“When I heard I had the part, I was looking at the ocean, and that’s the moment when Andy came back to make his movie. What happened after was out of my control.”
Saying that Jim Carrey was obsessed with playing Andy Kaufman during the making of Miloš Forman’s Man on the Moon, which portrays the controversial life and career of the late legendary comedian, would be an understatement, as told by Carrey himself, above.
In the winter of 1999, the filming of what will feature one of the most astonishing performances in Carrey’s career, and later win him a Golden Globe, began in Los Angeles. Gradually – and much to their surprise – the movie’s technicians, producers, actors, and even Forman had to accept the fact that the actor was taking his role very seriously, to a point when the blurred line between reality and fiction completely ceased to exist.
Documented by Kaufman’s former girlfriend Lynne Margulies and writing partner Bob Zmuda, the unbelievable, never-seen facet of the film’s creation was archived and withheld by Universal for 22 years, as the studios didn’t want the behind-the-scenes 100 hours of footage to surface so that people wouldn’t think Carrey “was an asshole.”
Set to premiere on November 17, Netflix’s documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond will, for the first time, disclose the recorded strange and emotionally challenging making of Man on the Moon, intertwined with an exclusive conversation with Carrey himself, who will look back at the almost spiritual experience.
To play Kaufman, the actor aspired to emulate the comedian’s famous approach to stay in character between takes in order to keep the audience confused. “Andy Kaufman came in to turn reality on its head and not stop when the camera stopped,” says Carrey in the documentary’s trailer, above. As a result, he took his performance so far that the team on set could no longer dissociate Andy or his famous obnoxious alter ego, Tony Clifton, from Jim.
The 4-month production inevitably led the cast and crew to be on the edge of breaking down as Carrey became more and more uncontrollable. “You’re going to have people sue this production for mental stress,” we hear a technician protest in the video.
“I was thinking, how far should I take this? How far would Andy take it?” explains Jim Carrey, as, although unconventional and frustrating, his behavior reflected Kaufman’s to perfection. “He’s exactly the way Andy was,” we see Danny Devito, who worked with Kaufman on the TV show Taxi and played his agent, George Shapiro, in Forman’s biopic, comment on the movie’s set.
The documentary, directed by Chris Smith and produced by VICE Documentary Films, however, will be about more than just Carrey’s transformation into Kaufman. At the time freshly awarded for his critically acclaimed work on The Truman Show, which just established the actor’s change of path from bankable comedies to more serious projects, Carrey seemed to be, throughout the filming of Man on the Moon, testing the limits of his potential as a performer.
An experiment that, by the end, almost deprived him of his own identity. “When the movie was over, I couldn’t remember who I was anymore,” says Carrey. “So you step through the door not knowing what’s on the other side.” Until he realized, “what’s on the other side is everything.”