On November 17, 2017, Netflix released the Jim Carrey-starring documentary, Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, and it has opened viewers' eyes to the world of Carrey’s mind. Press for the documentary, including some bizarre Jim Carrey interviews, have woken the world up to the fact that the man may be an incredibly unstable method actor. The documentary, fully titled Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond-Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton, has behind-the-scenes stories and footage from the making of 1999’s Man on the Moon, interspersed with more recent interviews of Carrey himself.
The footage in Jim & Andy is most intriguing, allowing the public to witness Jim Carrey truly descend into his idol, Saturday Night Live performer Andy Kaufman, who died from lung cancer in 1984. While other method actors may truly “become” the characters they’re portraying, Carrey becomes so immersed in the character of Kaufman that he may have lost “Jim” along the way.
The footage that makes up the bulk of Jim & Andy is taken from behind the scenes of the making of Man on the Moon, which was released in 1999. There’s a good reason that it’s taken this long for the footage to reach the public eye. Initially, producers of Man on the Moon didn’t want anyone to see what Jim Carrey was really like during filming, fearing that audiences would think he was either an “assh*le” or just plain insane. Nearly 20 years of Jim Carrey being in the public spotlight have since passed, however, and Carrey is largely standing to the side of it.
The reason there's so much footage of Jim Carrey in character as Andy Kaufman while filming Man on the Moon's is quite simple: Carrey was always in character. While on set, and often while off it, Carrey refused to break character and even demanded that others refer to him exclusively as Andy. While he was acting, Carrey would refer to “Jim Carrey” as if he were an entirely different person altogether, often commenting on how infrequently “Jim” came to work. This was undoubtedly a weird thing for the other people on set to get used to, and it was even tougher for them to not get sick of it immediately.
Perhaps the most interesting footage in Jim & Andy come from the moments when Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman decides to share his opinions about Jim Carrey. Rather than making lighthearted jokes about himself, Kaufman-Carrey dispenses harsh truths about his “alter ego,” calling out his own need for constant approval. At one point, Kaufman-Carrey talks about the real pain hiding behind Jim Carrey’s constant smile, making for a heartbreaking moment of self-analysis masquerading as criticism of another person altogether.
It wasn’t enough for Jim Carrey to “become” Andy Kaufman while filming Man on the Moon. He also felt the need to become Tony Clifton, Kaufman’s most famous alter ego. The old gag used to be that Kaufman would consistently deny that he and the boorish and crude Clifton were the same person, and Kaufman even went as far as to have other people masquerade as Clifton to keep the mystery alive. However, there would be no masquerading where Jim Carrey was concerned. Carrey transformed himself into Clifton just as seriously as he transformed himself into Kaufman.