Playing comedy great Andy Kaufman in 1999 film Man On The Moon is surely Jim Carrey’s finest moment as an actor.
It’s a wonderful movie, telling the tragic tale of one of the most misunderstood and enigmatic comedy geniuses that ever lived. And for Carrey, until then known for the kind of goofy shenanigans that Kaufman would likely have resigned to the scrapheap, to pull it off as well as he did is testament to his screen skills.
In the years since Man On The Moon’s release, I’ve read various accounts of Carrey’s behaviour on the set. He took method acting to an extreme level. And now we can actually see it in this brilliant documentary.
The footage featured in Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond has been locked away for years, with Carrey saying Universal Pictures were terrified that its release would make people think Carrey was “an asshole.”
Presumably some of his actions in the recent past have been confirmation enough of his asshole status, so now that the secret’s out why not release this footage, right?
The film shows Carrey insisting on being addressed as Andy, or Tony Clifton depending on which role he was in that day, even when the cameras stop rolling. Seems innocent enough, except Carrey is intensely focused on playing the part 100% of the time…regardless of how awkward that makes it for those around him.
Makeup artists end up in tears, director Milos Forman looks frequently close to a breakdown and co-stars including Danny DeVito and Paul Giamatti spend most of their time with a look of exasperation all over their faces. Another co-star, Jerry Lawler, loses his shit with Carrey on multiple occasions and that tense relationship adds some real spice to this documentary.
He deliberately crashes cars, flouts studio rules and even manages, hilariously, to crash a party at the Playboy Mansion with some slick misdirection.
Touching footage of Carrey, in character, with Kaufman’s family show that the leading man wasn’t out of his mind entirely and had at least some control over his behaviour. But overall, it appears he made life hell for everyone else on set.
While he may indeed have behaved like the biggest asshole on the face of the planet throughout the making of Man On The Moon, it resulted in a most beautiful movie. This documentary is a must-see for fans of Carrey and of Andy Kaufman.
I’m off to watch Man On The Moon again, this time armed with some fascinating knowledge of the dynamics of the interactions.