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NOTES FROM "WHOVILLE"

Earlier this year, I finished several month's work on a feature film, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. The film stars Jim Carrey as Dr. Suess's famous Christmas-hating Grinch, who tries to spoil the holidays for the people of Whoville. This November you'll be able to see it in theaters everywhere!

Jim with famed actress and Jim's Mom, Marion Ross and Director Ron Howard The film is directed by Ron Howard, one of the most remarkable and hard-working directors of our time. It is a real departure in theme and tone from Ron's most recent films which were deeply rooted in modern reality; unlike Ransom or Ed TV, or the recent past of Apollo 13, he is striving to take us into a time and place that is utterly fanciful and imaginative,the world of Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Suess. To that end, he has assembled a group of performers from many different theatrical disciplines and backgrounds, stage actors, celebrated physical comedians, contortionists, clowns, trampoline experts, circus acrobats, little people, great big people, stuntmen, and improvisational actors like yours truly.

To transform us physically into "Whos", Academy award-winning special effects wizard Rick Baker (The Nutty Professor, Men in Black) and his crew created amazing prosthetic appliances and makeup. I spent three hours a day with veteran makeup man Rick Stratton as he transformed me into my character. As a painter myself, I was enthralled with the whole procedure. I truly was being transformed into a work of art, and thankfully without a lot of discomfort.

The costumes are no less imaginative and ingenious. Rita Ryack, a veteran of many Ron Howard films, designed hundreds of outfits, uniforms and suits that recall the costumes from the classic Wizard of Oz. Many of them are sight-gags all by themselves. To design the physical environment of Whoville and the world of the Grinch, production designer Michael Corenblith created incredible sets that defy gravity, just like the cartoon drawings in the book. I was never bored on the "Whoville" town square because there were so many amazing things to look at and wonder "How did they build THAT?"

Having worked with him in The Paper, Apollo 13 and Ed TV, I was already an appreciative fan of Ron's method of directing. As has been noted many times, actors love Ron Howard because he speaks their language, having started out as a child actor. After watching him tackle the complexity of this story, which consists of one impossible special effect and stunt-laden shot after another, I am even more in awe of his talents. With him at the helm, you can be sure that the positive message of this revered Christmas tale will come through loud and clear. That should make Dr. Suess very, very pleased.

Jim       

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