This Hollywood actor was one of the most popular stars of the 1990s. And although his wacky comedy style wasn’t to everyone’s taste, it made films such as Dumb and Dumber and The Mask successful. Fast forward to 2019, though, and the rubber-faced star is all but gone from movie screens. Nevertheless, his personal life is often the subject of gossip. So what in the world happened?
Said actor is, of course, Jim Carrey. Right from early childhood, the future star knew he wanted to be a comedian: he had a talent for impressions, and he knew it. So, as Carrey grew up, he continued to hone his skills and began appearing at comedy clubs. Sometimes he bombed, but slowly the aspiring actor put together a winning routine. And eventually, he caught the attention of comic Rodney Dangerfield, who then signed him up as a supporting act.
From there, Carrey decided to take a chance and move to Hollywood. And it turned out to be a very good decision, indeed. By the early 1980s, he was appearing on television in the likes of An Evening at the Improv and The Tonight Show . But the star’s big break came in 1990 as part of the cast of sketch-comedy series In Living Color. And next he set his sights on the movie world.
However, Carrey would not have to wait long for big-screen success. In 1994 he starred in not one but three movies that turned out to be massive hits: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective; The Mask; Dumb and Dumber. Audiences – or most of them, anyway – loved his expressive slapstick style. And from there, the star enjoyed a series of box-office hits for the rest of the decade.
Then, in 1995 Carrey played supervillain the Riddler in Batman Forever. Furthermore, he reprised his role as Ace Ventura in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. And just a year later, he was picking up $20 million per film. What’s more, movies such as The Truman Show demonstrated his skills as a straight actor, proving he wasn’t just a clown.
As the new millennium began, Carrey continued to do comedies, but he often pursued more “highbrow” work as well. And in 2004 he again received critical acclaim for the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The star’s low-key performance earned him several award nominations, too.
That same year, IGN told Carrey, “Some people have started to make the comparison between the ‘goofy’ Jim Carrey role and the ‘serious’ Jim Carrey role.” And the comedian seemed to agree. “It’s a Jekyll and Hyde situation,” Carrey replied. “[The roles] just come as they come.” But he did seem to be putting his days of slapstick behind him somewhat. And in 2007 the actor starred in the psychological thriller The Number 23, not his usual fare at all.
Unfortunately, The Number 23 was far from a hit. However, Carrey bounced back in 2008 with the comedy Yes Man, which was a big financial success. And more comedies followed, as well as children’s movies: A Christmas Carol; Mr. Popper’s Penguins; Dumb and Dumber To. But despite the box-office takings being impressive, the reviews were becoming more mixed. And something else was happening, too.
Yes, with the rise of Twitter and social media, it was easier than ever for actors to express their personal beliefs. And Carrey’s opinions, it turned out, didn’t always suit the movie that he was meant to be promoting. For instance, a few months before Kick-Ass 2 was released, the star denounced the film’s violence via Twitter.
As the actor went on to tweet, “I did Kick-Ass a month before Sandy Hook,” referring to the elementary school shooting that horrified the world. “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.” As you can imagine, this created quite a stir.
Although some Twitter users praised Carrey for speaking out, the makers of Kick-Ass 2 were less impressed. 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.”
And that wasn’t to be the only part that Carrey’s tweets would seem to play in his downfall. In 2015 he suddenly went public with some very controversial beliefs. In fact, it turned out that he was anti-vaccination. “California Gov says yes to poisoning more children with mercury and aluminum in mandatory vaccines. This corporate fascist must be stopped,” he wrote, referring to a new law that had just been passed.
You see, there was an angry response to his comments. Firstly, people were quick to point out that mercury is not used in vaccines anymore. And secondly, refusing to vaccinate children poses a huge risk to public health. “I am not anti-vaccine. I am anti-thimerosal, anti-mercury. They have taken some of the mercury laden thimerosal out of vaccines. NOT ALL!” Carrey tweeted in an apparent attempt at damage control. However, it seemed that his reputation had already been tarnished.
Time magazine subsequently published an article titled “Jim Carrey, Please Shut Up About Vaccines.” The criticism that it contained included: “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.” In one fell swoop, then, Carrey had apparently gone from beloved comedian to anti-science kook.
