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Jim Carrey Talks About "Bruce Almighty"

Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston star in "Bruce Almighty"
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As Bruce Nolan, a human interest television reporter with aspirations to sit behind the anchor desk, Jim Carrey takes on one of the most inspirational roles of his career to date. After an exceptionally bad day at work, Bruce rails against God, and God answers in a most unusual fashion.

"Bruce Almighty" reunites director Tom Shadyac with his "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" and "Liar Liar" star. Once "Bruce Almighty" landed on his desk, Shadyac immediately knew Jim Carrey was the only actor who could play an every-day man endowed with God's powers with just the right mix of comedy and drama. Carrey and Shadyac have remained friends since their days on "Ace Ventura," and the fundamental themes behind "Bruce Almighty" mirrored their mutual concerns.

"We have a great friendship, and 'Bruce Almighty' speaks to our concerns. What is this force called God? What is this force doing in our lives? How do we relate to it? Thematically, the film is ultimately a story about where true power comes from," observed Shadyac.

Here's what Bruce Almighty himself had to say about working with his buddy Tom Shadyac, modern portrayals of God in movies, and working in different genres of film:

JIM CARREY ('Bruce Nolan')

Do you prefer doing comedy to drama?
I like being creative, basically, period. I mean [Tom Shadyac and I] have a blast. We always have a blast when we get together. Whether we're doing a movie or we're locked in a cabin somewhere in Alaska, stripping each other of our modus operandi. We had a very strange game we played up in Alaska last time we were there, where he wasn't allowed to control and I wasn't allowed to say "me" or "I." And we had nothing to say to each other.

After "The Majestic," was it important to you to go back to your comedic roots? Why this particular script?
I think it's important never to look a gift horse in the mouth, never to overlook your talents [and] what you're good at. I really don't consider that. Tom comes and says, "We have this concept that's really cool," and I say, "Wow, that sounds like a blast." We get to sit in a room together again [with] Steve Oedekerk and hash it out like we did with "Ace Ventura" and "Liar Liar." It just sounds like a great creative challenge to me, so it doesn't matter whether it's dramatic or comedic to me.

What percentage of "Bruce Almighty" was improvised?
99.9%, just right off the top of my head. You have to know what you're doing going in and then hopefully you think of fifty other ideas as you're doing it. It's always been a combination of everything.

What was working with Jennifer Aniston like? Did Brad Pitt ever show up on the set?
You know, he was constantly haranguing me, "Did you kiss her? Did you kiss her? Did you kiss her?" [laughing] No, he came around once or twice and was a very nice gentleman. [He's] a really cool guy and they're a great couple - really sweet. And she's tremendous.

We worked well off each other because Jennifer is a completely different kind of person than me. I'm a person who just kind of like throws myself out there and does all kinds of wild stuff, and she's like the center of the wheel. I'm doing this all the way around her, and she's the type of person that can sit there and allow things to come to her. I seek them out and destroy them. So, you know, it's a wonderful kind of mix. She's very solid and very centered.

She's a very cool person. She deserves everything she's got. You look at all those magazines and stuff you see her in and you just go, "Gosh, it's amazing." Before you know her you go, "Why are people so interested in this person? They just never seem to get enough of this person." Then you meet her and you go, "There's a reason. This is a very cool, centered person." A lot of times you meet some people like that, you're disappointed at the reality of them. The idea is always better or they're playing an idea. She's just being herself.

The portrayal of God on film has evolved from the 50's Bible version to where we see him like he's just a regular guy. Do you think this says anything about the way society views the concept of God and spirituality?
Probably people - I know [I do this] myself - we've always tried to humanize Him in some way. He's probably just a shaft of light in a doorway or something like that. How's that for poetry? But we've always tried to personalize Him, so to me I think I wanted God in this thing to be the guy who's absolutely dignified and has this austere quality and this kind of no-nonsense-ness to Him, but at the same time has a sense of humor. Because God made our sense of humor. And that's, you know, what we don't get a lot of, God kind of messing with your head. I loved that Morgan [Freeman] was able to totally come out of that thing that he does so well and mess with my character and be silly.

