Rubber-faced roles in movies like 'The Mask' and 'Dumb & Dumber' earned rave reviews. He has won accolades as a serious actor and comic. But has fame come at the price of happiness?
James Eugene Carrey was born to parents Percy, an accountant, and Kathleen, a housewife. The youngest of four children, Jim was an extroverted child who performed his early comedy routines for his parents and family.
At the age of 10, Jim mailed his resume to the Carol Burnett Show, and, at junior high school, his teachers quelled his boisterous behaviour by giving him a few minutes at the end of the day to do stand-up routines for his classmates.
Percy lost his job as an accountant when Jim was 14 and the family fell on hard times. They were forced to move to the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, with Percy taking on the job of janitor in the Titan Wheels Factory which had a house on site. Carrey, formerly a good student, took to working eight-hour shifts after school and his grades suffered. The family eventually gave away the factory work and moved into a VW campervan parked on a relative’s lawn.
Jim made his comedy debut at age 15 at Toronto’s Yuk Yuk’s club, wearing a yellow suit his mother had made for him. Unfortunately, he bombed badly. Undeterred, Carrey persisted and was soon playing comedy clubs in Toronto regularly. He eventually dropped out of school at 16 to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time comedian.
In 1979, Jim moved to Los Angeles to pursue his career. Gaining a regular gig at The Comedy Store, he caught the eye of veteran comic Rodney Dangerfield who signed him as his opening act for a season. Carrey began pursuing television and film work, auditioning for the likes of 'Saturday Night Live' and 'D.C. Cab'. In 1984, Carrey gained his first lead role in the short-lived series 'The Duck Factory', playing a young cartoonist. The show was pitted against comedy favourite 'Cheers' and consequently only lasted four months. Carrey persisted with the silver-screen though and scored roles in the film 'Once Bitten' with Lauren Hutton in 1985 and a supporting role in 'Peggy Sue Got Married' in 1986. That year, the struggling actor met Melissa Wormer, an aspiring actress who was working as a waitress at The Comedy Store. The pair fell in love and married in 1987, having a daughter, Jane Erin Carrey, later that year.
Jim continued working the comedy circuit and pursuing film roles. He had a supporting role in 1988’s 'The Dead Pool' and, in 1989, roles in 'Pink Cadillac' and 'Earth Girls Are Easy' playing an alien beside comedian Damon Wayans. His friendship with Wayans led to a role in the 1990 sketch series 'In Living Colour', which Wayans’ brother Keenen was developing. Carrey was with the show from 1990 to 1994, playing a variety of bizarre characters including Fire Marshall Bill and the manly female bodybuilder Vera de Milo.
Carrey’s real breakthrough came in 1994 when he was given his first starring role in in 'Ace Ventura: Pet Detective'. Playing a swaggering goof-ball detective who specialised in pet mysteries, Carrey connected with audiences around the world. The critics were not so kind, nominating Carrey for a 1995 Raspberry Award for Worst New Star, but the film caught on and grossed over $70 million at the box office.
Carrey followed this up with another two commercial successes in 'The Mask', where he played a mild-mannered clerk transformed into an extravagant cartoonish superhero when he puts on a magical mask, and 'Dumb and Dumber' where he and Jeff Daniels played idiotic brothers who find a suitcase full of money. The films grossed $120 million and $127 million, respectively, and firmly established Carrey as a star.
1995 saw the Carrey juggernaut continue with the blockbuster 'Batman Forever', where he played The Riddler, before he reprised his Ace Ventura role in the sequel, 'When Nature Calls'. Sadly, Carrey’s marriage to Wormer broke up that year in a particularly messy divorce. Carrey soon took up with 'Dumb and Dumber' co-star Lauren Holly. Holly and Carrey tied the knot the following year but the marriage lasted less than a year amid allegations of infidelity.
Carrey pocketed $20 million for his next film which, surprisingly, was his first disappointment. 1996’s 'The Cable Guy', directed by Ben Stiller and co-starring Matthew Broderick, was a dark comedy that saw only mediocre returns at the box office.
He bounced back in 1997 though, with a return to his trademark light comedy in 'Liar Liar', which grossed over $180 million. In 1998, Carrey showed a new side of his acting, starring in the semi-serious 'The Truman Show', about a man whose life is, unbeknownst to him, a gigantic television show. The film won several Oscars and Carrey won a Golden Globe for his performance. Another semi-serious role was to follow with Carrey starring in the Andy Kaufmann biopic 'Man on the Moon', which earned him another Golden Globe.
Carrey returned to comedy in 2000 with the Farrelly brothers-directed 'Me, Myself and Irene'. The film’s subject matter, mental illness, failed to win over the critics but audiences loved it and the film achieved good ticket sales. During filming, Carrey began a short-lived romance with co-star Renee Zellweger which ended in December of 2000. That year, Carrey also appeared in his most-financially successful film to date; children’s film 'The Grinch Who Stole Christmas' was the highest grossing film of the year, earning over $260 million.
2001 saw Carrey in the poor-performing drama 'The Majestic', but 2003 was another return to form, with 'Bruce Almighty' portraying Carrey as a man given God’s powers. The film, which co-starred Friends actress Jennifer Aniston, was another massive success, grossing over $200 million at the box office.
In 2004, still trying to make his mark as a serious actor, Carrey took a role in the critically-lauded art-house film 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'. Written by acclaimed screenwriter Charlie Kaufmann and directed by the innovative Michael Gondry, Carrey starred opposite Kate Winslet as a man pursued through his memories as they are erased. The film earned an Oscar for Kaufmann and a nomination for Winslet, but Carrey was again overlooked by the Academy. The same year, Carrey appeared in the children’s film 'Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events', playing the villain, the murderous Uncle Olaf.
2005 saw a remake of the 1977 Jane Fonda and George Segal movie, 'Fun With Dick And Jane', with Carrey starring opposite Tea Leoni. He continued his dalliance with dramatic roles in the psychological thriller 'The Number 23' in 2007. The film once again returned less-than-impressive figures for a Carrey drama, grossing only $35 million.
In December 2005, he began dating actress and model Jenny McCarthy, but they separated in 2010.
Jim's latest roles include 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' (2013), 'Kick-Ass 2' (2013) and 'Dumb And Dumber To' (2014).
Carrey’s appeal seems to be inexhaustible and, with his star power and his pull at the box office, Jim Carrey looks set to be a fixture on the Hollywood stage for many years to come.