Jim Carrey, Virginia Madsen and Joel Schumacher Interviewed – ‘The Number 23’

     February 21, 2007

Opening this Friday is the new Jim Carrey psychological thriller called The Number 23. While most times a star gets on board due to a director or a script, the reason Jim got involved was pretty simple – he has an obsession with the number 23. While I had never heard of anyone’s fascination with the number, apparently many people feel very strongly and one of them is definitely Jim. After attending the press conference and hearing him speak, it’s clear this was more than a paycheck.

In the film Jim plays a normal every day guy whose life gets thrown into chaos when he starts to read a book called The Number 23. While at first the book seems harmless, the more he reads, the more he starts to see the numbers everywhere. As the film continues, we start to wonder what’s real and what’s in his head.

The interview was conducted as press conference that was done a few weeks back. To listen to the audio click here, otherwise you can read the transcript. Hope you enjoy it.

And if you want to see the trailer before you read the interview click here.

Virginia Madsen asks why Jim has the biggest one (referring to the microphone in front of him)

Jim Carrey: That’s a question they’ve been asking for years

Question: Before you started this movie you knew about this phenomenon because you named your company JC23, are you thinking of changing that now?

Jim Carrey: No, never.

What did you know about it then that you would want to name your company JC23?

Jim Carrey Well you see it started out for me, a friend of mine in Canada kind of handed it down to me. He was seeing it everywhere, added up license plates, doing all these things, he had a book full of 23 phenomenon and he handed it to me, and I said he was crazy and then I started seeing it everywhere. And then one day, a few years later after it had entered my life in a big way and I was driving my friends crazy, somebody handed me the 23rd Psalm, a book on the 23rd Psalm, the valley of the shadow of death, living without fear basically, knowing you’re taken care of, so I thought that was great progression from Pit Bull productions, which is kind of like grabbing hold of life and just not letting it go, to not sweating it.

Joel Schumacher: And ripping other people’s throats out.

Jim Carrey: So I named the company that, and then I explained it to a friend and he said, ‘Well, I just read script called The Number 23.’ And I said, ‘I have to see this.’ And I read the script, I was compelled by it, and I was freaked out actually because the first page of the script was actually originally me trying to capture a pit bull, the Pit Bull Productions to JC23 was not lost there. And it went on like that. Then he read it, and I came back into the room, a friend of mine I gave it to, and I had come back into the room and he had turned to the 23rd page and was circling every 23rd word. He was looking for a code. And that’s what I want to do with the audience with a movie like this, that’s the fun of it.

Have you ever heard of the phenomenon?

Virginia Madsen: Yes, because I think all that stuff is really fun, the shows on the Discovery Channel about ghosts and the yeti and UFOs, which I totally believe in, so I’d heard about it but I didn’t know how vast it was until really the first day of production. I’d sort of been on line, and I came in and there were these beautiful, beautiful roses from Jim, these enormous – with this romantic note, we’re going to have – to my beautiful wife –

Jim Carrey: I just didn’t want any trouble.

Virginia Madsen: And you know, I was so gullible I was like, ‘Oh, I love him now.’ That’s all it takes. But then on the table there was this book about this thick with all the fun facts about the number 23, just in case you’re a doubter. So I was like, ‘Oh my God.’

Jim Carrey: And then it began, and her son started picking out things. Her son was sitting there all day long trying to figure out the phenomenon on the set. And he pointed out that our names together were 23 letters (referring to him and Virginia) and our names together (his and Schumacher) are 23 letters.

Virginia Madsen: And it’s his 23rd film (speaking of Schumacher).

Did weird things happen on the set?

Joel Schumacher: Well, I hired Danny and Virginia, I asked them to participate in the movie, and then the first day of shooting I found out they had been married once.

Virginia Madsen: 23 years ago!

Joel Schumacher: And I asked them if they would have a problem doing a sex scene together?

Jim Carrey: We’re trying to keep them apart right now.

Joel Schumacher: I thought that was kind of, as Jim would say, whooo.

Jim Carrey: By the way, watch the Super Bowl, keep you eye on Devon Hester.

