Jim Carrey and Virginia Madsen Play "The Number 23"
You might have seen the scary posters; Jim Carrey gettin' all serious and hollow-eyed and just plain spooky with the words "The Truth Will Find You" floating over his face. Sounds like "The X-Files". This isn't your childhood Jim Carrey movie. The Number 23 is a shocking and twist-filled psych thriller and Carrey is very cool in it.
Jim's character finds a weird book titled "The Number 23" which seems to be based on his own life and the outlook for the future isn't bright. He becomes obsessed and his wife, played by the always hot and talented Virginia Madsen, doesn't know if she can hang in until hubby snaps out of this. We sat down with Jim and Virginia in Beverly Hills at the 4 Seasons recently to talk about both playing multiple roles in the film, any number 23 coincidences in their own lives, Jim's future plans and the fact that girlfriend Jenny McCarthy really liked his fake tattoos for the film.
At one point, Jim whipped out his own photos blown up from his camera phone of number 23s he'd seen around the hotel; the address across the street, a tow truck number, a license plate.. then a picture of the number 23 floating in his soup! Okay, he staged that last one. Even "serious" Jim is still hilarious. Picture him in quite long "hippy" hair and a gorgeous black suit with very dark purple tie and shirt. Virginia was in black high neck sweater and jeans tucked into Ugg boots.
TeenHollywood: Jim, before you made this film, you named your company JC23. Why?
Jim: Well, a friend of mine in Canada kind of handed it down to me. He was seeing [the number] everywhere, added up license plates, doing all these things. He had a book full of 23 phenomenon and he handed it to me, and I said he was crazy and then I started seeing it everywhere. Then, few years later, somebody handed me a book on the 23rd Psalm, the valley of the shadow of death, living without fear basically, knowing you're taken care of, so I thought that was great progression from Pit Bull productions [his old company] which is kind of like grabbing hold of life and just not letting it go, to not sweating it. So I named the company that.
TeenHollywood: But how did this project come to your attention?
Jim: I explained it to a friend and he said, 'Well, I just read script called The Number 23.' And I said, 'I have to see this.' And I read the script, I was compelled by it, and I was freaked out actually because the first page of the script was actually originally me [as an animal control officer] trying to capture a pit bull, the Pit Bull Productions to JC23 [connection] was not lost there. And it went on like that. Then I gave it to a friend of mine to read and I had come back into the room and he had turned to the 23rd page and was circling every 23rd word. He was looking for a code. And that's what I want to do with the audience with a movie like this, that's the fun of it.
TeenHollywood: Virginia, have you ever heard of the number 23 phenomenon?
Virginia: Yes, because I think all that stuff is really fun, the shows on the Discovery Channel about ghosts and the yeti and UFOs, which I totally believe in, so I'd heard about it but I didn't know how vast it was until really the first day of production. I'd sort of been online, and I came in and there were these beautiful, beautiful roses from Jim with this romantic note, 'to my beautiful wife'...
Jim: I just didn't want any trouble.
Virginia: And you know, I was so gullible I was like, 'Oh, I love him now.' That's all it takes. But anyway, then on the table there was this book about this thick with all the fun facts about the number 23, just in case you're a doubter. So I was like, 'Oh my God.'
Jim: And then it began, and her son started picking out things. Her son was sitting there all day long trying to figure out the phenomenon on the set. And he pointed out that our names together were 23 letters.
TeenHollywood: Playing an animal catcher, do you feel you've come full circle from Ace Ventura?
Jim: Well, again, this is the way my life and the universe, basically, is very mysterious. Movies find me, and I kind of just allow them to find me, and when it becomes a real good fit I do them. And in this case it was the 23 phenomenon, and also the fact that he was a dog catcher was I think a really nice little wink toward my other work, so it was just all inclusive.
TeenHollywood: Jim, you were very intense in this movie. I think this movie proves you're the real thing when it comes to doing serious roles. Are you going to keep going in that direction?
Jim: Thanks very much, I appreciate that. I really have always thought of myself as somebody who lives in the middle of the wheel and is able to go to the extreme, to the outside of the wheel in any direction. The best case scenario for me is to be able to be centered and then go out and you can be zany and funny or you can do something that really has some depth to it and serious. So there's many different colors to paint with, and I would hate to get trapped in one little thing. I always feel like funny is an appendage, but it is not my whole body.
TeenHollywood: You both play two roles. Which ones were you more comfortable in?
Virginia: Well, definitely - Agatha [the wife], but I mean, all of us have a dark side and all of us have an even darker side to our sexuality, and it was to tap into that. Everything that I play as an actress is a different aspect of me, being able to unlock that little door and show that. This movie was great because I just got to show a lot of different sides.
Jim: Well I love Walter because he's the family guy, he's the guy who wants to have a normal life. He's most of us who want just things to be stable. We're in a constant state of denial that we live on plates of rock that are floating on molten magma and nothing is stable in the universe, we just want to keep things from moving too much, or changing too much. So I like that character, he was very loving with his family and he loved his job. But the other character was a little bit different for me to play, so that's exciting for me. I did like Fingerling [his darker character] and Jenny liked it. It's amazing what a tattoo does for a girl.
