just play around. These guys are great to play around,” Carrey told The Hollywood Reporter. “I’m always working it. I can’t sleep at night. And I write and do crazy things. So a lot of the dialogue was stuff that I came up with because I’m nuts.”
Carrey was particularly excited to work with Arkin, who plays a retired magician.
“He’s the kind of guy who you just want him to love you,” he said. “You don’t want to have a bad Bob Dylan experience. If you run into Bob Dylan, you want him to be nice to you. He would hate that I’m saying that.”
As the whole world began to use social media more frequently, so did Carrey — but not always to his advantage. A few months before his movie “Kick-Ass 2” came out, he criticized the film’s violence via Twitter, writing, “I did Kick-Ass a month before Sandy Hook. And now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence. My apologies to others involved with the film. I am not ashamed of it, but recent events have caused a change in my heart.”
This didn’t go down well with the makers of the film. Mark Millar, the creator of the original comic book, wrote an open letter in which he claimed that “the big deal we made of the fact that [Carrey’s character] refuses to fire a gun is something he told us attracted him to the role in the first place.”
Never Stop Goofing Around
No matter what was going on in Carrey’s personal life, he always took advantage of every opportunity to make people laugh. For Elton John’s AIDS Foundation Academy Awards viewing party in 2013, he wore enormous prosthetic feet and tiny angel wings.
“Goin’ to Elton’s party. Great cause!” the actor tweeted. “Wearing the perfect outfit to express my awkward spiritual journey.” He certainly knows how to stand out on the red carpet – even if he’s unlikely to make it onto a best-dressed list.
Authoring A Children’s Book
In 2013, Carry released a children’s book called “How Roland Rolls,” which tells the tale of an ocean wave scared of the consequences of hitting the beach. Dedicating the book (which is illustrated by another Burlington, Ontario native, Rob Nason) to his grandson (Jane’s son) Jackson Riley Santana, who was born in Feb. 2010, Carrey told Publisher’s Weekly, “There are more joy and fulfillment in this project that I could have dreamed.”
“How Roland Rolls,” which has a 3.64 out of 5 rating on Goodreads, won a 2013 Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award.
“This was a cute book with an adorable storyline,” wrote one reviewer, while another commented, “It’s no surprise that the world’s biggest kid can write books for kids. This is not some commercial cash-in, but rather a story that has no doubt been bubbling around in the author’s mind since his childhood.”
“When she was in her early teens, she started writing these songs and they were so deep and so lyrically interesting and the finesse in her work and her songwriting, her melody writing is incredible. She’s an amazing talent and it makes me so proud because these things keep coming up from generation to generation,” he said.
On the book’s official website, Carrey wrote, “As a father and grandfather, I know there’s nothing more important in our lives than the well-being and future of our children and grandchildren. There’s nothing more important than making them feel loved and worthy of our involvement.”
The Carrey collaboration didn’t end there – the following year, Jane recorded a couple of songs for her dad’s 2014 movie “Dumb and Dumber To.”
Carrey attracted yet more controversy in 2015 when he went public with his anti-vaccination views.
“California Gov says yes to poisoning more children with mercury and aluminum in mandatory vaccines,” he wrote on Twitter. “This corporate fascist must be stopped.”
After some people pointed out that mercury is no longer used in vaccines and that refusing to vaccinate children poses a huge risk to public health, Carrey seemed to backtrack.
“I am not anti-vaccine,” he tweeted. “I am anti-thimerosal, anti-mercury. They have taken some of the mercury laden thimerosal out of vaccines. NOT ALL!”
But the damage was already done.
In July 2015, TIME magazine published an article titled “Jim Carrey, Please Shut Up About Vaccines,” alleging that “the anti-vax crowd has never been about reasoned argument or a cool-headed look at clinical science. They’ve been all about rage, all about echo-chamber misinformation.”
At this point, Carrey was getting more negative press about his anti-science standpoint than positive feedback on his performance skills.
2015 only got worse for Carrey. In September, his ex-girlfriend Cathriona White died by suicide, alone in her Los Angeles home, at age 27. At her funeral in Cappawhite, Ireland, Carrey served as a pallbearer. That day, the actor wrote in a now-deleted Twitter post: “Love cannot be lost” and added an emoji of a rose and a photo that appears to be a silhouette of Carrey and White looking lovingly at each other.
Carrey and White had an on again-off again relationship since 2012 and had reportedly gotten back together in May 2015, four months before splitting again only a week before White’s death. Initially, Carrey spoke fondly of his ex after her death, stating, “She was a truly kind and delicate Irish flower, too sensitive for this soil, to whom loving and being loved was all that sparkled.”
But an ugly fallout followed the tragedy. White’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Carrey, claiming that he emotionally abused White, gave her STDs (including two strains of the incurable herpes virus) and intimidated her via “high-priced Hollywood lawyers” after their breakup.
Carrey’s lawyers fought back, claiming that White tried to extort money from him. During the subsequent legal case, multiple text message screenshots and letters were leaked to the media, revealing personal conversations between Carrey and White that discussed her paranoia about STDs and his distress at the situation. The case was dismissed at the start of 2018, with lawyers from both sides confirming that neither party would take any further action.
‘Not Hungry Anymore’
During an appearance at Pasadena’s Icehouse Comedy Club in January 2017, Carrey hinted that his days as a megastar may be over.
“I’m not hungry anymore,” he told the crowd. “I’ve done it all!”
Later that year, he gave an awkward interview at a Harper’s Bazaar party during New York Fashion Week, telling a reporter he was there because he “wanted to come to the most meaningless thing I could come to.”
Behind The Camera
Carrey may not have been hungry for fame anymore, but he still wanted to create. He was an executive producer on “I’m Dying Up Here,” a Showtime TV series that first aired in June 2017.
According to star Andrew Santino, Carrey lent both his voice and his stories to the development of the show. Co-star Erik Griffin agreed that Carrey was “integral to making the show because he lived [during the 1970s and 1980s, when the show was set] and he tells the stories of that time.”
A Return To TV
“I’m Dying Up Here” was canceled after two seasons, but Carrey continued working with Showtime, producing and starring in the series “Kidding,” which premiered September 2018. Playing a kids’ TV show host struggling with serious family issues, it was Carrey’s first regular TV role in almost 25 years, and reunited him with “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” director Michel Gondry.
The Hollywood Reporter chief television critic Tim Goodman called “Kidding” “funny, wildly inventive and utterly sad” in his review.
Mental Health Issues
Carrey has spoken openly about his lifelong struggles with depression, reflecting on how his fame isolated his daughter, affected the lives of others he’d loved and eventually led him toward the life of an almost-recluse.
In 2017, he told inews, “At this point, I don’t have depression. There is not an experience of depression. I had that for years, but now, when the rain comes, it rains, but it doesn’t stay. It doesn’t stay long enough to immerse me and drown me anymore.”
A Surprising New Career
Most of what goes on in your mind doesn't deserve your attention. It's a tiring and terrifying time machine. Whenever you bring yourself back to this moment you’re reborn with a new pair of eyes and a brand new song. See the world. Feel the sun. Be here. Sss’good. pic.twitter.com/XHVi7mlRIr
— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) May 10, 2019
After the 2016 election, Carrey started using his Twitter account to showcase his politically-charged, multicolored artwork. His caricatures of Donald Trump make Carrey’s political views clear. In case there was any doubt, he told the Los Angeles Times, “I will not accept a liar as my leader. There is only one true enemy of the state, and that’s the president.”
A six-minute documentary about Carrey’s art, in which he explains that his work gives insight into his psyche, went viral in 2017.
Blotus failed to come up with an infrastructure plan. It’s been 3 yrs and not 1 brick has been laid in his new American’t. So I drew up this design for a new bridge to Queens that’ll make it easier for him to get back to that rock he crawled out from under. I’m just here to help! pic.twitter.com/QpJQk7BEYl
— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) May 23, 2019
In 2018, a collection of Carrey’s original drawings went on display for the first time at Maccarone, an art gallery in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. Titled “IndigNATION: Political Drawings by Jim Carrey, 2016-2018,” the timing of the show coincided with the midterm election season.
“Carrey’s cartoon drawings are a conduit for his frustration and disappointment in the U.S. constituency, his response to the election of a controversial and ill-equipped media figure and the corrupt and dishonest manner in which the current administration is perceived to function,” explained the show materials. “By sharing these drawings, Carrey draws attention to the dysfunctional policies of an embattled White House and a chaotic government whose motives and actions seem to threaten the very democracy they are tasked to preserve.”
Excellence In Comedy
Carrey’s comedic skills haven’t been completely overshadowed by his artistic flair. In October 2018, he received the Charlie Chaplin Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy presented by Jaguar Land Rover at the 2018 British Academy Britannia Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel, California. Previous winners of this award include Ricky Gervais, Aziz Ansari, Amy Schumer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Sacha Baron Cohen.
In November 2018, Carrey told the Radio Times that he was living an isolated life, saying, “I spend a lot of time by myself but I like being by myself, so it’s OK. That might be strange to some people, but I enjoy it.”
He revealed that he loved to read, paint and work on sculptures in his free time, and that he hadn’t given up love.
