Manic Facts About Jim Carrey, The Unhinged Star

May 24, 2023 | Dylan Fleury

Manic Facts About Jim Carrey, The Unhinged Star

Jim Carrey went from a small-time comedian to the highest-paid movie star in the world in a single year. He's still one of our most iconic—and controversial—performers. But while Carrey's manic energy made him the star he is—it also comes with a dark side.

1. He's French Canadian

Jim Carrey was born north of Toronto, Ontario to Kathleen and Percy Carrey. His father was French-Canadian—somewhere down the line, the Carré family anglicized their names to Carrey. Mom stayed at home while dad, a musician, worked lots of different odd jobs. At a young age, Carrey learned to make people laugh—if only for a tragic reason.

jim carrey

2. His Mother Made Dark Jokes

Carrey's mother suffered from various health problems when he was a boy. Her way of dealing with the stress was, evidently, to joke constantly about her own mortality in front of her children. Maybe Kathleen was just trying to work through her own issues, but it soon took a terrible toll on her son.

Jim Carrey facts Getty Images

3. She Traumatized Him

Young Jim Carrey soon developed a crippling fear of death. His mother's comments made him worried all the time, and he desperately wanted to find a way to make her feel better. He'd do anything to please her—and it wasn't long before he realized he could do that by making her laugh.

Jim Carrey FactsLiar Liar (1997), Imagine Entertainment

4. He Wanted To Make Her Smile

Jim Carrey's crazed comedic style began when he was just a boy, doing anything to put a smile on his mom's face. He remembers doing impressions from an early age (praying mantises and other absurd things) and throwing himself down the stairs. But while this started from a place of fear, soon little Jim realized he was pretty good at this whole "making people laugh" thing.

Jim Carrey FactsThe Cable Guy(1996), Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group

5. He Was Cocky

Jim Carrey wasn't much for socializing as a boy—he much preferred standing in front of his mirror and making faces. By age eight, he started doing impressions, and he thought they were great. With the confidence of youth, he wrote to Carol Burnett. The letter was a resume of sorts; he assured Burnett that he had already mastered the art of impersonation, so she should hire him for a role on The Carol Burnett Show.

He didn't get the gig, but, to his delight, Burnett did write back to him. But while young Carrey thought he was destined for stardom, his family life was about to take a terrible turn.

Jim Carrey FactsFlickr, Neon Tommy

6. His Family Lived In A Van

Jim Carrey's father never really saw much stable work, and the family moved around the Toronto area a lot when he was a boy. Then, things suddenly took a turn for the worse: The Carreys lost their home and found themselves living out of a Volkswagen van. Jim, a teenager at the time, lived out of a tent on the shores of Lake Ontario for months.

If Carrey is to be believed, however, this was not some rock bottom moment. The family kept their spirits up—and soon his father got an opportunity that changed everything.

Jim Carrey factsBruce Almighty (2003), Universal Pictures

7. He Had To Work As A Child

After years of turmoil, Percy Carrey got a job working at the Titan Wheels factory in Scarborough, near Toronto. For the first time in years, Carrey had some stability—but he had to work for it. Literally. The Carreys lived in a house across the street from the factory, but part of the deal meant that Carrey and his brother had to work nights at the factory.

Jim Carrey factsEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Focus Features

8. He Quit School

Between living in a tent for months and working nights at a factory, Jim Carrey wasn't exactly like the other kids in school. He'd been through a lot and clearly didn't think academics were for him. He dropped out on his 16th birthday—but he was still plenty busy. He had the gig at the factory, but that wasn't the only way he spent his nights.

Jim Carrey factsGetty Images

9. He Thought He'd Be A Steel Worker

Part of Carrey thought that he was destined for a life of labor—working in a factory at 16 will do that to you. He remembers looking across Lake Ontario to the steel mills of Hamilton, Ontario, dreaming of one day having a "great job" there. But while he was a working stiff, Carrey still had that same drive to make people laugh, and it sent him into seedy comedy clubs at a young age.

Jim Carrey facts Shutterstock

10. He Got Booed Off Stage

Still a teenager, Carrey already had dreams of being a comedian, and he was ready to work for it. He started performing at local comedy shows, but he was in for a rude awakening. In the late-night clubs where he performed, audiences wanted to see raunchy humor, not some skinny teenager doing rote impressions.

