The behind-the-scenes stories that have followed Jim Carrey throughout his illustrious career range from genius and unique to deranged and confrontational — an idiosyncratic blend that Carrey has largely put into all his roles. In fairness, his complete commitment to the roles usually allows for such irrational behaviour and, equally, it is this very commitment that has made him a global superstar.
During the 1990s, there was no star able to captivate and convert an audience quicker than Carrey. Whether through his ludicrous rubber-faced jokes on Ace Ventura or his twisted portrayal of The Cable Guy, there is no star more willing to go the extra mile than Carrey. However, on one particular shoot, that commitment to the role nearly saw Carrey lose his life.
The Truman Show is a masterpiece. Looking back from the 21st century, there is a strong sense that Carrey and the rest of the cast were simply enacting a tale from the future. The fictional town of Seahaven is a place that mirrors a society where we all star in our very own reality TV show, and the notion of Main Character Syndrome floats around our egos with glee. The comedy-drama sees Truman, played by Carrey, live out his life under the watchful eye of television cameras as the lenses track and design his every move.
As Truman begins to realise his fate, he notes the only way to get out of his situation is to overcome his fear of water and try to find the edge of his own little world, breaking free from the gaze of producer and director Christof. Truman commanders a small boat for the escapade, and, seeing his main character begin to flee, Christof decides to send a storm his way in an effort to sink his getaway.
Of course, the shooting of the scene wasn’t conducted on the open water but on a heavily monitored water tank. But that didn’t mean the stunt wasn’t dangerous, and, in 2018, Carrey opened up to Vanity Fair about just how close it came to ending his life. “I was wearing wool clothing – a big, wool sweater, wool pants, and shoes,” recalled Carrey, “and they had jet engines blowing on me, and they had these giant wave machines that were creating gale-force waves. I don’t know if you can see it in the film, but they’ve got divers under the water, and I’m actually giving the signal of like, “I’m in trouble,” which was a clenched fist. They just saw it as acting.”
“I went under, I had no breath left, and I was drowning,” Carrey continued with his frightening story. “I was under the water at the bottom of the pool, and with the last breath, with the last hint of consciousness, I just spun and made a couple of gigantic strokes toward the back of the storm and came up outside the storm gasping for air and exhausted.
“I just barely made it to the edge of the wall where the sky is and hung on the edge of the wall gasping for air, looking back at the storm that was raging still, and it went on for another minute and then slowly shut down. They didn’t know where I was, and then they finally saw me and came over. I almost [died]. That was the real deal.”
Despite the near-death experience, the film would become one of Carrey’s crown’s brightest jewels. It may not always be his most keenly remembered film, but it certainly showed the world that Jim Carrey was more than a funny face.