Why Was Jim Carrey in Character as Andy Kaufman the Whole Time While Shooting Man on the Moon?

"When Jim Carrey says he wants to do something, who is going to stop him?”
By Alex Firer

  • “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond,” a new Netflix documentary, reveals the behind-the-scenes drama created on the set of Man on the Moon by Jim Carrey while he was in character as Andy Kaufman.

    Man on the Moon was shot over 20 years ago in 1999. In that year, a Jim Carrey fansite reported about how Andy Kaufman’s real-life girlfriend Lynne Marguiles filmed over 200 hours of footage of Jim in character as Andy.

    Carrey was in character during the entire four-month shoot.

    The site says the footage “so fascinated [the movie’s] executives that they want to turn it into a documentary in the vein of “Hearts of Darkness,” which chronicled the making of “Apocalypse Now.”

    The footage, however, made Jim Carrey seem like a terror on set.

    Reportedly, Carrey drove on the lot each day as either Kaufman or his alter-ego, the irritating lounge singer Tony Clifton, each had their own separate trailer.

    Carrey would also rub salami and limburger cheese on his body while in character as Tony Clifton. He also would prank Danny DeVito by putting his car up on blocks, letting cockroaches loose in DeVito’s trailer, and once sealing shut his trailer door.

    Universal Studios decided to keep the footage from the public, and from the DVD release. Even after the movie, Carrey continued to pull Andy Kaufman style stunts. During a promotional event for “Man on the Moon,” Tony Clifton interrupted the junket, saying “That Drew Carey” made a movie that was “a bunch of junk.” Carrey dumped a pitcher of iced tea on Clifton’s head.

    For decades, stories about the footage were just rumors.

    So, how did this documentary get made?

    After many years of asking, director Spike Jonze had Jim Carrey show him some of the footage shot by Marguiles.  For years, the behind-the-scenes footage was in the possession of Andy’s old writing partner, Bob Zmuda.

    Jonze and documentarian Chris Smith worked with the footage for about 8 months before asking Carrey to sit down for an interview. The documentary takes a look at Jim Carrey’s career, showing how he had trained for the role of Andy Kaufman his entire life.

    But the film also shows the mental strain it took on Carrey himself. Carrey wanted to do what he thought Andy Kaufman would do and push everything as far as possible. But working with the real Andy Kaufman was much more professional.

    [Sam Simon was a writer and showrunner on the sitcom “Taxi,” which propelled Andy Kaufman to national fame. He said this in his interview with Marc Maron on WTF that “Andy was complete professional. He told you Tony Clifton was him.”

    Danny Devito, who was a producer and Co-Star on Man on the Moon, also worked with Andy Kaufman on the sitcom “Taxi., saying – Well, Andy does this character, he does this character where you don’t own up that it’s him, but it’s really him and we all know it. but he won’t cop to the fact that it’s him.

    So, why did Carrey push himself and the entire movie production to the breaking point?  Chris Smith said, “He really tried to do justice to Andy’s legacy and I think he really felt that this was the right way to do that… When Jim Carrey says he wants to do something, who is going to stop him?”

    Have you seen “Jim & Andy?” What did you think? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter at @WhatsTrending.