ByKarly Rayner, writer at
Movie Pilot's celebrity savant
Karly Rayner

Jim Carrey is one of Hollywood's most recognizable comic stars with a career that has had us chortling for decades, but life hasn't always been a laugh for the 52-year-old star.

Below is a short history of Carrey's career from humble beginnings to a box office baller and some of the hardships he has faced along the way. But how much did you already know about the comedy legend?

From Humble Beginnings to Hollywood

Jim Carrey came from humble beginnings and pursuing his love of comedy and performing didn't always seem like an option to him due to difficult family circumstances.

The youngest of four kids in a French Canadian Catholic family, Carrey's father was a talented musician who ditched his passion and become an accountant to care for his kids. Carrey's mother was a homemaker due to a chronic illness.

Jim Carrey with his parents
Jim Carrey with his parents

Carrey dropped out of school aged 15 when his father lost his accounting job and the entire family was forced to work full-time to stop them sinking into poverty. They ended up living in a van for a short period of time and Carrey says he was an angry teen who used to carry a baseball bat with him to smash things up to deal with his rage.

Jim's father noticed his son was depressed and helped him to develop a stage comedy routine. Carrey made his debut at Yak Yak's comedy club in Toronto, and although he was poorly received, he was determined to make people laugh.

A young Carrey photographed at a stand up gig
A young Carrey photographed at a stand up gig

Once the family gained financial stability again, Carrey was able to polish his act and was described in reviews as "a genuine star coming to life." He was spotted by comedian Rodney Dangerfield and toured alongside him in Las Vegas before moving to Hollywood to focus on movies and TV.

Ace Ventura: Hollywood Blockbuster and Other Hits

Despite moving to Hollywood in 1982 and performing as a regular at the Comedy Club there, Jim Carrey did not experience real career success until 1994 when he starred in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

The very same year, Carrey made himself a household name and fan favorite by storming the silver screen as The Mask and splitting sides in Dumb and Dumber.

Although some of his earlier roles are not regarded as his best work (Batman Forever, I'm looking at you...), Carrey continued to grab roles and gradually build himself up as an actor who could handle the poignant as well as gleeful profanity.

We don't have to cover all of Carrey's hit movies here, but some of his most critically acclaimed performances came from Carrey's more serious and sensitive roles, most noticeably in The Truman Show and the art house classic Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Along with making us weep tears of sadness as well as joy, Carrey broke into the lucrative animation market in 2008 with the wonderfully whimsical Horton Hears a Who! which raked in 290 million at the box office worldwide.

Box Office Bombs

Despite having a wildly successful career, Jim Carrey has also dropped a fair few box office bombs in his time, some of which might surprise you.

For example, Man on the Moon, which won Carrey a Best Actor Golden Globe in 1999 was a huge box office disaster that ended in a $34.6 million net loss.

Other movies that perhaps aren't quite as surprising are the critically panned 23 which saw Carrey taking on a character as he undergoes a psychotic break over a very scary number. Carrey was also reportedly behaving erratically during the shoot. Gawker wrote that Carrey was "unpredictable" and displayed "bizarre behavior and on-set tantrums" including horrifying his colleagues when he "unzipped his fly and urinated" during an off script whim.

While A Christmas Carol (2009) and Mr. Popper's Penguins might have received mixed reviews and both under performed, one of the most memorable recent(ish) Carrey flops has to be Burt Wonderstone (2013), a movie about a street magician which shuddered to a halt at a $3 million net loss.

That Kick-Ass 2 Disaster

After a reportedly turbulent time on set, one of the most memorable PR disasters of Carrey's recent career came with his refusal to promote Kick-Ass 2 after the horrific real violence at Sandy Hook.

After filming the violent movie, Carrey claimed that he could no longer morally support it by issuing a statement that read:

I did Kick-Ass 2 a month b4 Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence. My apologies to others involve[d] with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart
Carrey objected to the violence
Carrey objected to the violence

However although a lot of people admired Carrey's awareness of gun violence, this decision was met with walls of criticism from co-stars and the general public for being hypocritical and Carrey was even accused of exploiting the Sandy Hook tragedy to avoid doing promotional work. The Kick-Ass 2 executive producer Mark Millar, wrote on his own blog that:

[I'm] baffled by this sudden announcement as nothing seen in this picture wasn't in the screenplay 18 months ago," he wrote. "Yes, the body count is very high, but a movie called Kick-Ass 2 really has to do what it says on the tin. A sequel to the picture that gave us Hit Girl was always going to have some blood on the floor and this should have been no shock to a guy who enjoyed the first movie so much. Like Jim, I'm horrified by real-life violence (even though I'm Scottish), but Kick-Ass 2 isn't a documentary. No actors were harmed in the making of this production! This is fiction and like Tarantino and Peckinpah, Scorsese and Eastwood, John Boorman, Oliver Stone and Chan-wook Park, Kick-Ass avoids the usual bloodless bodycount of most big summer pictures and focuses instead of the CONSEQUENCES of violence … Our job as storytellers is to entertain and our toolbox can't be sabotaged by curtailing the use of guns in an action movie

People argued that Carrey knew exactly what he was letting himself in for when he agreed to do the movie, and it was pointed out multiple times in the press that he liked the ultra-violent original enough to wear the costume on stage with Conan...

A Personal Life Less Ordinary

It's impossible to write a piece about the life of Jim Carrey without delving into the eccentric star's personal life, as there are many important milestones that have helped to shape his career.

Like many comedians, Carrey has suffered with depression throughout his life and he has also been unusually candid about speaking out about his struggles publicly, perhaps so others don't feel so alone.

Jim Carrey has suffered depression all his life
Jim Carrey has suffered depression all his life

Carrey told CBS that his depression started when he was just a teenager and that he is now off all prescription drugs, he explained:

"I was on Prozac for a long time. It may have helped me out of a jam for a little bit, but people stay on it forever. I had to get off at a certain point because I realized that, you know, everything's just okay. There are peaks, there are valleys, but they're all kind of carved and smoothed out, and it feels like a low level of despair you live in. Where you're not getting any answers, but you're living okay. And you can smile at the office. You know? But it's a low level of despair. You know?"

While Carrey's attitudes towards long-term dependence on psychiatric drugs are pretty mainstream, the star has also got a lot of press for a much more controversial attitude towards certain medications.

After being in a relationship with anti-vaccination spokesperson Jenny McCarthey for around five years, Carrey became increasingly vocal about the totally scientifically unfounded belief that vaccinations cause autism in children. Carrey continued to support the anti-vaccine movement alone after he and McCarthey split in 2010.

Carrey has been married twice, once to Linda Ronstadt, a Comedy Club waitress with whom he had a daughter named Jane, and once more to his Dumb and Dumber co-star Lauren Holly.

Carrey and the late Cathriona White
Carrey and the late Cathriona White

Most recently, Carrey's love life has been in the spotlight for tragic reasons after his on/off ex-girlfriend, Cathriona White, committed suicide and reportedly left a note about their break up at the scene of her death. Carrey issued a statement reading:

I am shocked and deeply saddened by the passing of my sweet Cathriona. She was a truly kind and delicate Irish flower, too sensitive for this soil, to whom loving and being loved was all that sparkled. My heart goes out to her family and friends and to everyone who loved and cared about her. We have all been hit with a lightning bolt.

(Source: The Daily Mail, Gawker, Decider, Box Office Mojo, Wikipedia and Lebeau Le Blog)


Latest from our Creators