Consequently, when actors find themselves on the wrong end of publicity, it can no doubt affect the roles they get. And if you look back on Carrey’s filmography, it appears he had only one credit to his name in 2015: an appearance on Saturday Night Live. Now, that’s a big comedown for an actor who, for so long, seemed to be a regular sight on movie posters.
And if the vaccination controversy wasn’t bad enough, worse was yet to come. In September 2015 Carrey’s ex-girlfriend Cathriona White committed suicide. Astonishingly, this set off a painful and complicated chain of events. For her family and estranged husband subsequently alleged that White had killed herself using prescription drugs belonging to Carrey. To top it all off, they brought a lawsuit against him.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the fallout was ugly. For White’s mother, Brigid Sweetman, claimed in her lawsuit that Carrey had emotionally abused her daughter and given her STDs. Furthermore, she claimed he had used “high-priced Hollywood lawyers” to intimidate her after they broke up. Although these remain unproven allegations, they nonetheless seemed to have an impact on Carrey’s public image.
For you see, Sweetman’s legal team alleged that Carrey gave White STDs and then dumped her in order to protect his image. But Carrey’s lawyers claimed that White tried to extort money from him. So it isn’t surprising that Carrey more or less abandoned movie acting for a bit while fighting to clear his name.
But in 2018 The Hollywood Reporter announced that the lawsuits against Carrey had been dismissed. And according to The Telegraph, White had apparently faked some of her medical records with regards to STDs. However, Carrey’s rep said simply that the comedian was “looking forward to moving on with his life.”
And yet regardless of that, it does seem that the days of Carrey the megastar may be over. For he even implied as much during an appearance at Pasadena’s Icehouse Comedy Club in January 2017. “I’m not hungry anymore,” Carrey reportedly said. “I’ve done it all!” His net worth is estimated to be in the region of $150 million, so he can certainly afford to semi-retire.
Actually, Carrey’s only 2018 acting project was Kidding, a Showtime TV series that reunited him with Eternal Sunshine director Michel Gondry. And the show was about a rich and famous children’s entertainer with a tragic personal life. Now that might have hit considerably close to home for Carrey.
In addition to acting, Carrey’s taken up art recently – and that’s turned out to be hugely controversial too. Why? Well, his drawings are very political. Among other works, he’s done satirical pieces of President Donald Trump and former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. But he’s happy to discuss them when the occasion rises.
Speaking to Colin Stokes at the New Yorker Festival in October 2018, Carrey said. “I get to a certain point where people go, ‘Oh, my God, you’re really great. That’s what you are.’ And I go, ‘Nope. I’m something different,’ I want to constantly be fashioning the limbs to this avatar and I want to constantly be growing, so what happens is I get a lull in popularity a little bit, and I kind of go away and I learn a new thing.”
Indeed, Carrey even got his own art show that year, an exhibition titled “IndigNation: Political Cartoons by Jim Carrey, 2016–2018.” He told the audience at the festival, “It was very difficult to put myself in a place where I wanted to come and share myself with a bunch of people tonight. A country that doesn’t take care of its women and take care of its children in our schools is not a country we can fight for. Football players will stand for the flag and the anthem when it stands for them.”
Meanwhile, Carrey described the thought process behind his picture of former White House spokeswoman Huckabee Sanders. “This is as flattering a portrait as I could do,” he said. “And I got a little bit of flak from it…when they said, ‘Oh, jeez, it’s not nice to do an ugly portrait of this person,’ I went, ‘Ugly is on the inside, man. And, yes, in some people, you know, it manifests outwardly.’”
In fact, Carrey’s foray into politics has led some to wonder if he might even try running for President. But he disavowed that notion at the festival, saying, “I serve the world the way I serve the world. I’m a creative. And I can’t not paint and I can’t not create. It has to go someplace, and I can’t sit behind a desk, and I can’t glad-hand people all the time, and I can’t be dishonest.”
In April 2019 Carrey tweeted an illustration of Benito Mussolini, the infamous fascist leader of Italy, being executed alongside his mistress. And he captioned the artwork, “If you’re wondering what fascism leads to, just ask Benito Mussolini and his mistress Claretta.” Well, Mussolini’s granddaughter Alessandra saw it, so guess what happened next.
