HOLLYWOOD - Jim Carrey not only said "yes" to bungee jumping off a Pasadena, Calif., bridge for his new comedy, "Yes Man," he insisted on it.
"When we were working on the script, one of the first things Jim said was, 'OK, if we're doing the bungee jump, I'm doing it. No stunt guys'," recalls director Peyton Reed. "He wouldn't let it go." (Talk about taking a movie's message to heart.)
After much deliberation and consultation with studio lawyers, Carrey got the green light to perform the stunt. The only caveat was that the scene had to be the last one filmed. So last January, the daredevil actor swan-dived off the Colorado Street Bridge and lived to tell about it. Six cameras captured the momentous leap.
Why was the comedic actor so adamant about performing the death-defying leap himself?
"I said, 'Well, I'm going to do it once in my life so you might as well get it on camera,' " he recalls.
As a practicing Buddhist, it is also part of Carrey's personal belief: live life in the affirmative. Of course, that doesn't mean he wasn't scared while standing on the bridge's ledge gazing down 130 feet at a ravine.
Death was his first thought.
"A lot of thoughts of death were going through my mind," he says. "It was very strange. It was literally like a freight train going through my veins, through my entire body the whole time. Until I jumped."
Despite his fear, Carrey, 46, had the presence of mind to complete the scene in which he answers a cell phone call in character while dangling upside down from the bungee cord.
Based on British author Danny Wallace's memoir, "Yes Man" follows a man (Carrey) who decides to change his life by saying yes to everything that comes his way. His new attitude leads him on a series of unexpected comedic adventures that turn his life upside down and, in some ways, right side up.
One of his first affirmative acts lands him stranded on a dark hillside without a phone and out of gas, but he soon meets a girl (Zooey Deschanel) at a service station who changes his life.
"Sometimes saying no is saying yes to your own self-worth," he professes. "I like to enjoy life. I like to engage in life, so I would say I'm a yes man."
In the movie, Carrey found himself poking fun at some of his own beliefs, but he was OK with it. When it comes to comedy, everything is fair game, he figures.
"The most serious things are ripe for making fun of," he insists. "We must laugh at ourselves."
"Yes Man" marks Carrey's return to physical comedy after a few years of experimenting with more serious films, such as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "The Number 23." The versatile star says he likes mixing things up, and tackling projects that interest and challenge him. He found "Yes Man" more layered and complex than the average Hollywood comedy.
"It's not only a funny movie; I think you really believe the love story and the friendships," he says. "If there's a message, it's just to engage in life. Say yes more than no . . . a little bit more than you did before, and life turns out alright."
Director Reed worked closely with Carrey in balancing the story's comedy with the drama.
"It was important to Jim to ground this movie in reality," he says. "It's not a movie that's a magical-concept movie. It's just about a guy who makes a choice to adopt this philosophy."
Reed praises Carrey for his involvement with the story from the very beginning. Besides bungee jumping, his character learns to pilot a plane, speak Korean and ride a motorcycle. He also opens his once broken heart to love again.
"This is a movie about a guy who says yes to life, so the possibilities were literally infinite in terms of what we could do with that concept," he says.
Carrey insists comedies are what moviegoers want to see given the current gloomy economic climate.