Carrey was booed off stage more times than he could count—and it wasn't going to get easier any time soon.

Jim Carrey factsGetty Images

11. He Got Rejected A Lot

Carrey eventually made a name for himself, but showbusiness can be cruel, and it wasn't going to hand him anything. Carrey first auditioned for Saturday Night Live in 1980, but they gave him a hard "No". He would end up auditioning for the iconic show three times in total, but they just weren't interested.

Lorne Michaels may not have seen anything in Jim Carrey—but another famous comedian sure did.

Jim Carrey factsShutterstock

12. Rodney Showed Him Respect

By the time he hit his 20s, Jim Carrey performed regularly, and he caught the eye of a certain comedian who received little to no respect. Rodney Dangerfield invited Carrey to open for him on tour. After getting some miles in on the road, Carrey decided he was ready. He moved to Hollywood—but he had no idea what he was in for.

Rodney Dangerfield factsShutterstock

13. He Achieved His Dream...

In Los Angeles, Carrey started performing regularly at The Comedy Store with a single goal in mind: He wanted to get on The Tonight Show. Within a matter of months, it looked like he finally did it—Johnny Carson booked him to appear on the show. But Carrey was about to learn a hard lesson: Hollywood can give, and Hollywood can take away.

Jim Carrey FactsFlickr, Ken Lund

14. ...Or Did He?

Maybe Carrey got a little too confident after he booked The Tonight Show. Before his night came, producers saw him perform at the Improv...and he fell flat on his face. The set was so bad that they actually unbooked him from The Tonight Show. Though he eventually did make a lukewarm appearance on Carson, Carrey's Hollywood dreams were off to a bad start.

But Jim Carrey had worked in a factory at 16 and lived in a tent even before that. He could handle this. And, as luck would have it, he was about to have some help.

Jim Carrey factsThe Tonight Show (1962–1992), NBC

15. He Tied The Knot

Maybe Hollywood wasn't quite as welcoming as Carrey hoped, but not everyone was against him. In 1987, he married Comedy Store waitress Melissa Womer in 1987. A few months later, the two of them welcomed their daughter, Jane, who would later go on to be a contestant on American Idol.

Poor Melissa didn't know what she was getting into...

Jim Carrey FactsFlickr, Russell Mondy

16. His Wife Tried To Cheer Him Up

Once he got famous, Jim Carrey could still be a pretty temperamental guy—so imagine him when he was a struggling nobody. Womer soon realized that her new husband was, in her words, an "extremely depressive person". She can recall countless long nights when she'd have to try and counsel him until four or five in the morning.

But luckily, after a decade of toiling, Carrey was finally about to get his break.

Jim Carrey factsGetty Images

17. He Got A Break

Saturday Night Live's loss was In Living Color's gain. Though he'd had a few small parts before, in 1990, Carrey landed a role as a cast member on the predominantly Black sketch comedy show. Soon, people came to love his bizarre characters such as Fire Marshall Bill and Vera De Milo. Audiences were starting to notice this tall, skinny Canadian.

And then, in the blink of an eye, Carrey's career exploded.

Jim Carrey FactsGetty Images

18. They Offered Him A Role

In the early 90s, Morgan Creek Productions was looking for someone to star in a new off-beat comedy they had in the works. They offered the role to Rick Moranis, but he turned it down. So did David Alan Grier. They considered several names, such as Alan Rickman and Judd Nelson, before one of the producers took notice of Jim Carrey on In Living Color.

They offered Carrey the lead role in the movie: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. No one could have predicted what happened next.

Jim Carrey factsAce Ventura: Pet Detective (1994),Morgan Creek Entertainment

19. His Career Exploded

Released in early 1994, Ace Ventura was a surprise hit, grossing over $100 million domestically—but here's the thing: Ace Ventura wasn't the only movie Jim Carrey had coming out that year. You see, another studio had taken notice of Carrey on In Living Color and offered him a starring role. This time, the studio was New Line and the movie was The Mask—yet another $100 million grosser. But Carrey still wasn't finished yet.

Jim Carrey FactsFlickr, Mike Mozart

20. He Wasn't Finished

Morgan Creek paid Jim Carrey $350,000 to star in Ace Ventura, peanuts compared to what most comedy stars were making at the time. New Line paid him a little more for The Mask—$450,000. But don't you worry; Carrey's annus mirabilis wasn't over yet. He was actually set to star in another comedy that same year—and this time, the producers made a terrible mistake.