Responding to Carrey she tweeted, “You are a b**tard.” But it seemed Carrey wasn’t overly bothered, though. A short while later he told Variety at CinemaCon, “She can always flip the cartoon upside down. And it looks like her grandfather is jumping for joy because he just got the head count. There’s her solve right there. Just turn it upside down. Turn that frown upside down.”
Moving on, Carrey’s next film is something in a very different arena to hard-hitting political cartoons. Yes, it’s a live-action adaptation of the video game Sonic the Hedgehog. Even that met with controversy, though. For the CGI design of the titular character, voiced by actor Ben Schwartz, horrified fans.
Indeed, people were not impressed by the film’s first trailer and the strange, overly human-like design of the beloved main character. However, fans did seem slightly more optimistic about Carrey as the villain, Dr. Robotnik. Kotaku writer Gita Jackson said, “Jim Carrey is devouring the scenery, having what looks like a really good time.”
Such was the Sonic trailer’s disastrous reception that Carrey was asked about it at the 2019 Television Critics Association press tour. By then, the filmmakers had conceded that their Sonic design was far from a hit. As a result, they’d actually pushed the movie back three months to redesign the character, focusing on a 2020 release date.
Surprisingly, Carrey’s response was a bit of a rambling one. He said, “It’s an interesting thing. You just become their Frankenstein monster at some point, right?” And about the Sonic redesign in particular, he said, “I don’t know quite how I feel about the audience being in on the creation of it while it’s happening.”
During that same press tour conversation Carrey mentioned, “I don’t really concern myself with things once I did my thing… It’s going to happen how it happens.” That might be a wise road to take, because some of his older films are being reevaluated now. In fact, some critics are trying to bemoan his flicks, even though they reflected society at a different time.
For instance, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective has since been branded offensive by some writers. In 2014, Slant published an article describing the film as “the most offensive and homophobic football movie ever made.” Meanwhile, Writer R. Kurt Osenlund said, “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’s insensitivity toward animals and the mentally ill is peanuts compared to its contempt for LGBT people.”
And in 2017 transgender model Munroe Bergdorf slammed the film on Instagram. She wrote, “It ends in the movie’s villain being caught, stripped to her underwear and exposed as in fact ‘a man.’ Then to add insult to injury, everyone in the room starts vomiting as they have all engaged in sex with her. This film was given a PG certificate. Imagine being eight years old, knowing that you’re transgender but not having the language to verbalize it and then seeing a scene like this.”
Furthermore, radio host Joe Rogan denounced the movie on his YouTube channel come 2019 – 25 years after the film’s release. “I didn’t realize how transphobic that f***ing movie is,” he told The New York Times journalist Bari Weiss. Naturally, people sought out Carrey himself to get his opinion on the matter. Not long after Rogan’s podcast, Carrey was asked about Ace Ventura while promoting Kidding at the Television Critics Association.
And Carrey said he thought Ace Ventura “would probably be much different today.” He went on, “That was an honest completely homophobic reaction from that character. It was basically making fun of homophobia. It’s ridiculous. I’ve got a plunger on my face because I kissed a dude. It’s ridiculous.”
However, he also said, “In this day and age, it probably would not be done the same way. There’s a learning curve for all of us.” Yet some of his more recent movies have met with controversy too. In 2018 the New York Post labelled his film Dark Crimes “exploitative.” In fact, critic Johnny Oleksinski wrote, “That this exercise in vulgarity was made at all is shameful.”
Now, Dark Crimes got a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – ouch. But, while waiting for Sonic the Hedgehog and season two of Kidding, Carrey’s kept himself busy by co-writing a book. Written with Dana Vachon, it’s called Memoirs and Misinformation and is about, according to publisher Knopf, “apocalypses within and without.”
Furthermore, the book is scheduled for release in May 2020, and apparently Carrey will also do a promotional tour. So despite controversial statements and dubious movies, the famous funnyman isn’t quite out of the game just yet. At least, when it comes down to it, he could never be called boring.