Does Jim Carrey like Christmas? He’s played the Grinch, and now he’s portraying the most miserly character in holiday history, Ebenezer Scrooge in Disney’s A Christmas Carol.
It’s the first time the actor has starred in a performance-capture digital movie, and at the press junket for the film, he talked enthusiastically about his experience, working with director Robert Zemeckis.
What is it about the Christmas holiday, first you were the Grinch Who Stole Christmas and now you’re Scrooge.
I hate Christmas! (he laughs) Scrooge is the original Grinch, it was modeled after that. There were a lot of similarities in the characters, of course it’s a different set of circumstances and you want to frame it with a reality and still have it be fun for an audience.
I wanted people to really feel this person’s pain and his triumph and everyone’s joy in this film.
Why did you want to play Scrooge?
It’s the whole picture, it’s a dream of every actor to have the greatest material in the world, the greatest talent in the world to play with, and a top flight artist as a director, and we have all of that. I’m completely honored to be a part of this cast and a part of this whole experience. I can’t wait to do this process again. And watching it you never know where it’s going to go.
Bob has to go through months of panic where I go, ‘Is it going to look like that?’ but he knows where it’s going and as time goes on you just start to slowly fall in love with it, and go, ‘Oh my God, look what they’ve done.’ It’s unbelievable, really magical.
I would imagine it was a big challenge working in this kind of format, where you have all the dots on you. A lot of people get this process confused thinking you’re going in and doing a voice over performance, this is not that?
No, they’re full performances by the actors. There are certain aspects of the technology that are so exciting and amazing creatively that you can’t wait to see what it turns into, but for an actor there are extra challenges.
You have to create the ambience and the belief in your surroundings in your head. And often times, like when Robin (Wright Penn) and I did our dance, we were clacking these inserts together with cameras on them and going clack, clack against each other’s head, and it was really disconcerting.
Gary Oldman at one point said to me, ‘I wanted to work with you, man, but I don’t know, I never imagined it would be like this.’ And he not only had the cameras staring at his face, but he had a crane up his butt (when he was playing Marley the ghost). He was on a crane for 90% of his performance and I said, ‘You know, you’re kind of an addictive personality, don’t get used to that, don’t start enjoying that!’
You really have got a lot to do here, not just as Scrooge and all of his ages, but the ghosts. How hard was it to act with yourself?
I had the most incredible help anyone could ever have asked for in Cary Elwes, Cary was there for me all the way. He played opposite me in all of the scenes playing the other character to give me a reference and to give me someone wonderful to play with, he’s a genius. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude, because he supported me completely.
Scrooge was actually based on one of Cary Elwes great-great-great-great uncles, I think his name was John Elwes, who was a member of Parliament and he was so cheap that he would wear the same clothes all the time until they were in tatters.
He wore a wig that he found in the garbage and he wouldn’t buy new game until he had eaten all the meat that he had even if it was rancid. He was the character that Dickens’ based the story on.
In the different Christmas Carols have you seen one performance that you enjoyed the most – Alastair Sim comes to mind
He was my favorite from when I was a little kid. I watched Alastair Sim every year. But that’s a man whose face was born to play that part. His whole being had an acid reflux bitterness to it that was splendid to watch. I wanted to have that feeling, that deep feeling that causes rheumatism, that eventually will eat you alive from inside.
I based the character from the get-go on the lies that we believe about ourselves. This person obviously believed that he wasn’t worthy of love and so why should love exist for anybody?
What do you think Scrooge learns by the end of the movie?
That he’s worthy of love. I think it’s a very prescient story nowadays too. I think these stories get told at times when they’re supposed to be told. I don’t think we’re so in control of it. It was Bob’s choice to choose this story, but someone was choosing Bob and that story needs to be told right now, Scrooge is the first corporate scumbag.
I hear you have a new website?
Yeah, I joined the fray. It’s going to be an interesting one, it’s kind of the psychedelic landscape of my brain played out, and I think you’ll have fun. It’s jimcarrey.com and it came out on October 29th.
Will people get to see your art on it?
They will get to see everything that’s going on in my universe done in a way that I think you’ll have a lot of fun negotiating.
What did it feel like when you saw the finished product and yourself on the screen as Scrooge?
Can I tell you how freaky it was when I saw the movie? I said upon the first close-up image of Scrooge, ‘My family is going to have a heart attack, because that is my father.’ Not his mood, he was the happy version. It’s unbelievable, it’s really a look into the future for me, not the long chin and the long nose, but the look is what I’m going to look like when I’m old.