Jim Carrey talks about his experiences playing an elephant for the DVD release of Horton Hears A Who
Funny man Jim Carrey has always had his roots in the animal world. From the early days as Ace Ventura and now his latest role in ‘Dr Seuss’s Horton Hears A Who!’ This is Carrey’s second venture into the wonderfully wacky world of Dr. Seuss, this time instead of playing the Green Grinch who stole Christmas, he plays the sweet natured elephant Horton. One day, Horton stumbles upon a cry for help coming from a spec of dust. Soon he realises this seemlessly worthless spec is in fact home to another world- home to the Whos of Whoville. From here he makes contact with the Mayor of the Whos (voiced by Steve Carrell) and he must protect the citizens of Whoville from the world around them (and one particularly nasty Kangoroo!).
Q: Is Horton just one for the Kids, or who do you think its for?
I think, as far as kids go, the thing that attracts them to this is not the deeper concepts involved. It’s really just the fact that Seuss’s creativity was so incredible. He was such an original. If you give a kid a character that he’s never seen before, in a world that he’s never seen before, they will completely lose themselves in an imaginary space. At the same time they are getting all of those wonderful lessons. In my own personal experience, I just looked at it and I’ve always been drawn to things that are different. I felt odd anyway, as a child, so anything odd I went ‘Oh, those are my people.’ I dig those people. There is something very original about the whole thing and that’s what draws kids. Myself, I listened to them on tape so I didn’t really see the pictures.
Q: As a kid, what was so odd about you?
I was the baby of the family. I guess my father was strange. He was funny and strange and I looked at him and went ‘Wow, everybody is looking at my dad. Everybody is laughing at my dad.’ And I just immediately kind of wanted to be that, so I locked myself in my room. When all the other kids were outside playing, I was devising ways to make myself appear to be different somehow.
Q: Since you are a very visual comedian, can’t it be limiting doing an animated film since you can only act with your voice?
Not at all! That is the great thing about this, you are surrounded by artists who are just as creative or more so than you are, and I love being handled by nerds. Just to spew something out and have somebody put wings on it, it’s fantastic, and a wonderful thing.”
Q: In the past you have turned down a couple of animated films. Can agreeing to do an animated film sometimes be a tougher decision to make than doing regular, live-action films? How did this one work out?
What they do is they come to your house and they say, ‘This is going to be the simplest process in the world.’ They lie to you — completely lie to you. Anybody who they are doing that to in the future might want to take note. It is hard work. It’s not as simple as they make it sound. It is a half-a-day here and there, whenever you get a free moment you are going in to do it. The fact is that they come to you and they really don’t have a script. They have an overall idea of where they want to go, but they go, ‘Here’s eight pages. What do you think we should do with it?’ You sit in a room, you jam, you come up with ideas and you come up with lines. It’s an amazing process. You think, ‘How is this ever going to get to the end and make sense?’
Q:Tell me was there a time in your life where you actually felt like a spec?
I know I’m a Spec, absolutely! That’s honestly how I feel. I’m an interesting Spec, but I think that’s how I’ve always thought, in those terms. How can you look at the sky at night and not feel like you are a Spec somewhere? One time, I saw a picture on the Discovery Channel of the Earth from Mars, from the Mars perspective, and you can hardly find it, it was a spec. We truly are a Spec. So, there are all different levels of that, and it’s kind of where you are at, it’s really true. I have always felt that there were worlds, within worlds, within worlds. There is somewhere on my right arm, inside of a cell, there is some kind of world happening. There are people sitting there going ‘Oh, I hope we don’t destroy ourselves.’ We could swing that arm, hit it against a tree, and we’re gone!
Q:Did you have a chance to talk to the widow of the real Dr. Seuss-Audrey Geisel?
Every once in a while I say ‘Hi.’ But we don’t talk a lot. I was honored that when they brought it to her, the first thing out of her mouth, she said, ‘Can you get Jim Carrey?’ I feel really honored that she wants me to be a part of a legacy. I just feel wonderful that two of these projectshave come my way. I’m such a fan of Dr. Seuss, so it’s a great thing.It’s a great thing.
Q:You are considered an icon in the world of comedy. Does that ever faze you?
It’s hard to have a perspective on it from inside myself. I just feel like I could be working at a factory again in a month, loading trucks where I started out. I don’t have a perspective on it, because it’s just one thing to the next. It’s trying to do work and trying to have fun with what is in front of me. Even today, I think to myself, ‘Oh, it’s a press day kind of thing,’ and I have to go to that place of, ‘I’m going to try to enjoy every person in front of me, in that moment, and to live that way.’ That’s what I do. I don’t really think about iconic anything. I just try to do work and have fun doing it, and hopefully, that translates. I do watch other people like Steve Carrell, and I can sit back and go, ‘Wow man, that guy is good.’ And I’m much more impressed with other people. We have an amazing cast in this, the people that this project gathered is kind of incredible. It’s like a who’s who of comedy across five generations. It’s really exciting — Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Carol Burnett. They amaze me. I sit and watch ‘Knocked Up’ and go, ‘Wow, that is great work, man. These guys are doing incredible stuff. I wish I could be them.’ It’s all your perspective. It just feels good to be in it.
Q:What research did you do for the role? I’m sure little kids all over the world want to know how you become an elephant.
Myself? I thought of peanuts on my breath. I figured I would have the sweet smell of peanuts on breath all the time. I thought I wanted to be the type of an elephant that didn’t realize he was enormous and bulky. He was light as a feather, as he puts it, he was a dancer. He was not bigger than anybody else. That is where I wanted to come from with that character. Maybe it’s an inferiority complex, I don’t know, but he doesn’t feel like he’s bigger. He could do a lot of damage if he wanted to, but he doesn’t feel like he has that power. He feels equal to everybody.
Q: Did you spot any life lesson in ‘Horton Hears A Who!’ that we can take to heart?
Maybe something like, ‘If you crush a Spec, you a destroying someone’s life and they have a right to exist?’ There is a butterfly effect to everything we do. I believe even to raise your voice has an effect that goes far beyond the room you are raising your voice in. Everything has an effect that way. We have seen it politically through the last few decades. There is the odd thing ‘Charlie’s War’ or whatever, the Tom Hanks movie. I look at that movie and thought ‘Didn’t he create Osama Bin Laden?’ but they left that out. The fact is that every time we go and try to mess with things, we figure them out, and squash somebody, then we create somebody else. The act of fighting these fears we have creates more fear and creates more aggression.
Q: Are you still attached to one of director Tim Burton’s upcoming projects?
I don’t know. I think it’s still in the works. It’s maybe a little ways off. They are still talking about it.”
Q:What is next for you?
After ‘A Christmas Carol,’ I’m doing a film called ‘I Love You Phillip Morris.’ It’s about a gentleman who fell in love with his cell mate and escaped from prison four times to try and find ways to get his lover out prison.
‘Dr Seuss’ Horton Hears A Who’ is released on DVD in Ireland on October 17th 2008