NEW YORK (AP) – When Jim Carrey and Dana Vachon handed in the book they had toiled on for eight years — a satirical â€œanti-memoirâ€ about Carreyâ€™s life but with increasingly extreme flights of absurdity — to Sonny Mehta, the late Knopf publisher said he would put it out as a novel. Carrey and Vachon protested.
â€œBut Sonny, the project was to blow up the celebrity memoir,â€ they argued.
â€œWell, yes,â€ replied Mehta. â€œBut how then would you explain the flying saucers?â€
â€œMemoirs and Misinformation,â€ which was published Tuesday, is not an easy book to label. It opens with Carrey binge-watching Netflix while nursing a split from Renee Zellweger (who, here, leaves him for a bullfighter), pleading for his home security system to â€œTell me Iâ€™m safe and lovedâ€ and craving the box-office success that brought him â€œcloser to god.â€
Thereâ€™s much thatâ€™s straight from Carreyâ€™s life, but it’s an inflated version of his persona — â€œa hyperactive child making yuk-yuks,â€ as the book describes him. With overtones of â€œNetwork,â€ Carrey skewers celebrity, Hollywood, ego and himself. Thereâ€™s Brazilian jiu-jitsu with Nic Cage, spiritual guru gatherings with Kelsey Grammar and a Tom Cruise referenced only as â€œLaser Jack Lightning.â€ Carrey, himself, is juggling movie options: a Mao Zedong film by Charlie Kaufman or â€œHungry Hungry Hipposâ€ in 3-D. Oh, and an apocalypse is approaching.
It may sound far-out, but for Carrey, truth lies in fiction. Even fiction in which Kelsey Grammar and U.F.O.s collide.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of real feeling in this book,â€ said Carrey in a Zoom interview from his home in Hawaii. â€œIt may be done in an out-there way but it sure is real to me.â€
â€œMemoirs and Misinformationâ€ is the latest reinvention of the 58-year-old star of â€œAce Ventura: Pet Detective,â€ â€œThe Mask,â€ â€œEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mindâ€ and â€œThe Truman Show.â€ After veering into painting and political cartoons, itâ€™s yet another new medium for Carrey. (Vachon wrote 2007â€™s â€œMergers & Acquisitions.â€) The book, Carrey says, â€œis dearer to me than anything Iâ€™ve done.â€
The â€œillusion of personaâ€ is the chief subject of â€œMemoirs and Misinformation.” In the last decade or more, Carrey has worked to deconstruct the best-known version of himself and make room for an emotional life that his public identity — â€œunflappably fun,â€ Carrey calls it — didnâ€™t allow. He has spoken about bouts with depression and his ongoing spiritual journey. He has worked less frequently and sought satisfaction away from Hollywood.
â€œAll personas after a while become sarcophagal. You want to claw your way out of them,â€ says Carrey. â€œYouâ€™re met all the time with â€˜Why donâ€™t you just be funny?â€™ I go, â€˜Well, funny is one of the fingers on my hand.â€™ But Iâ€™m learning to use the whole hand.â€
Make no mistake: â€œMemoirs and Misinformationâ€ is funny. But itâ€™s also a sober meditation on mortality, selfhood and the drive to entertain. A conventional memoir was never an option. â€œAt the very least theyâ€™re reordered for effect,â€ says Carrey.
â€œFrom an early age, what Iâ€™ve always noticed about Jim is that he can change form,” says Vachon, who, after flying out to finish the book, has been stranded in Hawaii by the pandemic. â€œHis memoir needed to be one that did that because thatâ€™s his truth.â€
For Carrey, a cartoonishly malleable, head-to-toe comedian of absurdist abandon, the urge to perform began in his working-class upbringing outside Toronto with a mother who fought depression and prescription pills and a father he calls â€œa magical being.â€
â€œI watched him be animated and loving in sharing this gift that he had. I went: Thatâ€™s a great thing to be,â€ says Carrey, the youngest of four. â€œI could make my mother feel better. A lot of comics come from moms in need. My mother was a child of alcoholics and she didnâ€™t get the love that she needed, so her kids were there to give her that love that she was missing. Especially me. I thought I could heal her. I thought I could save her life.â€
That desire to be bigger than yourself and to bring joy to others is something Carrey both values sincerely and considers dangerous. â€œIf it becomes an addiction to exceptionalism,â€ he says, â€œthatâ€™s a bad place to be.â€
The book reminds Carreyâ€™s longtime friend and â€œThe Cable Guyâ€ director Judd Apatow of when he first met Carrey. He was then a successful impressionist who, â€œon a dime,â€ stopped doing impressions and began improvising his entire act, Apatow recalls. â€œIt was like he just cracked open his brain to see what was inside.”
â€œWe all start out young and ambitious and we have our dreams and we think our dreams will make us happy,â€ says Apatow. â€œAnd I think Jim was aware very early on that thatâ€™s not how it would go down.â€
Carrey isn’t sure when he began to feel â€œJim Carreyâ€ cleaving away from himself. Fame was fun, he says, until it wasn’t.
â€œI tripped along for a long time,â€ Carrey says. â€œNo one understands the value of anonymity until they lose it. You could say, â€˜Well, thatâ€™s what you asked for.â€™ Yes, but itâ€™s what a child asks for before they become an adult and understands what something means. Iâ€™m not saying itâ€™s a bad thing, but itâ€™s an odd thing and it keeps you in the house.â€
There were low points. After the apparent suicide of Carrey’s former girlfriend Cathriona White, he was sued for wrongful death by White’s husband and her mother. Carrey denied involvement and counter-sued. By 2018, the suits were dismissed. â€œMemoirs and Misinformationâ€ features plenty of farce, but there are also scenes of Hollywood tragedy that echo some of Carrey’s heartaches.
â€œIt really became an exercise of being able to say the things that are important to say in the most creative and abstract way possible and to deal with real painful and jarring movements in my life,â€ says Carrey.
Lately, Carrey has seemed to find an equilibrium. Heâ€™s starring in â€œKidding,â€ a Showtime series with darker and more melancholic tones, and he was widely praised for his performance in â€œHungry Hungry Hippoâ€ — correction, â€œSonic the Hedgehog.â€ He has been busy sending out letters and book copies to everyone who makes cameos in the book.
â€œYou canâ€™t make a book about persona without personas,â€ says Carrey, quickly noting â€œitâ€™s done with love.â€ â€œOne day I had to call Nic (Cage) and say, â€˜I wrote you into my fictitious memoir.â€™ I hardly got the sentence out and he said, â€˜Iâ€™m so honored.â€™ He was amazed I had given him all the best lines.â€
Is Carrey at peace? â€œI get there,” he says, smiling. As eager as he seems to be to take â€œJim Carreyâ€ and tear him to pieces, he seems – at least through a computer window thousands of miles away – at ease in his own skin.
â€œWhatever it was, it was the perfect cocktail to get us here to this moment,” Carrey says of his life. “So I donâ€™t regret it at all.â€
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP