Jim Carrey has made a career out of saying yes to things – some of which he probably regrets. But, perhaps surprisingly, bungee jumping off the 130-foot high Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, California does not count among those mistakes. In fact, he found it a life-affirming experience.
‘When I got my feet up on the ledge, and I was actually ready to go, I thought to myself, ‘What if it did end today’? You’re there looking around and going, “OK, what do I love? I love that, I love him, I love her.’”’
Yes Man is loosely based on the memoir of British comedian Danny Wallace, who spent a whole year saying yes to as many things as possible after a stranger on a bus challenged him to be more positive (these things happen on public transport). I know what you’re thinking – make him eat stuff you find on the ground – but it’s more fun than that: from answering the spam email of the ‘son of a murdered sultan’ to attending bad parties, it is an ode to positive thinking.
So, how does all this translate to the big screen? Why, making Jim Carrey wear a suit of rollerblades that the producers saw on YouTube and pushing him down a hill, of course. The adaptation is, needless to say, a loose one, although Wallace himself appears in a few scenes: ‘We hung out a bit,’ shrugs Carrey, ‘The man came up with the concept, and to have truly lived it, that’s pretty amazing. That’s ballsy.’ But for the motorbike-obsessed comic, the film afforded a world of possibility.
On the first day of the writing session, I sat down and I said, ‘Ducati.’ And the writers said, ‘What?’ And I said, ‘Ducati. I don’t know how or where or if it even makes sense, but I know that I have to ride a Ducati in this movie.’
Doing so wearing nothing but a hospital gown is the sort of revenge that overly-hassled scriptwriters opt for in these situations, but it isn’t the sort of thing to faze Carrey. Nor was dressing up as a gangly wizard; ‘I looked like a weird cross between Harry Potter and David Letterman. I looked like David Letterman at Hogwarts,’ he laughs.
Carrey is also one of the finest physical comedians since Buster Keaton, but let’s face it, all too often this is distilled into an unending stream of flatulence and gurning. At his elastic best, he is a living cartoon, but he needs impetus and direction. Yes Man is the ideal vehicle for his contortionist charms.
Excitedly, he returns to the topic of the bungee jump. ‘It was like a freight train going through my veins,’ he enthuses, as if this is a positive feeling. At the end of the scene, Carrey pulls out a phone and says his next lines hanging upside down. It’s the sort of scene that ‘jump cuts’ (from stunt man on the bridge to actor hanging two feet off the ground) were made for. So why do it? ‘I wanted the audience to know that I, Jim Carrey, really went for it and did this bungee jump.’
Carrey is the acting equivalent of Lloyds TSB (‘the bank that likes to say yes’ – except during a credit crunch), and while the stunt men ‘were in the hospital with broken bones and all kinds of terrible stuff’ (Carrey himself broke a rib), the actor remained positive.
‘So many people make decisions like, “Oh, I’m not really going to go to the barbecue because it’s easier to sit and watch television.” Generally, most of the time, they are going to miss something fun. It’s the things we say no to that we regret usually; where you think, “Ah, I could have lived a little bit more”’.
In the end, when you’re stood in the Cineplex, mulling over this month’s releases, and your companion turns to you and asks: ‘Do you want to see Yes Man?’ Think of Carrey, hospital gown flapping in the wake of his Ducati and just say ‘yes’. You won’t regret it.
Yes Man is released in cinemas on January 22