Man on the Moon Documentary

Update: If Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – The Story of Jim Carrey & Andy Kaufman Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton sounds like something you want to see, you’re in luck. Netflix has officially picked up the film. No release date has been set. Our original article follows below.

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As a die-hard stand-up comedy nerd, one of my favorite movies is Man on the Moon. The 1999 biopic about famous, controversial and genius comedian Andy Kaufman starred Jim Carrey in the lead role, and his work on the movie is very well known due to the length that he went to in order to stay in character.

We hear about method acting from actors occasionally, with talents like Daniel Day-Lewis investing themselves so deeply into a character that they maintain the illusion of that performance between takes on set, sometimes even when they’re completely away from the production, all in an effort to give the most authentic portrayal possible. That’s exactly what Jim Carrey did while working on Man on the Moon, and a new documentary that premiered at the Venice Film Festival explores the “psychotic” lengths to which the actor went to stay in character.

The Man on the Moon documentary is called Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – The Story of Jim Carrey & Andy Kaufman Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton, and this sounds like a movie that I didn’t know I wanted to see and now can’t see it soon enough.

The documentary comes from roughly 20 hours of candid footage of Jim Carrey on the set of Man on the Moon. It was originally intended to be part of an electronic press kit, but ended up sitting in a Universal Pictures vault for the past couple decades because the studio didn’t want anyone to come away from watching it thinking that Jim Carrey was “an asshole.” Initially, the studio even put the kibosh on this project coming together, but thankfully, American Movie director Chris Smith was able to get it off the ground.

Through the footage and interviews in the documentary (including Carrey himself), we see that Jim Carrey indeed would not respond to any name other than Andy Kaufman or Tony Clifton (the comedian’s rude, crude, lounge singer alter ego; one of his biggest showbiz pranks) while working on set. Even Jim Carrey’s driver during production indicated that he would stay in character on the drive home. The Hollywood Reporter recalls one moment in the documentary which I think we’ll have to see to fully understand, but here’s how they described it:

“At one point in the documentary, Carrey as Clifton was tormenting director Milos Forman so much that ‘Andy’ hinted that ‘Jim”’could go back to simply doing impersonations, which Forman declined.”

I can only assume that means Jim Carrey essentially referred to himself while portraying Andy, who was in turn playing Tony Clifton, and was threatening to leave the production? I’m not sure, but the fact that something like this even happened is so fascinating to me.

Another interesting anecdote from the time Jim Carrey was working on Man on the Moon is the revelation that the actor once had a two-hour phone call with director Ron Howard about their upcoming work on How the Grinch Stole Christmas, all while staying in character as Andy Kaufman. The director went along with the scenario without argument and Jim Carrey reiterated at Venice, “Jim Carrey didn’t exist at that time. Andy actually affected The Grinch as well.”

There are only a handful of reviews of Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond out there, so if you want to know more, I recommend reading the reactions from The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. The film will also be playing at the Toronto International Film Festival, so hopefully we’ll hear more about it. I know that I’m looking forward to seeing this documentary as soon as possible, and we’ll let you know when general audiences will be able to see it.

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