Jim Carrey factsThe Mask (1994), New Line Cinema

21. He Got The Last Laugh

The producers for Carrey's third film of 1994 tried to play hardball with him, and they paid for it dearly. The studio offered him $350,000 for the movie, but Carrey asked for $400,000. The negotiations stalled...and in the meantime, Ace Ventura hit theatres. Suddenly, Jim Carrey was one of the most bankable stars in the world. The studio ended up needing to pay him $7 million to appear in their movie.

It was still worth it though: Dumb and Dumber brought in nearly $250 million when everything was said and done.

Jim Carrey facts Dumb and Dumber (1994), New Line Cinema

22. His Marriage Couldn't Take It

Three $100 million-grossing movies in a single year. Just like that, Jim Carrey was the biggest movie star in the world. Unfortunately, that spelled the end for his marriage. The following year, he and Womer divorced after seven years of marriage. And Carrey's wife wasn't the only person who was getting sick of him—as he was going to learn on the set of his next movie.

Jim Carrey factsShutterstock

23. He Played The Villain

All the years of hard work and rejection finally paid off: Jim Carrey was a superstar. Next, he took the role of the Riddler in Batman Forever, yet another smash hit. But Jim Carrey's antics aren't for everyone. Just ask any parent who was dragged to his movies in the 90s—or ask his Batman costar, Tommy Lee Jones. The first day on set, Carrey walked up to him and asked him how it was going. Jones's response was brutal.

Jim Carrey Films FactsGetty Images

24. His Costar Hated Him

Tommy Lee Jones didn't mince words. He just looked at Carrery and said, "I hate you. I really don't like you". When Carrey asked him to elaborate, Jones responded: "I cannot sanction your buffoonery". Ouch.

But I'm sure Carrey didn't lose too much sleep over it. He was, after all, sleeping on a gigantic pile of money.

Ali MacGraw FactsGetty Images

25. He Got A HUGE Payday

By 1996, Jim Carrey became the first person to earn $20 million for a single film. Unfortunately, that movie happened to be the massively disappointing The Cable Guy. But hey, for $20 million, it's hard to complain. However, Carrey's sudden superstardom was starting to affect his life. In fact, it ruined his next marriage.

Jim Carrey factsThe Cable Guy(1996), Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group

26. He Married His Leading Lady

Few people remember that Jim Carrey actually married the female lead of Dumb and Dumber, Lauren Holly—probably because the marriage lasted less than a year. Carrey's mega-star charm won Holly over, but there was another side to that coin. The paparazzi hounded them ruthlessly, and Holly just couldn't take it. She filed for divorce mere months after they tied the knot.

But a little divorce wasn't going to slow Jim Carrey down. He was soon on to bigger and better things.

Jim Carrey FactsGetty Images

27. He Tried A Drama

Carrey was a huge success as a comedic actor, but he quickly proved he had the chops for drama as well. His starring role in The Truman Show earned him widespread critical acclaim. So did his performance as Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon. But maybe the fame was starting to go to his head: On the set of the latter movie, he was an absolute nightmare.

Andy Kaufman factsMan on the Moon (1999), Universal Pictures

28. He WAS Andy

Jim Carrey famously "went method" in his portrayal of infamous anti-comedian Andy Kaufman. The way Carrey puts it is that Kaufman came up behind him, tapped him on the shoulder, and said, "Sit down. I'll be doin' my movie". He claimed that everything that happened after that was "out of [his] control". That sure is convenient—because what happened was terrible.

Jim Carrey factsShutterstock

29. He Crashed A Car As A Bit

Jim Carrey's—or should we say "Andy Kaufman's"—antics on the set of Man on the Moon went way beyond "method acting". At one point, he drove around set in a red convertible with a bag on his head, shouting, "I got it! I got it!" He quickly crashed the car into a wall, completely totaling it. What was his response? "I didn't get it". But that was just the beginning.

After just a few days of filming, his costars realized they were in for a miserable ride.

