The make-up job for the live-action 2000 version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas was notoriously arduous. Jim Carrey compared the eight-hour process to “being buried alive,” and the production nearly came to a screeching halt because of how much the actor hated the make-up. But what about the poor make-up artist on the other side of the brush?
That would be Kazuhiro Tsuji, the Academy Award-winning make-up artist behind acclaimed films like Men in Black, Hellboy, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Tusji recently scored his third Oscar nomination for Darkest Hour and is still steadily working in the industry. But that almost didn’t come to be after he worked with Carrey on The Grinch.
Despite his illustrious career in special-effects make-up, Tsuji said working on The Grinch was the worst experience of his life. It got so bad that Tsuji checked into therapy.
In an interview with Vulture, Tsuji recalled the worst job of his career:
“On set, [Carrey] was really mean to everybody and at the beginning of the production they couldn’t finish. After two weeks we only could finish three days’ worth of shooting schedule, because suddenly he would just disappear and when he came back, everything was ripped apart. We couldn’t shoot anything.”
Carrey had to undergo more than eight hours of make-up every day to suit up as the titular Grinch. It was a tortuous process for Carrey, who was transformed head-to-toe in green fur and had to wear enlarged contact lenses that drew the fake snow falling on set. According to Tsuji, Carrey was very demanding in the make-up trailer, exhaustively pointing out non-existent flaws or demanding that Tsuji “fix” the colors.
Tsuji eventually became so worn out that he temporarily left production. Head make-up artist Rick Baker and one of the film’s producers concocted a plan where Tsuji would retreat to show Carrey how valuable he was. A week later, he received a call from Carrey and director Ron Howard swearing that Carrey’s behavior would change. And, miraculously, it did.
This wasn’t simply because of Tsuji, however. Later, The Grinch producer Brian Grazer revealed that he had recruited a former CIA specialist to teach Carrey how to withstand being “tortured by his make-up.” The whole story is recounted in Grazer’s fascinating Daily Beast story. It was at this point in the production, Grazer revealed, that “We flew the CIA specialist in on a Friday, and he spent the whole weekend closeted with Jim. He taught Jim all kinds of techniques for distracting himself, for creating mindsets that allowed him to ignore and work through the discomfort.” Carrey even cheerily recounts learning these techniques during the talk show circuit, saying he repeated “It’s for the kids! It’s for the kids!” throughout the make-up process.
Carrey “kept his temper in check” for the remainder of filming, Tsuji said, but he sees the movie as a “turning point” in his career. Soon after, the artist checked into therapy following production on How on the Grinch Stole Christmas and semi-retired from Hollywood. “If I had a choice, I would not be in this mental state all the time,” Tsuji told Vulture.
So there is your warning against working as Jim Carrey’s make-up artist, kids. At least he didn’t go full method.