“Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond — Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton,” which will make its world premiere Sept. 5 in Venice, charts the methodical creative process taken on by Jim Carrey during the production of the 1999 Andy Kaufman biopic “Man on the Moon.”
Bringing to life the distinct comedy stylings of the late Andy Kaufman, along with his crass and over the top lounge singer alter-ego Tony Clifton, required every ounce of Carrey’s talent and humanity, with the role taking on added dimensions as he was surrounded by Kaufman’s friends and family members who were on-set during filming of the Milos Forman pic. The hilarious, provocative, and inspiring documentary shows Carrey becoming fully immersed as an actor, and is intercut with a new and introspective interview as he discusses what the role meant to him on a personal level.
Indeed, the full title of the film is evocative of Kaufman’s alternative comedy: “Jim & Andy: the Great Beyond — Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton.”
Utilizing hundreds of hours of behind-the-scenes footage, filmmaker Chris Smith (“American Movie,” “Collapse”) was recruited by the film’s producer Spike Jonze to craft the project into something dynamic. “I was excited to be contacted by Spike, as I’d taken some time away from Hollywood to concentrate on some other things in my life. This was my first time on something that wasn’t fully independent, in the sense that I was responsible for everything, so it was a great experience,” Smith said.
Smith said that he wanted to create a piece that “revolved around themes of identity and the journey one goes on in finding your place in the world. Through the footage, you get this amazing sense of how Carrey’s life connected to Kaufman’s and that’s what we wanted to showcase.”
Jonze said that he’d “been asking Jim for years about the footage, and wanted to make something with it since he first told me about it. One of the things Chris did so brilliantly was to weave together the multiple storylines, the perspectives of Andy’s life, the making of the film, and Carrey’s life as an entertainer, an artist and a human being. And as a result, I think he made something very special.”
Produced by Vice Documentary Films, Smith complimented the group in terms of the collaborative artistic process, noting that “everyone understood the type of project we were all trying to make and it was great to work with people outside of my circle. I’d love to work with Vice again.”
Through the behind-the-scenes footage, audiences are reminded of how Carrey was portraying a comedian who was frequently inventing his routine as he went along. “Kaufman was committed to the ridiculous and to the art of confusion, and wasn’t playing by anyone’s rules,” Jonze said. “His rules were his own and so outside expected societal norms that he always seemed so free and inspiring to me. When I was growing up, he had a huge effect on me.”
WME and Cinetic Media are handling domestic and international sales. Film moves on after Venice to play at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival.