After watching Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond, I kept asking myself how far Jim Carrey’s method acting truly went during the filming of Man on the Moon. While the cameras are rolling its clear that he was fully committed to this act, as he said it was a Jekyll and Hyde moment for him. I wonder how this act changed when there were no cameras on him and it was explicitly a moment outside of any film. The documentary informs us that for the most part when Carrey adopted the role he was fully engulfed in the character for hours, sometimes entire days. Early on the film, my initial thoughts drifted to what other members of the crew thought about Carrey’s performance. How many of them found his performance funny and how many were unable to voice discomfort due to the immense pressure of telling Jim Carrey to do something other than act. The film glosses over this question unless its Jerry Lawler not reacting positively to Carrey’s teasing. For the most part, it seems as if the majority of the cast and crew went along with whatever the act asked of them. But there is one moment that stuck out for me towards the end of the documentary.

When Jim Carrey plays Andy Kaufman and announces that he has cancer, there is one actor who immediately objects to this act. Danny Devito objects to Carrey’s performance and makes it clear that he wants nothing to do with this part of the joke and it’s clear through his actions that he feels uncomfortable with the situation. This moment raises the question that lies at the core of this documentary. At what point does a harmless joke become something much worse? What I believe it comes down to is the responsibility of the actor to know the audience. Not every joke is going to be perfect and even the best jokes will be frowned upon by someone. That doesn’t make this a terrible film nor does it make Carrey a horrible person for going too far on occasion. The film goes to great lengths to show how he’s grown as a person since he played this role and there’s definitely a sense of maturity in the way that he handles the interview. It’s something to consider when creating any form of art that seems obvious but is often brushed over. When we experiment and try new things in art we shouldn’t expect it to be perfect or comfortable for us, and when things fail we should take responsibility for our failure and make sure that we grow as whatever kind of artist we strive to be. So that when we do cross the line we can step back, take responsibility for our actions, and ensure that we do better next time.

2 thoughts on “

  1. Method acting that goes beyond the stage has been a pretty thorny question for a long time, I think, particularly when it comes to actors playing characters that are not good people. In a sense, it seems to me like taking method acting beyond the stage (or cameras) is kind of like forcing people to method act with you. What specifically comes to mind is Jared Leto’s Joker and how he sent his cast mates used condoms, anal beads, dead hogs, live rats, etc combined with more inappropriate and frightening acts that he committed to apparently try to create the vibe of the kind of relationship people would have with Joker. This was not something that the others were happy about, unsurprisingly. They did not want to be in a relationship with the Joker, but they were forced to as part of working on the movie. It’s the kind of behavior that forces people to call you “Andy” rather than Jim – it forces people to interact with a person they may not want to interact with beyond the script. I don’t think taking responsibility for these kind of actions can always be excused. Is art worth this non-consensual breaking of boundaries? Is art above the mental health of both the actor and those around them?

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  2. Because method acting is something that affects not only the person choosing to engage in it, but all those around them, as well, I think it is very important to think about the idea of consent. Were the other people affected asked for their consent prior to their being involved in the process? Were they allowed to withdraw their consent if at any time they wished to do so? In the case of Jim Carrey’s method acting for the movie Man on the Moon, there was a point at which Jim Carrey asked the director if he should stop method acting, giving the director an opening to withdraw consent. However, it does not seem as though anyone else involved was ever asked for consent, nor would they probably have felt able to voice any opposition they felt to the process as the imbalanced power-dynamic between the director or lead actor and any other member of the team would have put them under immense pressure to accept any actions taken by the director or lead actor. Method acting in a situation like this carries with it a lot of danger, and I do not think it is ethical to force it on others, particularly when the method acting in question could cause harm to others.

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