Playing an animal catcher, do you feel you’ve come full circle from Ace Ventura?

Jim Carrey: Well, again, this is the way my life and the universe works basically is very mysterious. Movies find me, and I kind of just allow them to find me, and when it becomes a real good fit I do them. And in this case it was the 23 phenomenon, and also the fact that he was a dog catcher was I think a really nice little wink toward my other work, so it was just all inclusive.

You were very intense in this movie, is this going to start another direction in the way your career is going? I think this movie proves you’re the real McCoy when it comes to doing serious roles

Jim Carrey: Thanks very much, I appreciate that. Well, you know, I really have always thought of myself as somebody who lives in the middle of the wheel and is able to go to the extreme, to the outside of the wheel in any direction, so that’s kind of my – the best case scenario for me is to be able to be centered and then go out and you can be zany and funny or you can do something that really has some depth to it and serious. So there’s many different colors to paint with, and I would hate to get trapped in one little thing. I always feel like funny is an appendage, but it is not my whole body.

Which persona for the three of you did you feel more comfortable in?

Virginia Madsen: Well, I definitely – Agatha, but I mean, all of us have a dark side and all of us have an even darker side to our sexuality, and it was to tap into that. Everything that I play as an actress is a different aspect of me, being able to unlock that little door and show that. This movie was great because I just got to show a lot of different sides.

Jim Carrey: Hitchcock was wonderful in his approach to things, he would make you look at something normal in a completely way, in The Birds it was like you could never look at birds the same way.

Joel Schumacher: Or the shower.

Jim Carrey: The shower, exactly, it tapped into some kind of weird little bugaboo that everybody has, the fear of what’s on the other side of that curtain.

Joel Schumacher: I could never dress up like my mother after that. And that was such a great housedress.

Jim you didn’t answer which character –

Jim Carrey: Which character was I, all of the above.

Which did you feel the most comfortable being?

Jim Carrey: Well I love Walter because he’s the family guy, he’s the guy who wants to have a normal life. He’s most of us who want just things to be stable. We’re in a constant state of denial that we live on plates of rock that are floating on molten magma and nothing is stable in the universe, we just want to keep things from moving too much, or changing too much. So I like that character, he was very loving with his family and he loved his job. But the other character was a little bit different for me to play, so that’s exciting for me –

Joel Schumacher: But you fell in love with playing Fingerling.

Jim Carrey: I did like Fingerling, and Jenny liked it. It’s amazing what a tattoo does for a girl.

Joel Schumacher: I don’t know if Billy’s here, Billy Corso was the make up artist, but Jim and Billy stayed up all one night in the trailer and invented that tattoo.

Virginia Madsen: I was so pleased.

Jim Carrey: That was the reaction it was hilarious, because –

Joel Schumacher: He thought I wouldn’t like it. He didn’t think I was hip enough to like this tattoo.

Jim Carrey: We didn’t know if you could get it. And he just went off for like three weeks he rubbed that one in.

Joel Schumacher: Yes, well, I have done some hip things in my day.

Jim Carrey: I wanted to approach it right, so I came up to Joel and I said, ‘I wanted to tell you Joel that I know we’re doing the scene with the shirt off today, and I have this tattoo, and Billy and I are used to covering it up so if you don’t want to use it that’s totally cool, we’ll just use it for something else,’ and I took my shirt off and he went, ‘That can’t be real.’

Joel Schumacher: I didn’t say that. I said ‘I love it.’

Jim Carrey: Yeah, I love it, it’s in the film. I said, ‘Seriously we can cover it up.’ He said, ‘It’s in the film.’ And Virginia was just standing there like this (bland stunned look). She was just standing there looking wistful, so I knew it was working.

Can you describe it and how they put it on, and if you had to have it on for weeks at a time.

Jim Carrey: Billy painted it, originally painted it on, and so we like got on the computer and played around with photo shop and did a mock up of it, and then I stood there and he painted in on me. We were there ‘til like four or five in the morning downtown in the middle of nowhere, but it was so great. It turned out really cool, and then he worked it out so he came up with the process where he could actually do little pieces of – a decal kind of thing where he could stick it on. It still took awhile, but he’s just amazing.

