The Craziest Things Jim Carrey Did While Method Acting As Andy Kaufman
Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond -- Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton is out now on Netflix, and if you haven't watched it, you should leave work/school/the hospital and make some time. The doc, directed by Chris Smith, tells the behind-the-scenes story of Jim Carrey's method acting madness as he shot 1999's Andy Kaufman biopic, Man on the Moon.
At the height of his career, Kaufman was one of the most influential figures in comedy, blending reality with fiction to such an extent that when he died of a rare form of cancer at age 35, many fans thought it was just a dark joke. When Carrey won the chance to portray his idol in the Milos Forman-directed film, he decided to become Kaufman -- a process that was captured on camera for what was supposed to be bonus and promotional material. The results were, to use a technical term, batshit crazy.
Universal, the studio behind the film, suppressed the original footage for fear that it would make Carrey look "like an asshole." Today, the wild archival material finally shows how far Carrey went, and in Jim & Andy, we get to see an introspective Carrey reflect on the process. Below, some highlights for you to relive or to give you a reason to push play.
Carrey says Andy possessed himIn the documentary, the actor recalls lounging on a Malibu beach when he heard he got the part. After the news set in, he looked at the ocean, and thought, Where would Andy be? What would he be doing right now? Carrey reasoned his hero would be trying to communicate telepathically. So he tried too. Immediately, he says, 30 or so dolphins surfaced. And then Andy "showed up," tapped him on the shoulder, and said, "Sit down. I'll be doin' my movie." "What happened afterwards," Carrey adds, "was out of my control."
Carrey made people call him Andy on setThe actor was so method he made people call him by his character's names -- whether he was portraying Kaufman or Kaufman's boorish alter ego, Tony Clifton -- and in the present-day interviews he refers to the characters he portrayed as if they weren't him. He was so unflinching as Tony he even bullied Man on the Moon director Milos Forman into groveling in front of him, and snubbed a studio head visiting set. Of Tony, Forman said: "I have never been intimidated by another man, and I am intimidated by Tony Clifton."
He wore a paper bag over his head while driving a car, which he crashedChanneling Tony and yelling "I got it! I got it!" Carrey crashed a beautiful red convertible into a wall. He didn't "got it."
As Tony, Carrey invaded Steven Spielberg's production company to complain about JawsOn the Universal lot, Carrey, dressed in full Tony costume, busted through the doors of Amblin and demanded to see Steven Spielberg. Why? "I would like to see the real shark," he said. "This shark is a phony shark!" Tony also claimed he wanted to dispense the advice that Spielberg's movies didn't have to be so crowd-pleasing. Sadly, Spielberg wasn't there.
The real Kaufman family embraced JimWhen Kaufman's brother, sister, and parents visited set, Carrey stayed in character. The family accepted him and interacted with him as Andy, not Jim. "He wasn’t being shticky when he was being Andy with us," Andy's younger sister, Carol Kaufman-Kerman told Newsweek recently. "He was almost trying to give us a gift. He was giving us a gift."
Kaufman's biological daughter, who never met him, tracked down and had a conversation with Carrey in character as AndyAs a young man in 1969, Kaufman and his then-partner gave up their out-of-wedlock child for adoption; it wasn't until years after his death that she learned who her father was. So she came to the set and had what Carrey described as an hourlong conversation spent "telling each other that they love each other."
Carrey got into an offset fight with his onscreen Dad (both in character)Carrey wasn't the only one who often stayed in character once the cameras stopped rolling. One instance shows Gerry Becker, the actor who played Kaufman's dad in the movie, yelling at his "son" in a makeup trailer. Their verbal sparring is so realistic it makes one of the women nearby cry -- she says it reminds her of her own father.
He spit on Jerry Lawler to incite an actual fight...One of Kaufman's most memorable, longest running bits was his feud with professional wrestler Jerry "The King" Lawler, who challenged Kaufman to a "real" wrestling match after Andy stirred up controversy by wrestling women. The whole thing -- which culminated in a neck-brace-wearing Kaufman screaming at Lawler after getting slapped during a commercial break on David Letterman's show -- was a setup. The two men were actually friends.
When Lawler came to play himself in the film, however, Carrey made no overtures of friendship, mercilessly taunting Lawler and his girlfriend in an effort to get Lawler to actually hurt him. The whole thing erupted while filming a wrestling scene that called for The King to pile-drive Jim. With the insurance underwriters unwilling to allow Carrey to perform the stunt himself, and Carrey insisting on doing it to ensure authenticity, the actor took matters into his own hands: He spit on Lawler, and the wrestler started fighting with him in a very real way.