December 7, 1999
Carrey fight not staged, insiders say
By BRUCE KIRKLAND - Toronto Sun

Jim Carrey as Tony Clifton/Andy Kaufman

HOLLYWOOD -- Jim Carrey wasn't faking it when he was caught up in a violent, Andy Kaufmanesque incident for the media this past weekend, insiders are saying now.

But Carrey did get a taste of his own medicine.

"Welcome to our world," says Lynne Margulies, Kaufman's former girlfriend and creative consultant on Milos Forman's biopic Man On The Moon, starring Carrey as Kaufman. Kaufman, who died in 1984, was the wildly comic actor best known as Latke on the TV series, Taxi.

The incident, which happened Saturday at a press conference for the new film being released Dec. 22, was a confrontation between Carrey and a person dressed up as Vegas lounge lizard Tony Clifton.

Tony Clifton is an abusive and hateful fictional character Kaufman created as early as his Taxi days to express his anger. Since Kaufman died, others have kept Clifton alive, especially Kaufman's former creative partner and now biographer, Bob Zmuda. He is being accused of playing Tony Clifton on the weekend when "Tony" assaulted Carrey.

"Jim was caught off-guard," says Man On The Moon co-producer Stacey Sher. "Bob (Zmuda) wouldn't admit that it's him, but Bob's gone to a lot of places as Tony -- and people think it's Jim." There were other Tony Clifton incidents at the Playboy Mansion and at the Emmy Awards.


"Don't get me wrong. I think Bob Zmuda is brilliant and I love him, but there's a quality to Bob and the real Andy where they took things way over the top. You never know what was going to happen," Sher says.

"We're sorry," adds co-producer Michael Shamberg of the latest incident. "It's Bob's last hurrah. I think the spotlight will be off Bob forever after this. Jim, he was genuinely upset. We apologize for it but it was not a setup. It's not funny. Nobody likes it."

But Carrey, who plays Tony Clifton and Kaufman in Man On The Moon, did the same stupid things when he was making the movie. Carrey always arrived on set in character, either pretending to be Kaufman or one of the characters that Kaufman created. He was unpredictable.

"What do you think we lived with every day?" Sher says of her 82 days on Man On The Moon. "Hello! We shot for a lot of days, and every day we didn't know what would happen."

As Tony Clifton, Carrey showed up drunk, stinking, and ready to rub foul-smelling cheese all over people, especially executives from Universal Pictures who dared showed up.

"Tony has no regard for anyone but himself," says Danny DeVito, who co-produced Man On The Moon and plays George Shapiro, Kaufman's former manager-agent, in the film. DeVito also worked with the real Kaufman on Taxi. When Carrey played Tony, he did it exactly as Kaufman did, DeVito says.

"He'd come late. He'd have half a bag on. He looked like he got hit by a truck. He'd come to work like he was up all night -- he's a lounge lizard. Plus he smelled like a mixture of this really cheap perfume and Limburger cheese. You'd come close to him and, I swear, your eyes would water."

Co-producer Sher is now amazed at the effect Kaufman is having from the grave.

"Here we are once again talking about the art of Andy Kaufman. Whether they (Zmuda and Carrey) were putting us on or Zmuda set it up or he pissed Jim off or I'm lying to you now, we're alive. We're having a conversation and it's not the same old f---ing boring press junket, is it?"

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