“I date,” he said.
In early 2019, Carrey went public with his relationship with actress Ginger Gonzaga, whom he met on the set of “Kidding.” The couple walked the red carpet together at the Golden Globes, where Carrey was nominated for Best Performance in a Television Series, Comedy or Musical for his role as Jeff in the Showtime series. The award went to Michael Douglas for his role in “The Kominsky Method.”
Taking What He Dishes
Carrey can dish out the jokes, but he can also take them on the chin. At the 2019 Golden Globes, he played along with a hilarious opening stint, together with hosts Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh. Oh spotted Carrey in the crowd and told the audience, “I am Jim Carrey sitting up front tonight in the movie section even though he’s nominated for a TV show.” She and Samberg then asked Carrey to vacate the “movie section,” which he did, storming off to join the rest of the television stars and taking his dinner with him so he didn’t “leave any DNA in the film section.” From his new spot, he put two large glasses to his eyes to get a better view of the stage.
Splitting Up With Gonzaga
Despite their cozy appearance at the Golden Globes, “Kidding” co-stars Carrey and Gonzaga were not meant to be. News of the couple’s split broke in October 2019, with an insider telling people the pair — who had had actually broken up “months ago.”
‘Sonic The Hedgehog’
Carrey’s first large studio feature since “Dumb and Dumber To” in 2014 is the adaptation of the popular video game “Sonic the Hedgehog,” which is due to be released in February 2020. Carrey plays the evil Dr. Robotnik, Sonic’s longtime nemesis, who plans to use the hedgehog’s powers to take over the world. So it seems that Carrey hasn’t turned his back on Hollywood just yet.
Gaming With His Grandson
During the promo tour for “Sonic the Hedgehog,” Carrey revealed that he’s immersed himself in the world of the blue spiked creature, thanks to Jackson, his grandson.
“I knew, when I got the call to do this movie, that Sonic was a game,” he said in a behind-the-scenes YouTube video. “I think I had played it once or twice, and after I got the call, I started playing it with my grandson. Who humiliated me constantly. These games have turned kids into jet pilots. I mean, they are quick. Their reflexes are awesome. He’s nine years old and trash talks me. I get angry. I put money in the swear jar. I’m actually a lot like Robotnik.”
‘Not Back In The Same Way’
Carrey hinted at a newfound sense of peace during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2018 that took place in the Brentwood home he bought with the money he earned from “Dumb and Dumber.”
“I’m not back in the same way,” he said. “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.”
A Sequel To ‘The Mask’ Isn’t Out Of The Question
Finally, the news fans of Carrey’s 1994 classic “The Mask” have been waiting for: he’s not ruled out a return as the hapless bank clerk turned green-headed gangster. In an interview with ComicBook.com, Carrey said he’d be interested in a sequel, but only if it was made by a “crazy visionary filmmaker.”
“I don’t think in terms of sequels and stuff like that, I mean, this one [Sonic The Hedgehog] is kind of right for it because we have not evolved the character [Dr. Eggman] fully yet,” Carrey added. “The Mask I think, myself, you know, it would depend on a filmmaker. It depends on a filmmaker really. I don’t want to do it just to do it. But I would only do it if it was some crazy visionary filmmaker. Sure.”
There’s certainly plenty of material there to develop a follow-up to what proved to be one of the biggest hits of Carrey’s comedy career. “The Mask” was based on the Dark Horse comic series of the same name by Mike Richardson, Doug Mahnke and John Arcudi. The question is, can Carrey lure Cameron Diaz out of retirement to join him?
He’s Bringing Positive Vibes To 2020
With “Kidding” coming back for another season and “Sonic the Hedgehog” about to hit theaters, Carrey has a lot to look forward to, and he’s excited about other people’s creative projects as well. “I’m so excited for everybody […] that great art is still being made gives me hope about everything. It’s wonderful, and I just want to be in all of it,” he told IndieWire, between enthusing about several movie projects such as Bong Joon Ho’s Oscar-nominated “Parasite” and Adam Sandler’s “Uncut Gems.”
Part of his plan for positivity in 2020 involves no more Trump talk (or art — in 2019, the actor created and made public several satirical paintings featuring the U.S. President.)
“I’ve said what I need to say, and I’ve allowed it to inhabit my body and cause whatever low vibrations do to a body,” Carrey explained. “You know, I sounded my yelp, I warned people, and that’s enough. They know how I feel. So I’ll vote in November, and that’s that. If the wheels come off the wagon completely, then I’ll meet them in the street. But I’m not going to waste another moment of my time with a narcissist, President… what’s his name again?”