Joel Schumacher: And because a lot of the Fingerling world is so graphic and black and white and red, it was perfect. It was perfect to set up a lot of and Virginia is in the black wig and mostly black underwear I think. (Laughs.) Fabrizia doesn’t get dressed a lot.

Virginia Madsen: No, I recall one scene where I am just walking out and I just take my coat with the lingerie.

Jim Carrey: And the interesting thing too is our relationship in the two different worlds. It’s like, when I kiss her as my wife, as Walter, it’s loving and sweet and it’s beautiful. And when we are together as Fabrizia and Fingerling its angry and it’s basically…

Joel Schumacher: Blood is exchanged.

Jim Carrey: It’s biting and eating. It’s consuming the other person. It’s pretty interesting.

Virginia Madsen: Yeah. (Laughs.)

Q Jim, can I just ask you, do you have any tattoos?

Jim Carrey: I like to start in the center. (Laughs.) No.

Can you clarify who Walter is talking too?

Joel Schumacher: His son. There is a letter to his son at the end. The whole thing is a letter to his son.

Anything that really consumes you?

Jim Carrey: The only thing that has ever consumed me is love from time to time. Feeling like, ‘What is it? How do I get it?’ All of those things have consumed my mind from time to time. My spiritual journey has been a good kind of thing I’ve been on I guess some people would say I’m obsessed with but in a really good way. It’s just enjoyable. I don’t really have crazy obsessions about things.

Joel Schumacher: I think you are more seeking in that. I think you are a pupil, a student.

Jim Carrey: I think obsessions happen because you’re trying to understand something or some urge. Like in the film, I think it’s like trying to avoid something.

Joel Schumacher: Well, there are also magnificent obsessions and also more tragic, evil obsessions. So obsession can be a great thing or it can also destroy lives.

You mentioned Jenny [McCarthy] earlier…

Jim Carrey: Oh, I did it. (Laughs) I see. Can we just take some personal responsibility for the question you’re about to ask?

Joel Schumacher: You opened the door.

Jim Carrey: It’s your fault that I’m going to ask you something. (Laughs)

Can you talk about being on the spiritual journey? I mean being with her, do you feel closer to that good place you’re trying to get to?

Jim Carrey: I feel that our relationship happened at a time that I am more ready than I have ever been in my life to have a relationship.

Joel Schumacher: This is the happiest I’ve ever seen Jim.

Jim Carrey: And we also encourage each other and we’re also on the same path, so it’s really…

Joel Schumacher: And I’ve seen you when you’ve been really suffering in love.

For Fingerling did you look at any characters from the past?

Jim Carrey: No, I didn’t really. I thought that if I was in that position, if I was that guy how I would see myself and how I would…basically it would bleed into your hair and into your eyes and into everything about you. The coat, all the choices are choices that somebody makes because what is going on in their spirit. Y’know? Every choice we make is based on that. The colors we wear – everything. It just bleeds into everything. It starts with a lie the person believes about themselves or the delusion they are living with or the pain that they have kind of accumulated. Things they are not dealing with. It all creeps out in certain ways.

Joel Schumacher: I think it was more original than the noir cop. Because when you see a cop, especially in a black coat like that in a noir setting, you expect them to be the cynical, burnt out, alcoholic.

Jim Carrey: We didn’t want him to be a life hater.

Joel Schumacher: But since it is Walter’s delusion that has created this. I think the first time you see him is when he meets Fabrizia and you see one side of him. But when he goes and sees the suicide blonde that Lynn Collins plays so brilliantly, there is a real compassion, because of course, in Walter’s life his mother committed suicide and it’s the same actress who played his mother and the widow Dobkins and all that, because it’s all in his consciousness somewhere and subconscious. So, I think you can see him as seeing how much he wants for her to have a better life than what she is giving herself. And I think that’s what is different about it. It’s not, ‘Life is shit. Everyone is shit. I’m on the take.’ And I think that’s the difference that Jim brought to it, because it had Walter’s spirit in it.

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Jim, did you play the saxophone at all?

