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He is best-known for his manic, slapstick performances in comedy films such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb & Dumber, The Mask, Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty. Jim Carrey has also achieved critical success in dramatic roles in films such as The Truman Show, The Majestic, Man on the Moon and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Carrey was born in the town of Newmarket, Ontario to Percy and Kathleen Carrey; he has three older siblings, John, Patricia and Rita. His family is Catholic and had distant French Canadian roots (the original surname was Carr?). A comedian from an early age, Carrey mailed his r?sum? to The Carol Burnett Show when he was 10 years old. The teachers in Carrey's high school gave him a few minutes at the end of each school day to do a stand-up comedy routine for his classmates.
Carrey's parents fell on hard times and were forced to move to the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, where they took security and janitorial jobs in the Titan Wheels factory at 1051 Tapscott Rd (now IPSCO Ontario Inc). The Carrey's lived in a historical house located on site. Carrey attended Blessed Trinity Catholic School in North York for two years, then began at Agincourt Collegiate Institute, Scarborough's oldest high school. For a time the family was in such financial straits that they lived in their Volkswagen van on a relative's lawn. In order to help out, Carrey began working eight-hour shifts each day after school.
Carrey dropped out of high school at the age of sixteen and began to work in comedy clubs with an act that included impersonations of celebrities such as Michael Landon and Jimmy Stewart. In 1979, at the age of 17, he moved to Los Angeles and started working in The Comedy Store, where he was noticed by comedian Rodney Dangerfield. Dangerfield liked Carrey's act so much that he signed Carrey up to open Dangerfield's tour performances.
Carrey turned his attention towards filmed entertainment. He auditioned to be a castmember for NBC's Saturday Night Live when the show was looking for new cast members for their 1980?1981 season. Carrey was never chosen to be a cast member (although he finally hosted the show in May 1996). His first lead role on television was Skip Tarkenton, a young animation producer on NBC's The Duck Factory. The short-lived comedy, which aired from April 12, 1984 to July 11, 1984, offered a behind-the-scenes look at the crew that produced a children's cartoon.
Carrey continued performing in small character roles in film and television, which eventually led to a friendship with fellow comedian Damon Wayans. The two co-starred as aliens in 1989's Earth Girls are Easy. When Wayans' brother Keenen was putting together a sketch comedy show for Fox called In Living Color, Carrey was hired as a cast member. His unusual characters, including female bodybuilder Vera de Milo and the masochistic safety inspector Fire Marshall Bill (whose dangerous, ill-advised "safety tips" were the target of censors and television watchdog groups who saw Carrey's performance as Fire Marshall Bill as something that younger viewers would see as harmless fun and try to imitate), as well his on-screen behavior caught America's (and Hollywood's) attention.
Carrey made his film debut in the short film Rubberface (1981). Four years later, he had a starring role in the dark comedy Once Bitten as Mark Kendall, a teen virgin who is pursued by a 400-year old vampire (Lauren Hutton). Carrey did not experience box office success until almost a decade later when he was cast in the starring role in the comedy Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, which premiered only months before In Living Color ended. The film was panned by critics, and helped earn him a 1994 Golden Raspberry Award nomination as Worst New Star. However, the film was a huge commercial success, as were Carrey's two other starring roles, in The Mask and Dumb and Dumber, both released the same year.
In 1995, Carrey appeared as the Riddler in Batman Forever and reprised his role as Ace Ventura in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. Both films were successful at the box office and earned Carrey multi-million-dollar paychecks.
Carrey made headlines when it was revealed that he was paid twenty million dollars for his next film, The Cable Guy (directed by Ben Stiller), a record sum for a comedy actor. The attention drawn to his salary, coupled with negative reviews for the film and its character's dark mood in contrast to his other performances, all contributed to the film's box office failure. Carrey quickly rebounded with the successful and family-friendly Liar Liar, a return to his trademark comedy style.
Despite the regular comedy successes, Carrey took a chance and a slight paycut to star in The Truman Show (1998), a change of pace that led to forecasts of an Academy Award nomination. Although the movie was nominated for three other awards, Carrey did not personally receive a nomination, leading him to joke that "it's an honor just to be nominated ... oh no", during his appearance on the Oscar telecast. However, Carrey did win a Golden Globe (Best Actor in a Drama) and an MTV Movie Award (Best Male Performance). The same year, Carrey appeared as a fictionalized version of himself on the final episode of Garry Shandling's The Larry Sanders Show, making an impression by ripping deliberately into Shandling's character.
In 1999, Carrey won the role of comedian Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon. Several actors, including Edward Norton, were interested in the role, but Carrey's audition, including an act with the bongo drums Kaufman used in his performances, helped him be cast. Coincidentally, Carrey was born thirteen years to the day after Kaufman. Despite critical acclaim, he was not nominated for an Academy Award (though again, won a consecutive Best Actor Golden Globe award.)
In 2000, Carrey re-teamed with the Farrelly Brothers (who had directed him in Dumb & Dumber) in their comedy, Me, Myself and Irene, about a state trooper with multiple personalities who romances a woman played by Ren?e Zellweger. The film grossed $24 million dollars on its opening weekend and $90 million by the end of its domestic run. Carrey has since continued to appear in successful comedies as well as more dramatic roles. His performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) earned high praise from critics, who once again incorrectly predicted that Carrey would receive an Oscar nomination, although the film won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and co-star Kate Winslet received a nomination for her performance. (Again, Carrey was nominated for a Golden Globe for this performance, his sixth.)
In 2003, Carrey re-teamed with Tom Shadyac for the financially successful comedy Bruce Almighty. Earning over $242 million in the U.S. and over $484 million worldwide, this film became the second highest grossing live-action comedy of all time.
Carrey has stated that he finds the prospect of reprising a character to be less enticing than taking on a new role, and fans say he rarely turns down roles because he enjoys trying new things.