Where did your personal faith come from and was it tested while your family was struggling when you were growing up? Did that struggle strengthen your faith?
Honestly, it came from a - maybe this is why I like teachers - it came from a substitute teacher who came to my class room. I was in catholic school and [she] came to my classroom in grade two for a day. She was an Irish gal and she said that she prayed to the Virgin Mary whenever she wanted anything in her life to happen, or if she wanted even something material, she'd pray to the Virgin Mary to ask God to give it to her and she would promise her something. And I sat at the back of the classroom and I thought, "Wow, that sounds kind of cool." So I went home and I prayed to the Virgin Mary at night, because my father couldn't afford a bike. All my friends had these Mustang bikes and I wanted a Mustang bike with the banana seat, so I went home and I prayed for this Mustang bike. My Dad would say, "Well, someday," you know, that kind of thing. Two weeks later I walked home from school [and] walked through my living room into my bedroom. My brother came in and said, "What are you doing? What are doing in here? Come on out… Didn't you see what was in the living room?" I walked out in the living room. My whole family was standing around a lime green Mustang bike with a banana seat. I had won it in a raffle that I didn't enter. A friend of mine had gone into a sporting goods store that was having this raffle, entered his own name and entered my name separately, 2 weeks before. I don't necessarily ask for material things anymore or anything like that but - and it may not be through the Virgin Mary, it may just be straight to God or whatever - whatever I need, I do that and I have done that my whole life. So yes, I really believe in it.

I just did "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" back East. We did a scene where I had to be like an eight to ten year old in a memory and it was being erased and I had to jump on my bike and take off. I showed up on the set and it was a green Mustang bike with a banana seat. I hadn't told anybody anything, or anything, but this is how my life has always been. I'm telling you if I could document it, and I probably should have, you would not believe how amazing my life has been. Everything has had something to do with that power of faith. So, you know, I'm not a bible thumper, I'm not any of that stuff, but I do believe that the force is with us.

Are you at a point in your life now where you can look at your place and allow yourself to see yourself as part of the lineage of great Hollywood comedians, such as Bob Hope?
To be included in a lineage of people like that, creative people like that, would be amazing. Honest to God, it's been a weird kind of [career]. My career has been in a weird kind of like low-flying under the radar-kind of place. I never made it on "Saturday Night Live" where all my friends did. I was at the Comedy Store getting standing ovations every night but I couldn't find my picture anywhere, and this is how it's always been for me. I've had incredible blessings [and] unbelievable fortitude. And at the same time there is always a balancing factor to my life and generally what it is is you pick up the book on comedians and I'm not in it. And you know, that's okay because I think once that happens you're completely defined and it's all over. Then you're just doing the same thing. People have figured you out and put you on the shelf that suits you. If I stay kind of obscure, that'd be alright.

I don't know. You do the best work that you can. I love the work and I always concentrated on the work and loved what I did, so I don't know what happens all around that kind of stuff. Who gets the picture on the wall? Who gets the trophy? Who gets all that stuff? It's not a consideration for me. Pantheons are for other people, maybe.

One of your next films is "The Children of the Dust Bowl." What interested you in that project?
I think it's a beautiful story, and I love stories about teachers. For some reason I can't get enough of those kind of stories. If I turn a movie on about a teacher, I love it. I love that idea of an adult influence on kids and also the idea that those children, the Okies at that time, were considered un-teachable. And this man who considered his life kind of over, Leo Hart, and had decided, under his wife's instructions, to rest, [but he] couldn't find it in himself to do that. He saw a purpose. He saw the reason why you teach laying right in front of him. He couldn't help himself. So he made these kids build their own school and it was a really special thing. [It] really gave them a sense of pride. I think if people built their own school they wouldn't graffiti it, you know what I mean?

Interviews with Steve Carell and Nora Dunn - >Page 2

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