Jim Carrey & Andy Kaufman: The Great Beyond
A little over a month ago we posted the trailer for Netflix’s latest documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond. The doc chronicled Jim Carrey’s role as Andy Kaufman for the 1999 film Man on the Moon. I finally sat down to watch it last night, and I can not recommend it enough. The doc splices a present day interview of Carrey with behind the scenes footage from the film set as well as Carrey’s own career during his rise to stardom. If you’ve never seen Man on the Moon, you should see it as soon as possible, because Carrey is otherworldly in it. He won the Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy or musical and once you watch the movie you’ll know why.
Kaufman was one of Jim Carrey’s comedic inspirations and one of my favorite parts of the documentary is Carrey speaking honestly about the impact Kaufman has had on his life and career. Carrey has always been envious of Kaufman’s creativity and comedic freedom, and you can tell his experience making Man on the Moon still has a profound effect on him. All the backstage footage was shot by Kaufman’s real life girlfriend Lynne Margulies or Bob Zmuda, Kaufman’s partner in comedic crime. Because of this, the footage is as raw as can be. Simply put: while on set, Jim Carrey did not exist. There was either Andy Kaufman or his insane alter ego, Tony Clifton.
While method acting isn’t a new term, it’s rare that we get to see the process up close and personal. Carrey is so completely in character as Kaufman that members of Kaufman’s family that were on set react as if their brother or son had miraculously come back to life. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows though, and Carrey talks a little about how guilty he felt “being Kaufman” which in turn made everyone else’s job so difficult. It got to the point that Universal, the studio that made Man on the Moon, tried to bury the footage “so that people wouldn’t think Jim is an asshole”.
Things got extra tense on set when Jerry Lawler, Kaufman’s “nemesis”, showed up to film his parts. Carrey went full on Kaufman, to the point that Lawler tried to attack him and put him in the hospital. Was this real? We’ll never really know. That was the beauty of Kaufman in real life and of Carrey’s performance. Kaufman never seemed to care if you liked him or not, but he was always going to keep you guessing. Carrey did the same thing while on set, and the main takeaway I got from his present day interviews was that Carrey never the same after filming. He might have been on the top of the world in Hollywood, but he never felt as free as he did portraying Kaufman.
Take an hour and 40 minutes out of your day and watch this great documentary. Watch the brilliance of Andy Kaufman and the brilliance of Jim Carrey. You won’t be disappointed.