The youngest of four children born to Percy who was an accountant and aspiring jazz saxophonist and Kathleen, Jim Carrey was an incurable extrovert from day one. As a child he performed constantly, for anyone who would watch, and even mailed his resume to The Carol Burnett Show at age 10. In junior high he was granted a few precious minutes at the end of each school day to do stand-up routines for his classmates (provided, of course, that he kept a lid on it the rest of the day).
Carrey's early adolescence took a turn for the tragic, however, when the family was forced to relocate from their cozy town of Newmarket to Scarborough (a Toronto suburb). They all took security and janitorial jobs in the Titan Wheels factory, Jim working 8-hour shifts after school let out (not surprisingly, his grades and morale both suffered). When they finally deserted the factory, the family lived out of a Volkswagen camper van until they could return to Toronto. Back on firmer ground, Carrey decided to strike out into the comedy club scene. He made his (reportedly awful) professional stand-up debut at Yuk-Yuk's, one of the many local clubs that would serve as his training ground in the years to come. He dropped out of high school, worked on his celebrity impersonations (among them Michael Landon and James Stewart), and in 1979 worked up the nerve to move to Los Angeles. He finessed his way into a regular gig at The Comedy Store, where he impressed Rodney Dangerfield so much that the veteran comic signed him as an opening act for an entire season.
During this period Carrey met and married waitress Melissa Womer, with whom he had a daughter (Jane). The couple would later go through a very messy divorce, freeing Carrey up for a brief second marriage to actress Lauren Holly. Wary of falling into the lounge act lifestyle, Carrey began to look around for other performance outlets. He landed a part as a novice cartoonist in the short-lived sitcom "The Duck Factory" while the show fell flat, the experience gave Carrey the confidence to pursue acting more vigorously.
Carrey's transformation from TV goofball to marquee headliner happened within the course of a single year. He opened 1994 with a starring turn in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, a film that cashed in on his extremely physical brand of humor (the character's trademark was talking out his derrière). Next up was the manic superhero movie The Mask, which had audiences wondering just how far Carrey's features could stretch. Finally, in December, he hit theaters as a loveable dolt in the Farrelly brothers' Dumb & Dumber which would be his first multi-million dollar payday.
Comic Book Adaptations
Now a box-office staple, Carrey brought his manic antics onto the set of Batman Forever, replacing Robin Williams as The Riddler. Worried that his comic shtick would soon wear thin, Carrey decided to change course. In 1998, he traded in the megabucks and silly grins to star in Peter Weir's The Truman Show playing a naive salesman who discovers that his entire life is the subject of a TV show, Carrey demonstrated an uncharacteristic sincerity that took moviegoers by surprise. He won a Golden Globe for the performance, and fans anticipated an Oscar nomination as well--when it didn't materialize, Carrey lashed out at Academy members for their narrow-minded selection process.
Perhaps inspired by the snub, Carrey threw himself into his next role with abandon. After edging out a handful of other hopefuls (including Edward Norton) to play eccentric funnyman Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon. Carrey disappeared into the role, living as Kaufman -- and his blustery alter-ego Tony Clifton -- for months (Carrey even owned Kaufman's bongo drums, which he'd used during his audition for director Milos Forman).
His sometimes uncanny impersonation was rewarded with another Golden Globe, but once again the Academy kept quiet. An indignant Carrey next reprised his bankable mania for the Farrelly brothers in Me, Myself and Irene, playing a state trooper whose Jekyll and Hyde personalities both fall in love with the same woman. Carrey's real-life persona wound up falling for her too--a few months after the film wrapped, the pair announced they were officially a couple. By then, Carrey had already slipped into a furry green suit to play the stingy antihero of Ron Howard's The Grinch. He plans to take a break from the limelight after the holiday flick (as he puts it, "I'm looking forward to getting out of America's face"). Is there another Carrey reinvention in the works? If so, he's not talking