Jim Carrey will undoubtedly go down as one of the great talents of a generation, able to mix his particular form of manic comedy with a more sensitive side when the script called for it. It’s meant him starring in massively silly blockbusters but also other films that lent themselves to a softer approach. But not everyone is a fan of his style or how he, at least in the past, worked to get into certain roles.
Martin Freeman has recently come out and slammed Carrey’s approach on one film in particular and the former does something of a takedown of method acting as an entire practice. He had some pointed words about Carrey and the craft as a whole.
Martin Freeman was on the most recent episode of the Off Menu podcast with James Acaster and Ed Gamble. The foodie podcast doesn’t just stay on the topic of favorite meals for long and does end up with Freeman discussing method acting as a practice among some of those in the business. It’s here that he brings up Jim Carrey specifically to talk about the latter’s approach playing Andy Kaufmann in the 1999 biopic Man on the Moon. In preparing for the role and ultimately filming, it’s known that Carrey went full-Kaufman for the performance, sometimes at the detriment of the production. Here’s what Freeman had to say about the practice:
When younger, I think it’s quite common to think that completely losing yourself is the goal (of acting) because it feels grown-up and it feels proper. But the older I’ve got, the more I don’t really look to that. To be honest, it’s quite a pain in the arse when someone ‘loses themselves.’ It is a massive pain in the arse because it’s no longer a craft and a job.
For me, and I’m genuinely sure Jim Carrey is a lovely and smart person, but it was the most self-aggrandizing, selfish, narcissistic fucking bollocks I have ever seen. The idea that anything in our culture would celebrate or support it is deranged, literally deranged.
You need to keep grounded in reality. That’s not to say you don’t lose yourself in the time between ‘action’ and ‘cut,’ but I think the rest of it is absolute pretentious nonsense and highly amateurish. It is not professional. Get the job done, do your work.
Well, this doesn’t really beat around the proverbial bush at all, does it? Martin Freeman makes it pretty clear what he thinks about method acting in general and uses Jim Carrey as the primary example of where it can go wrong. While he fails to provide specifics other than feelings around how actors should carry themselves in roles, it’s clear he sees the ritual and practice as something that’s more ego-filling than actually practical or relevant to the overall performance.
To be clear, Martin Freeman didn’t actually work with Jim Carrey on Man on the Moon but is more responding to the industry stories around the performance as well a Netflix documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond which offered primary-source footage of Carrey on set.
The documentary that Martin Freeman is referencing details just how committed to the role Jim Carrey was when playing Andy Kaufman. So much so that he basically “became” the late comedian and actor with a blurred line about “who he was” during the production. While some would consider this a noble pursuit in the name of authenticity, Freeman clearly sees it a different way, making the production more difficult and really veering away from professionalism in the name of getting into character. He sees the two as mutually exclusive concepts. An actor can embody a character without actually becoming a character with diminishing returns for those around him/ her. This, in many ways, is what acting is all about anyway.
There are cautionary tales of method acting from around the industry so it isn’t like Jim Carrey is alone in this pursuit. And again, Martin Freeman is simply using the Carrey as the example that proves the rule. While it seems like a singular “calling out” of Carrey in this sense, one does get the idea that he’s just mostly talking about hating the overall idea in general. He’s likely worked with this before and is hesitant to call out those folks by name, saving it instead for a film he didn’t work on specifically.
Regardless, though Jim Carrey went full Andy Kaufman in this role, it’s unlikely he ever goes this route again. In fact, he really isn’t taking live-action roles these days, mostly having hung up his on-screen appearances for at least the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, Martin Freeman is set to reprise his Everett K. Ross role in the upcoming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Let’s hope no one over there is method acting.