Old School Americana & Nostalgia


‘The Grinch’: Jim Carrey Received Training from CIA Torture Expert to Endure Grueling Makeup Sessions

‘The Grinch’: Jim Carrey Received Training from CIA Torture Expert to Endure Grueling Makeup Sessions

The costume and makeup process for The Grinch was so insufferable that director Ron Howard had to hire a CIA torture expert to help Jim Carrey handle it.

Carrey detailed the experience during a visit on The Graham Norton Show. The first-time makeup artists turned Carrey into the curmudgeonly green character, it took about 8.5 hours. Carrey likened to process to being “buried alive.” When it was over, the actor kicked a hole through a wall and quit, so Howard hired a professional.

After telling Howard he needed to find a new lead, Howard asked a man named Brian Grazier to brainstorm a way to keep Carrey on board. 

“Being the fix-it man… [Grazier] came up with a brilliant idea, which was to hire a gentleman who is trained to teach CIA operatives how to endure torture. And so, that’s how I got through The Grinch,” Carrey recalled.

For enquiring minds, the trainer suggested that Carrey ate everything he saw and turned the television on when he started “to spiral downward.” He also told him to have someone smack him in the head or punch him in the leg when he couldn’t redirect his focus. 

“Or smoke,” he added. “Smoke as much as you possibly can.”

“So I was this Grinch sitting [with a cigarette], ‘Would you give me a light?’” he joked while acting out the situation. “And [using] this giant cigarette holder so the yak hair wouldn’t go on fire. The green yak hair …it was horrifying.” 

“I was like, ‘It’s for the kids, it’s for the kids, it’s for the kids,’” Carrey recalled while rocking in the fetal position. 

By the end of filming, Jim Carrey had dressed in his The Grinch costume 100 times. And while the CIA trainer offered many helpful avoidance strategies, it was the Bee Gees that ultimately got him through. 

Ron Howard Brought Don Knotts to ‘The Grinch’ Set to Comfort Jim Carrey

Hiring a torture expert wasn’t Ron Howard’s only attempt at making The Grinch tolerable for Jim Carrey. The Andy Griffith Show alum also invited Don Knotts to the set.

Carrey had always been an outspoken admirer of the classic TV actor and comedian. He famously impersonated Knotts in an episode of In Living Color and continued that skit for his stand-up shows. Carrey idolized the icon and credited him for helping him find his own brand of comedy. So, Howard thought meeting Knotts would lift Carrey’s spirits.

“Jim had to wear this really oppressive makeup,” he told CNN in 2006. “It was really getting him down. He had to wear the Grinch costume and prosthetic makeup and contact lenses. And the shooting went on, and he was — you could just see his energy was draining. And one day, I surprised him by getting Don to come to the set.”

“Don showed up, and it was a complete surprise to Jim Carey. Jim Carey was in his full Grinch costume standing up at the mouth of the Grinch’s cave, which was this tall set at the top of a soundstage. And he looked down and he squinted and went like that, and he could see that it was Don. And, he went into a really brilliant Don Knotts imitation, and I only wish the cameras were rolling because here he was in the Grinch costume doing Barney Fife, you know, and it was — it was hilarious.”

Howard said Carrey and Knotts spent the whole afternoon getting to know each other. 

“That’s the kind of guy Don was,” Howard noted. “He was very unassuming, very gracious.”