Andy Kaufman factsMan on the Moon (1999), Universal Pictures

30. He Infuriated The Cast

Jim Carrey knew that Andy Kaufman was hard to work with, so he decided to be a nightmare to work with. For a little while, his method acting impressed the other actors, but when they realized that "Andy" was only going to communicate with them "telepathically," they started getting frustrated. Then, as if that wasn't enough, he did something disgusting.

Jim Carrey factsMan on the Moon (1999), Universal Pictures

31. He Smelled Disgusting

Paul Giamatti recalls a particularly heinous "prank" of Carrey's: He would fill his pockets with Limburger cheese—aka, the stinkiest cheese there is. He would smell absolutely terrible, but what's worse is he'd get it all over his hands and insist on hugging people/shaking people's hands. Since he was Jim Carrey, the biggest movie star in the world, most people just had to put up with it.

But it was only a matter of time before Carrey messed with the wrong person.

Jim Carrey factsMan on the Moon (1999), Universal Pictures

32. He Spat On A Wrestler

Andy Kaufman had a long-running "feud" with pro wrestler Jerry Lawler. But the thing was, Andy was actually friends with Lawler. Jim Carrey was just some jerk movie star—and when Lawler came to set to appear in the movie as himself, Carrey went too far. Carrey taunted Lawler mercilessly, trying to get a rise out of him. Then, when the time came to film their "fight" scene, Carrey spat on him.

That's when their fake fight turned extremely real...or did it?

Jim Carrey factsMan on the Moon (1999), Universal Pictures

33. He Went To The Hospital

Lawler started fighting Carrey for real. By the time he was done, Carrey had to go to the hospital. When he came back to set, he was wearing a neck brace and he refused to work with Lawler again. But wait, was that all a part of the bit? The thing is, by this point, Carrey was in so deep, no one could really even tell anymore.

Unsurprisingly, filming Man on the Moon was absolutely exhausting for everyone involved—including the usually unflappable Milos Forman.

Jim Carrey factsMan on the Moon (1999), Universal Pictures

34. He Broke Milos Forman

Director Milos Forman had seen a lot in his Hollywood career, but Jim Andy Andy's alter-ego Tony Clifton? That was too much to take. Forman later said, "I have never been intimidated by another man, and I am intimidated by Tony Clifton".

But don't worry: Karma always comes around. Carrey made life miserable for everyone on the Man on the Moon set—but he got what was coming to him while filming How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Jim Carrey factsShutterstock

35. He Got Some Serious Karma

The Grinch saw special effects legend Rick Baker design a prosthetic suit made of green-dyed yak hair. Carrey loved the look and agreed to wear it—but he soon realized he'd made a terrible mistake. First of all, putting on the suit and applying all of the makeup took two and a half hours every single day. Carrey hated the process, and once furiously kicked a hole in a wall after such a session.

But once the suit was on, that's when the real nightmare began.

Jim Carrey factsHow the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000),Universal Pictures

36. He Couldn't Take It

The Grinch suit looked good, but it was also incredibly claustrophobic and unbearably hot. Jim Carrey agreed at first, but when the reality of wearing the suit set in, he just couldn't take it. He would frequently disappear from set to throw tantrums in solitude. When he finally returned, everything would be ripped apart, and the crew couldn't shoot anything.

After two weeks, they had only managed to shoot three days' worth of movie. It looked like something had to give...

Jim Carrey factsHow the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000),Universal Pictures

37. He Needed Help

Jim Carrey's frustration eventually made makeup artist Kazu Hiro throw in the towel and quit. The entire movie was in jeopardy, but Rick Baker and director Ron Howard managed to convince Carrey that he needed to shape up. He agreed to keep his anger in check, and Hiro returned—but Carrey still needed some extra help.

To learn to endure long hours in the suit, Carrey hired a man who trains CIA agents how to endure painful interrogations.

Jim Carrey factsHow the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000),Universal Pictures

38. He Dated Celebs

After his first wife, Carrey could never seem to make a relationship work. After his divorce from Lauren Holly, he briefly dated Renée Zellweger in the early 2000s. When that flamed out, he moved on to January Jones for a quick fling before meeting Jenny McCarthy. Four years and some extremely unfortunate public comments about vaccines later, Carrey and McCarthy called it quits—but his most controversial relationship was the one that came next.

Jim Carrey FactsGetty Images

39. He Had A Tragic Relationship

Jim Carrey met Irish makeup artist Cathriona White in 2012. Carrey had only dated actors for nearly two decades, so maybe he thought he'd try his luck with someone who worked behind the camera. Unfortunately, this fairy tale soon turned into a horror story.

Jim Carrey factsLiar Liar (1997), Universal Pictures

40. He Carried Her Coffin

Carrey and White dated between 2012 and 2015. They remained mostly private and few details about their relationship were made public—but not long after their breakup, tragedy struck. White overdosed on prescription meds on September 28, 2015. Their breakup was still fresh, and a clearly devastated Carrey was a pallbearer at her funeral.

But then, details about their relationship started to get out, and things got a lot more complicated.

Jim Carrey FactsGetty Images

41. She Was Married To Someone Else

First of all, there was the fact that White had been married to someone else for almost the entire time she was with Carrey. Though they started dating in 2012, she actually married Mark Burton in 2013, and she remained married to him until her passing. Then, after her tragic end, her husband took Carrey to court.

Jim Carrey factsGetty Images

42. Her Husband Took Him To Court

Mark Burton clearly had a complicated relationship with Cathriona White, but one thing is for sure: He blamed her passing on Jim Carrey. A year after she passed, Burton filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Carrey, claiming he had used his celebrity to acquire the meds that caused White's demise. Carrey didn't take that lying down, though, and he immediately fired back.

Jim Carrey factsShutterstock

43. He Fought Back

Carrey countersued, and in a statement said, "I will not tolerate this heartless attempt to exploit me or the woman I loved. Cat's troubles were born long before I met her and sadly her tragic end was beyond anyone's control. I really hope that someday soon people will stop trying to profit from this and let her rest in peace".

But this public court battle meant some things he'd tried to keep secret now saw the light of day.

Jim Carrey factsShutterstock

44. The Court Cases Piled Up

It wasn't just one person trying to blame White's demise on Carrey—her mother filed a lawsuit as well. In her suit, some shocking details came out. Notes from White's therapist became public, and they painted a disturbing picture of her relationship with Carrey. She frequently told her therapist about Carrey's anger problems, manipulative behavior, and verbal mistreatment—but that wasn't even the worst thing that came out.

Jim Carrey factsGetty Images

45. His Secrets Started Coming Out

Court documents revealed that not only had Carrey tested positive for multiple STIs, including hepatitis, herpes, and chlamydia, but also that he'd hidden this from White. Even worse, when she commented on bumps on his privates, he outright lied to her and claimed they were from shaving.

Jim Carrey factsShutterstock

46. Their Breakup Was Bad

Carrey eventually got White to sign a confidentiality agreement over the STIs, but this was the final nail in their relationship's coffin. They split up, but it didn't end there. White's therapist revealed that the breakup left her in an incredibly fragile state, exacerbated by her fear that Carrey might burst into her apartment to hurt her.

Jim Carrey factsShutterstock

47. Nothing Came Of It

In the end, there are no bright spots in the story of Cathriona White's passing. Though the lawsuits were all dismissed, the damage to Carrey's public persona was done, and no court case could bring her back.

Jim Carrey FactsGetty Images

48. He Had One Regret

Jim Carrey is not generally someone who looks back, but there is one film that he has come to regret. In 2013, Carrey took the role of Colonel Stars and Stripes in the hyper-violent comic adaptation Kick-Ass 2. However, before the film could be released, a terrible tragedy made Carrey think twice about his involvement.

Jim Carrey FactsGetty Images

49. A Tragedy Made Him Think Twice

Not long after filming the movie, the US was hit with one of the most devastating tragedies in its history: The 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting. Wracked with guilt over the role that guns play in the film, Carrey publicly disavowed the movie before it even hit theatres, saying, "Now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of [brutality]".

Jim Carrey FactsGetty Images

50. The Studio Tried To Cover It Up

For many years, few people in the public knew about Jim Carrey's infuriating antics behind the scenes, and there's a good reason for that. Universal Studios had hours of footage from the set of Man on the Moon, but they suppressed it for years because they knew that it made Carrey look absolutely terrible. It took until 2017, nearly 20 years after the film's release, before they finally let anyone look at the footage.

Maybe they made the right call, because it's hard to look at Carrey quite the same again after viewing the footage.

Jim Carrey factsMan on the Moon (1999), Universal Pictures

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

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