When it came time to tell his story, it’s no surprise that Jim Carrey decided to turn the memoir genre on its head.
The actor and comedian has been subverting expectations throughout his 30-year career, and for his new book,Memoirs and Misinformation, he does it once again, crafting a fictionalized version of himself within a fictionalized Hollywood, in order to explore “the fear of erasure and the ego and its addiction to relevance and the ever-growing need society has, for some reason, to live beyond the grave until the end of the program.”
“It’s basically using fiction to tell a deeper truth,” Carrey tells ET’s Nischelle Turner. “I could recount the events of my life in chronological order, or, like most memoirs, you know, spun around to make it look good, and reordered. But this was really about more than just one celebrity… It represents the the myth that people carry around in their heads about Hollywood.”
The book begins with a statement: “They knew him as Jim Carrey,” but it will likely leave readers wondering exactly which details they can know for certain — what’s pulled from the actor’s real life and what are inventions of his creative mind.
“I think the greatest truths ever told were told through fiction, and not just laying it out as you think it is,” he notes. “But there’s something deeper to be had here, if you really look underneath, you know, lift the ocean and find the sleeping dog, you’re gonna know a lot about me and you will get a real idea of how I think.”
Carrey says he shows “no mercy about myself” in the novel, which he co-wrote with Dana Vachon, noting that part of his mission in writing it was to explore the isolation that he’s felt, even during his biggest career moments, in the public eye.
“I think everybody who’s famous feels lonely,” he says. “It’s a very strange feeling to have everybody’s consciousness directed towards you… [It’s like how] these days, everybody’s trying to form their personality around, you know, their likes on social media. So how does that form a person?”
“Fame is kind of a weird thing that happens to you because you’re an artist, hopefully,” Carrey continues, adding that he sees a distinction between celebrities and artists. “We see it can be a very dangerous state to exist in. For some, it can become sarcophagal. And once it does, I mean, you have to challenge yourself. You have to be reinventing yourself all the time and are not allowing it to happen.”
Despite many acclaimed roles in cult classics, box office blockbusters and critically revered indies, Carrey admits that he’s always felt a bit “on the outside” in Hollywood — his fictionalized protagonist seems to long for the mainstream acceptance, idealized in the chance to work with Steven Spielberg, whom the actor and comedian says is “one of the maestros of our lives.”
“There is a kind of a feeling — and maybe this is just because I come from a background of a little bit of struggle or something like that — where I’ve always felt a tad on the outside,” he considers. “People like Tom Hanks, who I admire for his ability to negotiate this business in an incredible way, like some kind of kayaker in the rapids, he’s able to do it in an amazing way, and he does great, great work.”
And in the same way that part of the book is about “walking through the Truman Show door” and exploring the realities of the industry, and the ways in which he could reinvent himself, Carrey also pokes fun at some of his fellow A-listers in the book, fictionalizing Gwyneth Paltrow, Kanye West, and more. “It’s my desire to give everyone relief from themselves. Let everyone let their guard down and have fun with their own personas, you know?” he says.
“It’s kind of a little scary and exciting to think about what they might think and how they might feel about being in the book,” he admits. “It’s done with love, and even though I make fun a little bit, like, John Travolta, who I think has quirks that are fun but, you know, I totally respect it. He’s been one of the most iconic actors ever. Then there’s Sean Penn, who I revere, then Nic Cage, who I think is an extraordinary artist.”
Lest anyone get upset about the way their fictional selves are portrayed, Carrey explains that he’s sent copies of the book and “letters of explanation” to everyone who has a novelized counterpart. “We’re not sneaking anything past anybody,” he notes, adding that he sees the portrayals as a form of creative satire, like Family Guy or Saturday Night Live. “It’s truly to a greater end, this book, in my mind, so I think it might be something they really dig being in.”
One of Carrey’s famous friends who was more than happy to be involved was Dumb and Dumber co-star Jeff Daniels, who lent his voice to the audiobook. Carrey admits that he thought it might be too confusing if he read it himself — given that the main character is a fictionalized version of him — and he was thrilled to have his friend agree to read it for him.
“He’s a lovely, amazing man and fantastic artist,” he raves of Daniels. “I said, ‘Could you do me the honor of reading my audiobook?’ and he said absolutely, immediately, out of the gate, and said he’d be honored. He did a hell of a job, and he’s one of the greatest actors, so I feel extremely lucky.”
Carrey’s book, Memoirs and Misinformation, is out now.
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