With the new comedy movie Yes Man pulling in the crowds, Mike Davies catches up with its star Jim Carrey.
A few years ago, mired in a funk of negativity after having been dumped, Scottish- born humorist, BBC comedy producer and journalist Danny Wallace was well on his way to being a thirtysomething recluse
Then a stranger on a late-night bus accosted him with three words. Say “yes” more. So, he decided to say “yes” to everything to see if life became more interesting. It most certainly did, spawning Yes Man, the best-selling book about his experiences and now inspiring a fictionalised comedy starring Jim Carrey. Inevitably, it’s the concept rather than the detail that fuels the film version, but it turns out that one of the most memorable scenes is pure autobiography. It just happens to be Carrey’s, rather than Wallace’s.
Having hooked up with free spirit Allison, played by Zooey Deschanel, Carrey’s character impulsively breaks into the Hollywood Bowl and the pair stand on the deserted stage gazing out into the auditorium. Which, he reveals, is a romantic moment that comes straight from life.
“That’s why it’s in the movie, because I really did have a rendezvous there,” says the Canadian comic.
“I was about 21 years old and at that time, the Hollywood Bowl had a chain fence in front of it.
“You could actually drive trucks onto the side of the stage to offload equipment. I don’t know what I was thinking. I had met this girl and I just had this wild idea to drive in. She held up the chain and I drove underneath it and on to the stage at the Hollywood Bowl. I shone the lights of the car across the stage and we went and made out on the stage. Then we got kicked out!”
Aside from revisiting youthful escapades, the scene also has a certain impromptu magic of its own as Carrey and Deschanel start singing a Beatles tune. “I found myself standing in the place where John Lennon premiered on the West Coast,” beams Carrey. “You’re in that aura, so you’ve got to sing a Beatles song. I started and Zooey joined right in but we didn’t know that the camera was running. It was just the two of us loving where we were, and I think it’s a great moment.”
All of which prompts the memory of another musical moment 20 years ago when Carrey appeared as Johnny Squares, drug addict, rock singer and the film’s first murder victim, opposite Clint Eastwood’s ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan in The Dead Pool.
“I was given the choice of singing either Night Train or Welcome To The Jungle by Guns ‘n’ Roses,” he recalls. “The producer gave me both songs to take to my hotel room and listen to and I said, Welcome To The Jungle.”
Carrey does a particularly striking routine to the song in the movie but, he reveals, nothing like as striking as the audition performance he did for Clint.
“I had to audition in a hotel room. He wasn’t there, but they’d send the tapes to his home in Carmel, California. I did this thing I called Post-Nuclear Elvis, where I would do this odd Elvis mutation with short hands and flipper arms, doing all the Elvis moves. I think I enacted a pregnancy on the floor,.
“And Clint went out of his mind over it. He said (slips into a convincing Eastwood impression) ‘I show it everyone who comes to my house. It really breaks the ice.’ I loved getting to know him, he’s such a gentleman and an amazing artist and we’ve been friends since.