Fun With Dick & Jane
by Angela Dawson
December 15, 2005
NEW YORK - Jim Carrey saunters into a suite at the historic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel with a big smile on his familiar rubbery face. What's he so happy about?
"I'm happy to be in New York," he says with a shrug. "I like it here."
Carrey, who turns 44 in January, finds the Big Apple magical - one of those places where "I feel like I'm in a movie whenever I'm walking down the street; every angle is amazing."
The A-list star, dressed casually in dark slacks and a T-shirt emblazoned with a Buddha graphic and the slogan, "Buddha on the Inside," is in town to promote his latest comedy, "Fun With Dick & Jane."
In it, Carrey and Tea Leoni ("Spanglish," "The Naked Truth") star as Dick and Jane Harper, a middle-class couple who turn to crime as their American dream fades away.
Initially, these criminal neophytes fail miserably (and comically) in their hold-up attempts. Eventually, though, they build up their confidence, along with their bank account, targeting those who they think are rich or deserving.
This update of the 1977 George Segal-Jane Fonda comedy is set in 2000, "an innocent time," according the filmmakers, before Enron and other recent corporate scandals.
Carrey, whose recent comedies include "Bruce Almighty," "Liar Liar" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," says he is happy to be part of a comedy that also has social relevance.
Why has it taken so long for you and Tea to co-star in a comedy?
My manager's been after me forever to do something with her. It happens when it happens. I mean, Spielberg and I have wanted to do something together for a long time, too. And we will when the perfect thing happens.
Both of you are great at improvisation. Did you try to one-up each other?
I don't try to top anybody. It's mutual respect and co-existence. We both have our own talents and we had a blast working off each other. I made a better Cher than her, so she had to be Sonny.
Do you think this movie might encourage suburbanites to go on crime sprees?
No, I don't think anyone's going to rob a 7-11 after seeing this movie. I don't think people are going to have a moral problem with the film. It's an anti-greed message. Besides, we're going to have holy water on the way in and switches so you can hit yourself.
There were reports that this movie was in trouble and that you had to do a lot of reshoots.
There was work on certain scenes we wanted to do, but mostly we saw it as an opportunity to go back and add a bunch of stuff in, like more robberies and other fun stuff that's going to pump it to another level.
This is another one of your physical comedies. Did you get bumps and bruises?
Absolutely. I get bumped around on every movie. It's part of my life. I'm like an X Gamer. I have one ankle that's bigger than the other because I've twisted it so many times. When I did the scene with Renee (Zellweger) in "Me, Myself and Irene" where she kicks me over the fence, I sprained my ankle severely during rehearsal, but I just continued doing several takes of jumping over the fence and landing on that foot. While you're working, you don't care about that. You're superhuman. If you're going to do the physical stuff, you're going to get banged up.
You're a naturalized American citizen (born in Ontario, Canada). What's your idea of the American Dream?
I believe there's greatness here and the dream is a good dream that everybody can do what they want to do - feed their family. It'll never be perfect, but the problem comes when greed enters into it. One might say (to me), "Well, you have all kinds of money, what are you doing?" I do what I can do and I just think we need to have more responsibility on a corporate level to people. We have to be careful about what the rest of the world thinks of us. We have to care.
To the rest of the world, couldn't Dick and Jane be seen as stereotypical materialistic Americans trying to maintain their status quo at any cost?
That's true at the beginning. They're working out of fear. That's where greed comes from. Greed comes from thinking you won't have enough. That's what happens with the Ken Lays of the world. Some people think they can get it by having more zeros than other people. (Dick and Jane) are redeemed when they (rob) for other people. It's not about them anymore. There is a lesson they learn. They still break the law, but they do it for a good cause.
Does this movie reflect our society?
Competitiveness is huge in this country. Keeping up with the Joneses has never been more important to people. When you watch E! and these shows about get the rich guy, the billionaire, there's so much (pressure) put on making it in a gargantuan way. People feel pressure not only to make it but also to become superhuman. People are under extraordinary pressure and drugged out to keep up with the pressure.
So financial success does not equal happiness?
Not in the least. It's not a bad thing to have money. I'm absolutely grateful with what I have. But the joy I get (comes from people who say), "Hey Jim, I loved that movie," and knowing I made a good story and spending time with my friends and family. As I get older, the real win in my life are those moments.
When did you reach that moment of nirvana?
I've had moments of nirvana, usually after I've resisted eating a cheese sandwich or something like that. There's a little reward when you follow what's right. It's been a process that's slowly kind of happening to me. Carving pumpkins with my daughter at Halloween was the best thing that happened to me this year.
What is the one luxury item you couldn't live without?
I own the sun; they can't take it away from me.
Do you ever tire of doing comedies?
If I didn't want to do it, I wouldn't, because I have enough money for 10 lifetimes. I thought this (movie) was a great idea. I thought it would be a lot of fun to do and a lot of fun to watch. I can go out and make 10 serious movies in a row. I'm not interested in keeping my status. I'm getting past all of that. I don't think it's a bad thing to give people what they want; but I don't set out to do that. I don't patronize my audience. I go, this is what I want to do now. Period.
What is next?
I'm starting this thriller in January called "The Number 23." It's about a guy who finds a book that's about a character that is obsessed with the number 23. The number 23 is haunting him and leads him to do some very bad things. Then it starts happening in his life and he starts to notice parallels between the book and his life. I've had this obsession with the number 23, as well as the number 7, for years. I was born at 2:30 a.m. My daughter was born at 12:11, which adds up to 23. It's been all through my life.
So it's coincidental this project came up?
Or not. (He laughs.)
Some actors say they never look back but you have reflected on your career.
They're liars. All of us, at some point, take stock of what we are and what we've done. When you walk in a room of successful people you ask yourself, do I belong here? You gotta take stock. There's nothing wrong with that. You've gotta be grateful in this life.
Have you thought about where you'd like to be in 5 or 10 years?
I have spiritual and personal goals, but it's not like I'm going to be at a certain place at a certain time. I'm just edging ever closer to a place where I can feel peace (and) be someone to admire and who deserves love. You have to be what you want to attract in your life. I have ridiculous goals. They're so grandiose, people would think I'm a freakin' lunatic. (He laughs.)
My goal is to burst into a ball of light, walk around the planet and not be separate from anything or anyone. That's my goal. I have moments of it - that connected thing where I literally look at a tree like it's my foot. It's weird.
Do you meditate?
Do you have a mentor?
I have many mentors that have passed through my life or are in my life and good influences. There are wise people I've taken certain things from and I read a lot. I make up my own mind on things. I'm not big on organized religion but I don't see anything wrong about people wanting to get together on a Sunday afternoon and do that. I'm disappointed in the Catholic Church and what's been going on there. It's a symptom of repression. Jesus didn't say anything about repressing the sexual urge; that was our idea. It was a business decision. It's harder to pay for a family than a single man.
What's after "The Number 23?"
I'm going to do a comedy in the spring called "Used Guys" with Ben Stiller, directed by Jay Roach. It's a futuristic world where women rule because men screwed it up so badly. Men are bought and sold like cars. We're clones. Ben and I play different models. I'm the keep-the-woman-up-all-night model and Ben is the safe model. They're searching for a place called Mantopia, where men can still be men.
Is there a role you'd like to play that also scares you?
I welcome all opportunities to fail miserably or succeed with great flair at something I've never done before.