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Feature: Lemony Snicket

A Series of Despicable Characters

'Protector' Olaf and his victims…

That is to say, in this context, that we encounter the varied faces of the evil Count Olaf, as created by Jim Carrey in the movie version of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

A favorite with children around the world, Jim Carrey still likes to ring the changes, and his role as the despicable Count Olaf in the movie version of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events might surprise even the most ardent fan. “I wouldn’t bring a four-year-old to it,” says the actor, “but kids get that I’m playing a part, that it’s for a movie, and that I’m not a dastardly guy who murders children!”

Based on the popular series of books by Daniel Handler, in the guise of mysterious narrator Lemony Snicket, the novels were the first books to knock Harry Potter off the top of the New York Times children’s bestseller list, and have sold more than 27 million copies, despite the author’s repeated pleas to ‘read something else!’

The series tells the distressing story of the Baudelaire children, whose parents die in a mysterious fire at their mansion. They are sent to live with a distant cousin, Count Olaf, an outrageously diabolical actor who is determined to swindle the orphans out of their family fortune by doing away with them.

Of the movie’s sinister plot, Carrey acknowledges the darker elements. “I think kids love there to be a dark element to the story. I remember when I was a kid just loving creepy movies that scared me and, at the same time, were funny. I remember with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang that Childcatcher, who was trying to entice the kids out with candy and kidnap them. I loved those characters. It was kind of a fine line we were going down here, between making the audience laugh and making them like the character of Count Olaf but, at the same time, I wanted the danger to be real. There was one moment when Count Olaf slaps one of the kids, and there was controversy over whether to have that in the movie or not. I was like, ‘Really? People are getting sawed in half in Lord of the Rings. What are you talking about, too dark?’ In most really great movies that connect with people, there’s some kind of tragedy and pain involved. And it is a strange kind of balance that we’re striking here. The bottom line is, Olaf’s not a nice person, and I said early on that the movie is meaning-less without real danger.”

In finding a voice for the role, Carrey acknowledges that he was trying to get a little bit of Orson Welles with a sprinkling of Count Dracula. “As far as the character goes, I was trying to fashion him after a bird of prey,” he continues, “the type of bird that waits on the beach until the nest is unguarded, and then steals the eggs. He’s that guy. Physically, I wanted to be like the illustrations from the books that kids are used to. But he turned out looking like my dad actually, which is really freaky. I usually try to put a little bit of dadism in my roles, so it’s kind of a wink to my family when they see the movies. They saw the advance pictures of this film and went, ‘Dude, now you’re starting to scare us,’ because it really is like my dad.”

by Judy Sloane

Get the full interview in
Xposé #91

Photo © Paramount Pictures
Feature © Visual Imagination 2004. Not for reproduction

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Xposé #91
January 2005
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