There are countless holiday movies on Netflix to sink your teeth into this festive period, but perhaps none are as well-beloved as Jim Carrey‘s How The Grinch Stole Christmas. While his performance is often regarded as one of his best, it wasn’t all his own doing, the actor used the expertise of a CIA operative to help him achieve the perfect Grinch.
Whilst the likes of It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street have long dominated the landscape of popular Hollywood Christmas movies, contemporary audiences have turned to more modern festive favourites for their hit of saccharine joy. Along with Elf and Bad Santa that have both captured the imaginations of audiences worldwide, How the Grinch Stole Christmas has also been adopted as a modern festive great.
Released at a time when Jim Carrey was still enjoying the height of his career greatness, The Grinch, adapted from the well-known children’s novel by Dr. Seuss saw the actor dolled up in heavy green makeup and fur to become the fictional festive humbug. Living on the outskirts of a Christmas-loving town, Carrey’s Grinch makes it his conniving plan to ruin the holiday season for the citizens of ‘Whoville’.
Directed by Ron Howard, the same mind behind The DaVinci Code starring Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou and Alfred Molina, The Grinch may not have been critically acclaimed at the time, but it has since attained cult status thanks to a mass of audience support. So successful was the film that it inspired an animated remake from Illumination Entertainment, with the studio opting for Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular Scrooge.
Though, for Jim Carrey in the original movie, it didn’t take long to get into character, with the suit for the Grinch taking eight-and-a-half hours to apply thanks to the yak hair sewed into his spandex costume. By the time it was all complete, Carrey was infamously grumpy, even kicking a hole in the wall of his trailer in frustration. As Carrey’s makeup artist Kazu Hiro told Vulture, “On set, [Carrey] was really mean to everybody, and at the beginning of the production, they couldn’t finish”.
To some extent, it’s hard to blame Carrey for his outbursts, particularly as he described the experience of being dressed up as the Grinch as being “literally like being buried alive every day,” in an interview on The Graham Norton Show. Fascinatingly, the actor also revealed how he was trained to cope with the process by a CIA operative who specialised in teaching people how to endure torture techniques, stating that he spent most of his time occupying his mind by smoking on set.
Clearly, however, Carrey had an impact on his wider cast and crew, influencing the special effects artist Kazuhiro Tsuji to seek therapy after his time working on the film, seeing it as a “turning point” in his career. Remembering his mental state once he’d completed the production, Tsuji stated, “If I had a choice, I would not be in this mental state all the time”.
Whilst it may be a family Christmas film, How the Grinch Stole Christmas had some very real psychological effects on its crewmembers.