Jim Carrey on "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," Memories, & Michel Gondry

Jim Carrey Eternal Sunshine Spotless Min
Jim Carrey stars in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," directed by Michel Gondry. Focus Features

Would you erase a bad relationship from your memory if you had the chance? If all it took was one night spent hooked up to a computer to forever forget a lost love, would you go for it? From the warped imagination of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman ("Being John Malkovich," "Adaptation") comes "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," a film that proposes the ability to do that is but a doctor's office visit away.

While the script for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" was still in draft form, copies of it began to circulate around Hollywood. One of the actors who immediately expressed interest in the film was Jim Carrey. Fortunately for all concerned, director Michel Gondry felt as much pleasure over Carrey's desire to be in the movie, as Carrey did in taking on the role of Joel. Gondry felt Carrey would bring a lot to the character and now that the film is about to be released, producer Anthony Bregman believes audiences will be amazed at Carrey's performance. "I think that people are going to be very surprised to see the character that Jim is portraying here. Joel is very unlike any of the characters that Jim has played before. In many scenes, he is almost unrecognizable from the Jim Carrey that we all know," says Bregman.

JIM CARREY ('Joel'):

How did you come about getting this role?
Honestly, the script came to me. Someone gave me the script and I read it and I thought it was incredible. I couldn't believe that I was being offered it, so I was just very, very happy. It was one of those things. I read that script and I kind of had this guilty feeling like, “How can I get this one and ‘Truman Show?’”' Two really interesting, original movies. So, I was really happy about it.

This is such an interesting romantic movie. Was there anything that was an inspiration for you as far as films of the past or favorite romantic scenes?
Just in my life, you know? Movies are great, but the real romance happens right here (tapping his nose) somewhere - real close-up. I don't know. This part, I really couldn't have done it if I hadn't been through a lot one way or another. Either you're the one erasing or you're the one being erased, so it's not a pleasant feeling!

The idea of erasing somebody from your memories is extremely appealing.
Of course! In the moment, especially, when you're going through something. You think, “I don't need this! I don't need to live in a fight or flight response! Why can't I just let this go?” But, in retrospect it always seems to work out that you can look back on something that was a disaster and find some gems in there.

This movie is about the tension between wanting to erase bad things that have happened to us and holding on to them because of our willingness to fail again. Do you think nowadays there’s more of a tendency to want to erase things?
I think quick fixes are big, for sure. We're all erasing stuff every morning when we go to Starbucks. You know what I mean? We're like (mimes drinking down coffee), “Don't let it come up again! Don't let it come up again!” I think we suppress, we don't completely erase. I think we would, in the moment, definitely choose that a lot of times when we're on our knees screaming at God. I don't know if I answered the question.

What do we lose by erasing?
I think you make the same mistakes over and over again - not that you wouldn't anyway - if you knew. I think there are beautiful moments. These days everybody expects that fairy tale [that] you're going to be together forever with somebody and I don't really subscribe to that. I'd love that to happen if that happened, but 10 years is enough. 10 years is a good thing with somebody, I think. It's a nice thing. A lot of good love can happen in 10 years.

You have wonderful chemistry with Kate Winslet in this. What’s is it like to work with her?
I get excited when the people I work with scare me. She's just scary-talented and just an amazing actress...'actor,' whatever you call them these days. I get excited when I'm surrounded by people who make me better and make me stay on my game and challenge me. She's wonderful to watch - unbelievable - because you sometimes don't know what she's doing when you're in a scene with her. You look at it later and she knows what's going to come off, how it's going to look. It's beautiful.

PAGE 2: Jim Carrey on Childhood Memories and Goofy Carrey vs. Dramatic Carrey

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If you could revisit your childhood like you do in the movie, which place would you like to see?
What was interesting during the movie was that these psychic things were happening. Of course, I was pouring a lot of what I've gone through into it as much as I could, but things like when I was in the second grade, I had a teacher who came into school and she was an Irish lady who said, If I pray to the Virgin Mary and ask for anything I want, she gives me anything I want. I'm sitting in the back of the class going, Hmm... So, I went home and I prayed to the Virgin Mary for a bicycle - for a green, Mustang bike. Two weeks later I won a green - I didn't ask for a green bike - but a Mustang bike. I won a green Mustang bike in a raffle I didn't enter two weeks later. A friend of mine put my name in to a sporting goods store and I won the bike. That bike showed up in the movie without me even [mentioning it], in the scene where the rain starts and I start trying to bring her back to when I grew up in the memories.

"Row, Row, Row Your Boat ", is a big thing for me, too. I have it in the cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater. I used to sing that on my aunt's porch when it rained, watching the squirrels scatter. Isn't this a homey and nice story? A fireside chat. That's how it is in Lake Woebegone.

The Mustang bike, when it showed up that day, I was so excited because this is how my life is. It's like, “Wow! Okay, so I'm going back into my past and here's the magical Mustang bike!” The whole thing was the exact bike I had and I didn't do it.

You had nothing to do with it?
Nothing to do with it. So I got to speed off on my Mustang bike from memories past.

Did you keep the bike?
No. No, I didn't. No. I have a Harley. That, I prayed for.