TeenHollywood: Speaking of Jenny, you seem really happy.
Jim: I feel that our relationship happened at a time that I am more ready than I have ever been in my life to have a relationship and we also encourage each other and we're also on the same path.
TeenHollywood: The movie is about obsession. Is there anything that consumes your life?
Jim: The only thing that has ever consumed me is love from time to time. Feeling like, 'What is it? How do I get it?' All of those things have consumed my mind from time to time. My spiritual journey has been a good thing I've been on. I guess some people would say I'm obsessed with but in a really good way. It's just enjoyable. I don't really have crazy obsessions about things. I think obsessions happen because you're trying to understand something or some urge. Like in the film, I think it's like trying to avoid something.
TeenHollywood: Jim, your noir-style character Fingerling plays the sax. Do you play the saxophone at all?
Jim: [laughs] I just really practiced some rudimentary things that I could do that would match the music, but I didn't learn how to play the sax. I used to play the sax, oddly enough. There are parallels all over the place. My father played the saxophone in a band. He had an orchestra. I played in the school band but I forgot how to play it.
TeenHollywood: Do you ever worry about what your fans expect from you? What if they don't like your new film choices?
Jim: [sings] Love me as I am. The one thing that I'm really proud of is that I love people and I want them to enjoy the work absolutely without question, but I try to do things that actually connect with things, and whether they're comedy or drama, I don't consider patronizing the audience. I consider what's true for me and I hope that it will connect with someone. I know if it's really true for me it will connect with someone; in many cases, a great many people. And that's all I really consider. I always have been introspective, since I was a little kid, since I could remember, I was sitting in a closet trying to write out the meaning of the universe. That's been my whole life.
TeenHollywood: So, if people expect you to do just comedy, it's not going to happen?
Jim: Most people may have warmed to me as a person because of the comedy and I think that human beings just innately don't like change. They buck it at every turn, every time something changes, 'I don't know about that.' It's a scary thing for people, so there's always resistance to it, but Bob Dylan went electric and he never looked back. And we bitched and moaned when it happened, but that's not his concern. His concern is be true to himself and then invite you in to see it, and go, 'Hope you like it.'
TeenHollywood: Jim, what was the first movie you remember seeing in a theatre as a kid?
Jim: As a kid in the theatre it was The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, starring Kurt Russell. I remember in Toronto, I lived in Willowdale and I walked about a mile and a half to the Willow Show and just going into the movie theatre was such an incredible experience; wonderful, like, wow, this is magic!
TeenHollywood: What do you consider the funniest movie you've ever seen?
Jim: A Shot in the Dark with Peter Sellers was a genius comedy because it went all over the place. It was not only character funny, it was intellectually funny and physically hilarious. It kept you off guard so that was one of my favorites. One of my kind of modern favorites was Richard E. Grant in How to Get a Head in Advertising. He was brilliant in that movie, oh, so funny.
TeenHollywood: Lots of the cast of your old TV show "In Living Color" have gone on to big success. Would you like to collaborate with any of them on a film [The Wayans Brothers, Jennifer Lopez, Jamie Foxx etc.]
Jim: I hope so at some point. It has to be completely perfect for everybody. It has to be comfortable for everybody, and those things don't come around a lot but I sure hope they do. I would love to work with Jamie [Foxx]. It's amazing how many people have come from that show and done so well. It gave birth to a lot of talent.
TeenHollywood: I hear you have your headphones on when you are on set. What music did you listen to to get into character?
Jim: I use music a lot and it was fun too. I think everybody creates the character; [the director], people on the set, the lighting. So, the sound people on the movie were so excited when I came to them and I said, 'for certain scenes, I want an earwig with music blasting in my ear during the scene.' And they go, 'what, what are you talking about?' And I go 'seriously, like the weirdest things you can possibly find. Like, disturbing sounds, things that are really horrifying that really unnerve you.' And they were like (in a low-voice) 'great, man...' and they went away and they came up with the wonderful collection of sound bytes and I would use them in certain scenes.
TeenHollywood: What are you doing next, Jim?
Jim: Well, I'm working on Ripley's Believe It or Not! with Tim Burton...yeah, it's going to be really fun. And, at the moment, I'm doing the cartoon version of Horton Hears a Who, which is going to be beautiful. I have always loved all Dr. Seusss, and I'm lucky enough to have been the Grinch. Audrey Geisel, Dr. Seuss' widow, liked what I did and she asked me to do Horton.
TeenHollywood: What do you like about the Horton story?
Jim: I love that idea that a person is a person no matter how small and the idea of worlds within worlds within worlds. Sometimes I sit out in my backyard and I look at the birds, and a hummingbird will come down 'wap' and go flying past my head and will threaten me and I realize that he has no respect for my deed to the land, you know? That's his property as far as he's concerned. And that's just the reality. We think that we're the ones in control, everybody does.
Lynn Barker is a Hollywood-based entertainment journalist and produced screenwriter.