Jim Carrey: You are so lucky. (Laughs.) I just really practiced some rudimentary things that I could do that would match the music, but I didn’t learn how to play the sax. I used to play the sax, oddly enough. There are parallels all over the place. My father used to be an accountant, OK. He played the saxophone in a band. He had an orchestra. He played the saxophone. So, there were these parallels. I don’t know how many of them were in there.

Joel Schumacher: Tons. Yes, tons.

Jim Carrey” So, there were all these parallels going on anyway. I played in the school band but I forgot how to play it.

Joel Schumacher: I didn’t want to stop the movie for saxophone interludes. (Laughs.)

Jim: No, no, nobody wants that.

Joel Schumacher: We had a lot of story to tell and the sax was one tiny little detail.

Jim Carrey: Exactly and I try to stay in decent shape always. I pride myself on staying at least a month away from really good shape.

Joel Schumacher: The only reason I asked Jim to play the Riddler is he was the only person who could have worn that green elastic suit.

Jim Carrey: That was on the thin side, that one.

Joel Schumacher: He did all his own stunts in ‘Batman Forever’ because there is no one who can do Jim’s body language.

Jim Carrey: It’s the weirdest thing. There are so many times where I am in positions where we try to double me and things and it can literally be the back of my body or the back of my head. And, ‘It just doesn’t look like him.’ (Laughs.) I dunno. There is something about my posture or something. I have no idea.

Joel Schumacher: It’s body language.

Did you know Hamilton, Ontario, Canda is 23 keystrokes on a computer?

Would you go back?

Jim Carrey: Absolutely. Tomorrow.

Joel Schumacher: 23 can bring good too.

Jim Carrey: It’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Is Hamilton a good thing?

Jim Carrey: It’s a good thing. It’s a good town. It’s a tough town, steel town.

What do you remember from being there?

Jim Carrey: That and good people. I had a great time. I lived in Burlington for about eight years right across the bay. And I basically thought I was going to be working in Debasco. I was basically, that was where I was going. If the career in show business hadn’t panned out I was looking for a job in one of the steel mills, because those were the great jobs.

Joel Schumacher: We always need to have a back up plan.

Jim Carrey: I still have one. I worked in Richmond Hill in a lot of the factories there and in many different factory jobs. So, I was kind of headed in that direction…

Joel Schumacher: Especially when you do stand up, you never know what is going to happen.

Jim Carrey: But the 23 thing, I just wanted to point out there is a double 32 on this.

Virginia Madsen: That’s what he was showing me.

Jim Carrey: But, I want to show you also this. Because the other day when I came a couple of days ago I was with my assistant and I wanted people to see what I see everyday. So basically I began saying, ‘Just get your camera phone out and just start taking pictures whenever see it.’ This was the first thing was a tow truck riht besides us with the number 23 on the side of it. I didn’t photoshop this. I don’t know why that is, the number 23 on the side. I guess it’s the 23rd truck on its fleet. So, I got them to take a picture of that. Then I looked to the car in front of us and that license plate started with the number23. Then I came to the hotel here and I was in 1223. Then I went out on my balcony and the address adjacent to the hotel is 323 if you want to see it when you leave. And then I ordered some breakfast…(Laughs.) I mean, c’mon. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I mean look at that man. It’s freaky. It’s errie. OK, that last one was a joke, but the rest of them are real.

Joel Schumacher: A lot of them in the movie are real. There is a website where people for years have been taking photos of the number 23 all over the planet. Why they do this, we don’t know, but I mean, you’ll see there are a lot of great photos of it – some of them are in the movie. But, the afternoon that Jim called me and said, ‘Are you going to do this movie The Number 23?’ And I said, ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘If you do it, I’ll do it.’ And I said, ‘If you do it, I’ll do it.’ And that night I was really excited and it was about midnight and I’m brushing my teeth and I’m thinking, ‘Boy, I’ve made a lot of movie. This would be my 20th movie and Jim and I have been wanting to work together [again].’ And I thought, “Gee I wish it was Number 23’ And I’m brushing away and then the other side of my brain goes, ‘What about your three television movies.’ (Laughs.) ‘Wouldn’t this be your 23rd directing job?’ And I remember I had a houseguest and I ran across the house and I knocked on the door and I said, ‘Ely! Guess what this will be my 23rd film.’ And he went, ‘Um, yeah, OK man.’ So I couldn’t wait for the next morning to tell Jim.