Looking at your recent dramatic roles "The Majestic", "The Truman Show", and this - it's about a loss of memory, it's about a false memory, it's about an erasure of memory. Why do you choose so many films with that theme?
You know, truth be told, that didn't even occur to me when I read this script. It wasn't about memory. It was about being erased. It was a different perspective on it. It was about how it would feel to be erased. That was the strongest pull for me. That's a heavy feeling. That's what hit me with the script. When he finds out that she's erased him, it's just a brutal thing to hit probably anybody's ego, but a male ego especially.

I loved the idea that the memories went in reverse. There were so many things that made it different than your normal losing-your-memory movie. I love the clunky, sci-fi aspect of this movie. It doesn't take it over, it's just a function within it. It's interesting.

Some people have started making the distinction between the goofy Jim Carrey roles and the more serious Jim Carrey roles. Do you make that sort of distinction when you look at scripts?
No. They come as they come and when something like this comes by, you just jump on and that's all there is to it. There's no question about it. Anybody would be lucky to be part of this. It'd be great if it laid out in a certain pattern that worked for the long term. Clint Eastwood had a great pattern in his life. He did commercial things that appealed to a wide audience and then he did things that challenged them.

PAGE 3: Jim Carrey on Michel Gondry, "Lemony Snicket," and "The Six Million Dollar Man"

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What is your relationship like with director Michel Gondry?
Michel is just a creative genius, I think, but people really haven't discovered him on a mass level yet. He comes in every day with something that just kind of spins you around and makes you go, Wow, somebody's thinking, man! Thank you! This is great! Somebody's bringing something to the table.

He comes in and asks me to do things that are impossible. There's a scene where I come into Lacuna in my memory and I'm screaming at the doctor, and I'm in two different places in the scene. It's not split screen - it's not any of that - it's Michel coming in and saying [in a French accent], “You're going to run around the camera and you're going to put the hat on and take it off and put it on and take it off!” So, that's me going back and forth behind the hand-held camera in the dark. I'm not kidding. That's what was happening in that scene. It was just about how quickly can you run through the dark, get a jacket and a hat on and then completely change your attitude to the person on the other side of the room. And I argued with him. I said, This can't be done. I can't do this. It's impossible.” He said [in a French accent], “How do you know if you don't try?

What are the special challenges of a Charlie Kaufman script?
Oh my gosh. This movie has everything going, so when I read the script, I was just... First of all, just happy to be a small part of his legacy because I know that this is going to be one hell of a legacy at the end of all his creative madness. But this script is everything. Most of the time, he stays in this wild, intellectual world. This one just has such an anchor of heart - something we can all identify with on an emotional level, so it's got everything going at the same time. I feel like I won the lottery.

Are you a good 'mark' for actors and comedians? Do you keep yourself open?
Yeah, I just may laugh at different things than most people. I laugh at mistakes. I laugh at how you recover from mistakes. I see when people go off their material and it's actually happening in front of you and that kind of stuff excites me. I've been doing “Lemony Snicket” recently and there's just so much opportunity in that. [Director Brad Silberling’s] been turning the camera on and letting me have fun. I play an 'actor' so I get to make fun of myself and I created a technique called 'bacting,' by the way - for people who have to work in the round. I've just had so much fun with it. I love spontaneity, so when I see spontaneity and I know it's spontaneity, it makes me happy. I don't know why. I think it's like looking at a child or something. When you look at a kid and they're completely involved in something, it's entertaining to watch.

Is your head shaved for "Lemony Snicket?"
You know it’s just going to come in so thick next time. Yeah, "Lemony Snicket." Lots of wigs - tons of wigs. It was so much fun. We're halfway through. It's just so much fun. It's such a different way to tell a children's story. It's very original. It's an opportunity for me to show up as this crazed thespian.

He's evil…
He's an evil thespian, yeah, which is redundant, really.

Did you know much about the books before taking the role?
No, I didn't. I was not aware of the books before. They asked me to read these books and I did. I thought it was a really original voice. To me, it's just an opportunity to have fun just throwing on disguises. One of the characters...we were planning on doing a completely different character. I had an Italian accent, it was all worked out - a character named Stefano - and they put the wig on me in the makeup chair like five minutes before they were going to test this character and the wig had changed. I said, “It's not that guy anymore.” They put this mustache on and it was all the elements of the character before, but they had been altered in a way and I said, “It's not the guy anymore.” Brad came into the trailer and said, “What do you mean? Who is it? Who is it?” And I just started speaking like the guy who belonged to the hair. That's where the character came from, literally five minutes before we went out there and it just blossomed from there. He makes it feel very safe as far as improvising and things like that.

Writer/director Todd Phillips said you brought him the property of “The Six Million Dollar Man. What's your affinity for that character and what are the comic possibilities?
I am bionic.

Which part?
Hey, hey...that...that's a sensitive organ. They're working on that one. (Mimes being on phone) Is it ready yet? Q, help me. Uh...I forget what the question was.

Your affinity for that character and why did you want to bring him to the screen?
We're developing that script so I think it's just going to be a whole lot of fun. I love playing ego and insecurity combined - well, it's the same thing, I guess. Ego out of control. But I think it's going to be fun. Six million dollars doesn't get you a lot in this world these days, so you can kind of imagine where the plot's going to go.