Since landing his breakthrough role in 1994’s Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Jim Carrey has been one of the biggest comedy stars in the world. Known for his eccentric impersonations and manic on-screen energy, Carrey established himself as the most bankable comedic actor of the 90s, appearing in such classics as Dumb and Dumber, Liar Liar, and The Truman Show. In the late 90s and early 2000s, Carrey started branching out into more dramatic fare, endearing himself to critics and fans alike in movies like Man on the Moon and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Today, Carrey is less active than he was in his 90s heyday, as he’s focused more on his family and other artistic endeavors. It’s hard to think of a time when Carrey wasn’t an instantly recognizable screen presence, but there are some interesting things about him you may not be aware of. Here are 11 lesser-known facts about Jim Carrey.
11. He’s a High School Dropout
Carrey’s story is a real rag to riches tale, as he grew up in Ontario, Canada, in relative poverty. To help make ends meet, Carrey and his siblings worked as janitors at a local factory. When Carrey was 15, his mother fell ill, and he decided to drop out of high school to help care for her. Eventually, the family’s financial situation improved, and they relocated to Toronto, where Carrey decided to pursue his dream of becoming a comedian rather than return to school.
10. He Was “Discovered” By Rodney Dangerfield
Long before he became one of the biggest comedy actors in the world, Jim Carrey was a struggling comedian looking for his big break. After landing regular paid shows in the Toronto comedy circuit, Carrey was noticed by comedian Rodney Dangerfield, who signed him as his opener.
As Carrey writes in the foreword to Dangerfield’s 2004 autobiography, It’s Not Easy Bein’ Me, his first gig opening for Dangerfield was at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. “That was a very big deal for me, a huge break,” writes Carrey. From there, Carrey moved to Hollywood, where he would debut his act on The Tonight Show in 1983.
9. He Went on an Acting Hiatus to Become a Painter
If you’ve noticed Carrey isn’t as prolific as he once was when it comes to movie roles, well, there’s a pretty good reason for that. Over six years starting in 2011, Carrey focused less on his acting so he could throw himself wholeheartedly into another passion: painting. Carrey kept this pursuit mostly quiet until 2017 when he showcased his work in “Sunshower,” a solo exhibition held at the Signature Gallery Group’s Las Vegas gallery.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not covered in paint or something from doing sculptures,” Carrey revealed in a W magazine interview.” It’s all about that for me now — being completely involved, heart, mind, and soul.” If you want to see Carrey’s artwork for yourself, check out “I Needed Color,” a short documentary showing the actor at work in his studio.
8. He’s also a Children’s Author
The painting wasn’t the only creative outlet Carrey during his semi-hiatus from acting. In 2013, Carrey released a children’s book called “How Roland Rolls,” which tells the story of an ocean wave that is afraid of what will happen if he ever hits the beach. Carrey dedicated the book to his grandson, telling Publisher’s Weekly, “There are more joy and fulfillment in this project that I could have dreamed.”
Carrey collaborated with illustrator Rob Nason on the project, who by happy coincidence also hails from Carrey’s hometown of Burlington, Ontario, Canada. Considering Carrey is no stranger to appearing in adaptations of children’s stories (How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events), here’s hoping he’ll play the title role if How Roland Rolls is ever turned into a movie or TV series!
7. Became a US Citizen in 2004
Like many Canadian actors with successful film careers, Jim Carrey moved to the US to make it happen. Carrey left Toronto in 1979 to pursue a career in comedy and, after decades of living in the US, attained his American citizenship in 2004. “This country has helped define me and make my dreams come true,” Carrey said at the time of his decision to become a US citizen.
However, Carrey stressed that his Canadian identity is still important to him and maintains dual citizenship to this day. “I have no intention of giving up my Canadian heritage, and all those who loved and supported me,” Carrey said. “My upbringing in Canada made me the person I am. I will always be proud to be a Canadian.”
6. His Salary Skyrocketed in 1994
In many ways, 1994 was Carrey’s breakout year, with starring roles in three hit comedies — The Mask, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and Dumb & Dumber. All three movies grossed over $100 million at the box office, helping solidify Carrey as the biggest comedy star in the world at the time.
