Sully is now in theaters receiving rave reviews! With the movie Philadelphia, and then Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks made the unprecedented transition in a little over a decade from comedies such as Bosom Buddies, Money Pit, and The Man with One Red Shoe, to two-time Oscar-Winner (1994-1995), quickly regarded as one of the most respected actors of a generation.
The jump took a bit longer (20 years) for Robin Williams, as he transitioned into Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting (1998, Oscar-Winner), all the way from a legendary stand-up career, to Mork & Mindy, Popeye, and Aladdin.
Others can be included in the annals of comedy genius turned dramatic, believable movie actor: Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally, Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost, Jamie Foxx in Ray (Oscar), Steve Martin in Father of the Bride, as of most recent, Steve Carrell in Foxcatcher. There are others, but the point is this – To make this type of transition is so rare that few have made it happen, although many have tried.
Jim Carrey is the most unheralded and unappreciated of all comedians turned dramatic actor in the history of cinema. If you have any sense of what it takes to go from the greatest comedy actor in the world, and the highest paid, to then cranking out exceptional performances such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Truman Show, and ultimately, Man on the Moon, then you can see where Jim Carrey falls into a Category of One where both audience and Hollywood somehow cannot accept such triumphs and greatness. The hybrid of Liar Liar is the closest he came to branching both worlds between comedy and drama, such as Williams’ Mrs. Doubtfire and Hanks’ Big, and yet remains truly lacking in admiration.
I am incensed by this anomaly, as I feel on the spectrum of comedy genius to dramatic prowess, the only other actor who touches him on either side is Robin Williams, although Carrey’s comedy works far outweigh Williams on the big screen. And of course Robin’s final 2.5 decades of film were mostly devoted to, and widely accepted, in the dramatic realm, where Carrey’s return to comedy continues to prove his ability yet won’t allow for his deepest talents as dramatic actor to come forth.
This is something I have passionately studied, as Jim Carrey and I have such similar paths, and I feel his pain. On one hand, he takes less money for the dramatic role just to once again prove he can nail it, keeping a promise to himself to never stop pushing, as he no doubt has proven he belongs in the conversation of The Dramatic Greats; yet audiences barely touch it, and he must return to the bag of tricks to remain in the financial game of Hollywood. In essence, he constantly keeps his Promise to The Audience and delivers what they want and expect to see: His Greatest Hits (incredible faces, characters, voices, bizarre creations, energy, 100% commitment to the role, etc). But man – there is so much more there underneath it all! And yet, if you recall in the past few years, videos have been going viral of him speaking, as he has been asked to address as Keynote Speaker and Commencement Messenger of youth a message that is transcendent and – seriously – surprising to unsuspecting audiences at the depth and profundity of his ability to craft words that pierce to the core, and inspire a call to action to live ones dreams. His mastery of living life at it’s highest level and going for the stars so many are scared to dive into is finally being discovered by the world – and it’s about time.
However, that still doesn’t translate to commercial success, and so he must continue to return to the same well he has tried to leave so many times before.
When you are considered the top in your field, it is very well near impossible to reinvent and become beloved in a different, opposite genre. From drama to comedy is much more acceptable, as we are surprised but not really, since the actor we see is obviously versatile, I mean how else do you explain DeNiro going from Raging Bull and Godfather to Meet the Fockers? We see him in that role and love it! But it makes sense to us – DeNiro can do funny because he’s, well, DeNiro. And he’s now an elderly gentleman, so we are happy to see him! Yet the move from comedy to being taken serious? Hmmm. Tough one.
I ponder in depth the dilemma Jim Carrey faces probably as often as he does. I too have attempted, over 15 years, to make a similar transition. Not so publicly as his, but confusing and angering clients, family, myself, as I go from what some have compared to the talent level of showman and comedy performer of the greats of Las Vegas history, to attempting to be taken serious as a Speaker. According to my critics, it’s my own little “Mea Culpa”. It’s not a big deal. But when I start to wonder why it’s taking so long, I look to Hanks, Williams, Martin, Crystal and figure, OK, I have time, and I promised myself a long time ago I wouldn’t stop until I get there (wherever “there” is).
And then I think of how Jim Carrey must feel, with so many genius works in the books on two opposite ends of the spectrum between comedy and drama, and I send a little prayer of hope to the heavens that he will never stop doing what he is doing and working toward, as eventually I believe the rest of the world will catch up. Hey, maybe someday Hollywood will come to their senses and give him an honorary Oscar for decades of amazing work, as they did for Steve Martin, and ought to do for Carrey before he moves on to greater things, as he is the most unheralded, unappreciated actor we have ever seen on screen.
~ jason hewlett
Jason Hewlett, CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame, is a Keynote Speaker and Master of Ceremonies for the largest corporate events in the world. His primary message, The Promise, a combination of engagement and entertainment meets inspiration, has been acknowledged as life-changing by Conference Attendees, C-Level Executives and Hollywood Elite. jasonhewlett.com