Jim Carrey: Here is an example of something. I’m on the internet, im’ing somebody, a friend of mine about changing the name of my company to JC23 and why I did it, about the valley of the shadow of death. At that very moment I typed those words a friend walks in with a newspaper that on the front page is a giant picture of Death Valley that says, ‘Death Valley Blooms’ and Death Valley was blooming for the first time in 100 years because of that extraordinary amount of rain we had that year. And these seeds had been lying dormant for 100 years and suddenly it was all flowers. And he was like, ‘We gotta go on a motorcycle trip man.’ And I was like, ‘Here we go. Lead me on some strange journey again.’ So we got on the motorcycles, did a three-day trip to Death Valley and came back. The day we got back the Pope died at 2:37 eastern standard time. 23 which is the valley of the shadow of death and 7, which is the number of completion in the bible. Everything is based on 7 in the bible. Starts and ends with 7.

Were all the characters filmed at once or were they mixed up?

Joel Schumacher: Sometimes they had to play the both characters on the same day. We had not a lot of money and not a lot of time to make this movie and a lot of complex things. So, as you know, when you are in a setting that’s where you have to shoot everything out so you don’t have to go back there and rent that again and get licenses, etc. So, those were the hardest days I think, when you have to do both characters. And sometimes Jim was supposed to do three characters. He’d be young Walter in the flashback, the present day Walter and Fingerling all in the same day. I think that was the most difficult for him.

Virginia Madsen: I loved when he was young Walter. He had this bowl hair, it was so cute. And your whole body language would change and you’d be like, ‘Hey!’ (Laughs.) But when he would change into Fingerling, something happens where you just metabolize your role and your whole face would change.

Jim Carrey: It got very craggy.

Virginia Madsen: It’s like you got really like dehydrated or something.

Jim Carrey: Something does happen when you take on the role, it’s very strange. Before I did ‘Man on the Moon.’

Joel Schumacher: You would be a different person when you came on the set. You too Virginia. I saw you change Virginia. At first you were a little hesitant about Virigina because she’s so unlike you. But I think the minute you saw that first clip of her, you thought, ‘Oh, I get it.’

Virginia Madsen: But it was interesting what you said the other day, but what I never realized, that when we were Fingerling and Fabrizia we never talked to one another very much. But when we were Agatha and Walter we were always hanging out and we were all telling stories and it was like we were really affectionate. But then we’d be like “Rah, rah, rah.’

Joel Schumacher: You would knit on the set and not talk to many people and Jim would put his earphones on.

Virginia Madsen: But also, many people wouldn’t talk to me.

Jim Carrey: I was listening to a lot of Nine Inch Nails.

Virginia Madsen: And I would sort of walk on, it was like I had to give my permission to do that.

Joel Schumacher: Well Fabrizia was a very intimidating person.

Jim Carrey: Well yeah, all of a sudden, all the women would have something they had to do. And all the men would be like, ‘Uhhh?’ So after a few hours, I got really lonely when I was her. Because I was so isolated and I hate that more than anything to be isolated.

Any good stories from Valentine’s Day?

Jim Carrey: You know, I remember a lot of Valentine’s Days having to act…[pauses and room laughs] and that’s a horrible thing to feel. I think Valentine’s Day should be a moving thing. And it should pop up when you feel the most loving. But, because it’s a set thing with a date, it doesn’t coincide how people feel most of the time, you know?

Virginia Madsen: It’s kind of evil too because it starts at like the car wash. You’ll walk in like just right after Christmas and there’ll be like a little bear going (motions her hands in a sign) ‘ha-ha!’ And then it creeps into the Sav-On.

Jim Carrey: Oh, there’s room for more holidays…there’s room for more holidays…

What movie resonates as like the funniest movie you’ve seen?