Carrey signed on to The Mask prior to the other two movies and was paid $450,000 for his work, as he was not yet a bankable star. After Ace Ventura: Pet Detective became a surprise hit in February 1994, The Mask suddenly became a hotly anticipated release for that summer. This gave Carrey quite a bit more leverage, and it wasn’t long before he inked a $7 million deal to star in Dumb and Dumber, which hit theaters just before Christmas. For those not keeping track, that’s a more than 1400% pay bump in less than a year!
5. First Actor To Earn a $20 Million Salary
After his incredible 1994 run, Jim Carrey was an instant movie star. Suddenly, the comedian from Canada who struggled for a decade to launch his acting career had the leverage to command the biggest payday in Hollywood. Ironically, he received a record-high salary for what would end up being the first “flop” of his career — the 1996 black comedy The Cable Guy.
With just over $100 million in ticket sales, The Cable Guy was far from the trainwreck history has painted it to be, but it was a disappointment compared to Carrey’s previous hits. Of course, Sony Pictures had every reason to believe the film would be a monster hit, so the studio had no problem forking over $20 million to play the title role — a record at the time.
4. His Biggest Payday Was … Yes Man??
Despite The Cable Guy registering as something of a career misfire for Carrey, it paved the way for other big-name stars to command +$20 million salaries. Carrey himself would earn this amount on several post-Cable Guy projects, including Liar Liar, Me, Myself & Irene, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Ironically, he’d earn the most money on a film in which he signed on with a $0 salary.
Carey took a risk on 2008’s Yes Man, forgoing his standard rate of a $20 million salary plus 20% of the film’s gross in exchange for 36.2% of back-end profits. According to the Telegraph, industry insiders viewed the move as a massive gamble on Carrey’s part at the time, as the actor was coming off back-to-back live-action flops in The Number 23 and Fun with Dick and Jane. However, Carrey would have the last laugh; Yes Man grossed $230 million worldwide, netting the actor a payday of around $32 million.
3. He’s an Anti-Vaxxer
Alongside ex-partner Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey is one of the more prominent voices behind the anti-vaccination movement. Carrey first made his views known in a since-deleted 2009 Huffington Post piece and has been a vocal critic of mandatory vaccines ever since. In 2015, he referred to California Governor Jerry Brown as a “corporate fascist” for signing a law mandating vaccines for all school-aged children, regardless of their parents’ religious beliefs.
Carrey has defended his beliefs, arguing that he’s not anti-vaccine but rather “anti-thimerosal, anti-mercury” but that hasn’t stopped more authoritative sources, such as Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, from criticizing Carrey for spreading false information.
2. He Had an Unlikely Pen Pal
Everyone knows everyone in Hollywood, but there are still some celebrity friendships that make you do a double-take. One such pairing is Carrey and the late Tupac Shakur, who became good friends in the early 90s. Shakur served nine months in prison for a sexual assault conviction in 1995, and during that time, Carrey wrote letters to the rapper to make him laugh and keep his spirits up. Carrey was reportedly one of Tupac’s favorite actors, and the actor publicly stated on several occasions that he believed the musician was innocent.
1. He Was Involved in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In 2012, Carrey began dating makeup artist Cathriona White. The two dated for nearly a year, and White tragically passed away from a prescription drug overdose in 2015 at the age of 30. Although they were no longer dating at the time of death, Carrey was devastated and walked as a pallbearer at her funeral. A year later, in September 2016, White’s husband, Mark Burton, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Carrey, claiming the actor had used his “immense wealth and celebrity status” to obtain the drugs involved in White’s death. White’s mother, Brigid Sweetman, also filed a lawsuit against Carrey.
Carrey flatly denied the allegations and filed a countersuit. “I will not tolerate this heartless attempt to exploit me or the woman I loved,” Carrey wrote. “I really hope that someday soon people will stop trying to profit from this and let her rest in peace.” The lawsuits were dismissed in January 2018.