Jim Carrey: A lot of funny movies I mean Shot in the Dark with Peter Sellers was a genius comedy because it went all over the place. It was not only character funny, it was intellectually funny and physically hilarious—always it kept you off-guard. I think that’s a genius movie. And the genius around him as well with the other actors, you know, all of that. So, that was one of my favorites and one of my kind of modern favorites was Richard E. Grant in ‘How to Get a Head in Advertising.’ He was brilliant in that movie. Really brilliant, oh, so funny.

Lots of In Living Color cast gone on to success

Jim Carrey: Everyone’s doing there thing, man, it’s amazing.

Any collaboration maybe with any of them?

Jim Carrey: I hope so at some point. In these situations you really have to—it has to be completely perfect for everybody. It has to be comfortable for everybody, and those things don’t come around a lot but I sure hope they do. I would love to work with Jamie and…it’s really fantastic though, seeing everybody doing so well. It’s really amazing. But it’s amazing how many people have come from that show and done so well it was a fantastic—gave birth to a lot of talent.

Music you listen to, to get into character maybe for a sex scene, Cannibal Corpse?

Jim Carrey: I don’t go to Cannibal Corpse too much but a, you know, but I do use music a lot. I do like it. I found the song in that’s in the movie, the theme song of Fabrizia and Fingerling [Schumacher chimes in ‘She Wants Revenge’ as name of group] which I just heard that and that rocks—that’s so cool. But, yeah, I use music a lot and it was fun too. It’s interesting too. I think everybody creates the character. I mean, he creates the character, people on the set, the lighting—the everything creates character. So, the sound people on the movie, they were so excited when I came to them and I said, ‘for certain scenes, I want an earwig with music blasting in my ear during the scene.’ And they go, ‘what, what are you talking about?’ And I go ‘seriously, like the weirdest things you can possibly find. Like, disturbing sounds, things that are really horrifying thatreally unnerve you.’ And they were like (in a low-voice) ‘great, man…’ and they went away and they came up with the wonderful collection of sound bytes and things like that of different things happening in music. And, so I would use them at certain scenes. And at times I would also, in the scene where I’m kind of going crazy by myself in the hotel room, I would get Joel, I would have that music, and I would get Joel in my ear just messing with me, just trying to screw me up, like talk to me at times when I’m trying to concentrate on certain things. And I literally ended up at certain times telling him to go fuck himself, you know, and stuff like that, you know because it would so get in my way that it would be unnerving, but that’s what I wanted.

Did you say you had an ‘earwig?’ something in your ear?

Jim Carrey: Yeah, so I could be sitting her right now listening to you and rocking out and you wouldn’t know it. I have a self-help tape on right now. I am a winner, by the way. And everything comes easily to me.

Jim Carrey: We had a lot of laughs.

What are you doing next, Jim?

Jim Carrey: Well, I’m working on ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not!’ with Tim Burton…yeah, it’s going to be really fun. And, at the moment, I’m doing ‘Horton Hears a Who’ the cartoon version of ‘Horton Hears a Who,’ which is going to be beautiful. I love, and have always loved all Dr. Seusss, and I’m lucky enough to have been the Grinch, and Audrey Geisel, Dr. Seuss’ widow, liked what I did and she asked me to do Horton. And I love that idea that a person is a person no matter how small and the idea of worlds within worlds within worlds. Because, sometimes I sit out in my backyard and I look at the birds, and a hummingbird will come down ‘wap’ goes flying past my head and will threaten me and stuff like that and I realize that he has no respect for my deed to the land, you know? That’s his property as far as he’s concerned. And that’s just the reality, we think that we’re the ones in control, everybody does.

Is that why you have your hippie-hair?

Jim Carrey: My hippie-hair…wow, man, how long has it been—it’s 40 years since that’s been…I have this hair because I am.

Are you going to have to do crazy things for Ripley’s?

Jim Carrey: Crazy things? Yeah, it’s going to be wonderful. It’s just an incredible world to open up, you know. And he was a very much the champion of the underdog and people who were a little bit different and freakish. He was about celebrating life—he was about proving its special-ness.

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