Jim Carrey Was Once Told He Had Ten Minutes To Live, And He’s Shared What Went Through His Mind

When Jim Carrey’s phone rang one day in 2018, he didn’t expect to hear anything out of the ordinary. Instead, the actor was told something no one ever imagines themselves hearing – that their death was mere moments away. As his fate loomed nearer, the star struggled to come to terms with what was about to take place. And then something extraordinary happened.

Jim Carrey is an artist who needs little introduction. As a comedian, he left us in hysterics with films like Dumb and Dumber. As a serious actor, he’s brought us to tears with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But for all his big-screen ubiquity, you may have noticed the star has been surprisingly absent from cinemas of late.

Since around 2017, the actor has made significantly fewer film appearances. In their place, Carrey has been investing his time in other artistic pursuits, including painting and writing. Just recently, in fact, he released a novel named Memoirs and Misinformation, a semi-fictionalized account of his time in Hollywood, which he co-authored with Dana Vachon.

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While Carrey’s writing was well received, perhaps the most striking thing about the book is actually the cover. It features a blurry image of its author staring out at the reader with a look of sheer desperation. Rather than being some random shot, however, this picture has deep significance for the star. Indeed, it’s a photo taken at the exact moment he thought he had ten minutes left to live.

To make sense of this image, one must first understand Carrey’s life up until that point. Born in Canada in 1962, the future-star didn’t have the easiest upbringing. As a child, his mother was dependent on pain killers. As a teenager, his father became unemployed and as a result he and his family had to sleep rough.

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After moving into a camper van, the family began to adjust to their new lot in life. “In a weird way it was a much happier time,” Carrey told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018. But the hardships didn’t let up after that. Forced to work eight-hour night shifts after school in a factory to support his family, the future star soon lost interest in both studying and making friends.

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One thing Carrey never lost interest in, however, was comedy. At school, his teachers regularly let him tell jokes to his schoolmates before the start of class. Aged 15, he played his first real set of stand-up comedy in Toronto. And even though his material wasn’t warmly received by the crowd, the experience would ultimately be the first step in a long and fruitful career.

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With little else to lose, Carrey decided to follow his dream of comedy to Hollywood. There, the actor gained small parts in films such as The Dead Pool, as well as gigs opening for revered comedians including Rodney Dangerfield. But it wouldn’t be until 1994’s Ace Ventura: Pet Detective that he truly became established as a bankable leading man.

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The next few years would be a crazy time in Carrey’s life. Within 12 months, the comedian busted box offices with hits like The Mask, Batman Forever and Dumb and Dumber, the latter of which earned him $10 million. Moreover, he would expand his talents into drama with 1998’s The Truman Show. And that performance landed the star a Golden Globe.

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Certainly, Carrey had come a long way from his arduous origins. And yet, his life was still filled with painful events and experiences, not least two failed marriages – the first to Melissa Womer with whom he has a daughter, and the second to Lauren Holly. Moreover, the star’s mental health deteriorated and, as a result, he’d suffer bouts of depression.

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“There are peaks, there are valleys,” the actor explained of his illness to 60 Minutes in 2004. “But they’re all kind of carved and smoothed out, and it feels like a low level of despair you live in. Where you’re not getting any answers, but you’re okay. And you can smile at the office… But it’s a low level of despair.”

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Although Carrey was prescribed anti-depressants for his condition, he eventually stopped taking the medication. In fact, he swore off any stimulants altogether, be they alcohol, drugs or even caffeine. In their place, he turned to spirituality. And based on the teachings of various religions and philosophies, the actor began to develop an ethos that helped him begin to make sense of his life.

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During a 2017 interview with Variety, the comedian expounded on how this new perception helped him overcome some issues. “[People are] depressed […] because they’re trying to hold up an image in the world,” he stated. “I was depressed when I was trying to be the Wizard of Oz instead of the sweaty guy behind the curtain. But now I know that Oz is a character.”

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While this worldview seems to have worked for Carrey, it’s been met with confusion by some of his fans. In particular, an interview with E! News left some followers unsure about the star’s wellbeing. “I believe that peace lies beyond personality and invitation and disguise,” the actor opined in the 2017 chat. “I believe we’re a field of energy dancing for itself.”

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Another appearance on Norm Macdonald Live that year was similarly perplexing. “I’m erasing myself, like, I’m not even f****** here right now,” the star insisted. “I don’t exist, I have no needs, I don’t need you people. None of it, nothing. I don’t need approval from anybody. There’s no ‘me’ involved. I’ve already crossed the river of tears.”

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Based on Carrey’s behavior over those 12 months, 2017 was surely a weird year for the star. But unbeknown to him, the following year would begin with an even stranger occurrence – a situation that would surely rank among the most difficult experiences of the actor’s entire life. And it would prove the ultimate test of his new-found philosophy.

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In January that year, Carrey was staying in Hawaii while he worked on his book. One Saturday morning, the actor – like every resident across the state – was getting ready for what he guessed would be an assuming day. Little did he know that life was about to change in the most horrifying way possible.

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At 8.07 a.m. on January 13, cell phones throughout the state began to buzz in unison. Looking at the screens of their devices, each resident saw an ominous SMS with the title “EMERGENCY ALERT” waiting in their inbox. What followed were words terrifying beyond belief: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

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No further information was given in the message. There was no hint of where the missiles were coming from or how long it would take them to reach their target. For the one-and-a-half million occupants of Hawaii, a nuclear strike was a very real threat – one that state officials had spent considerable time and resources anticipating. As a result, this warning was taken as absolutely real.

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At the time of the alert, relations between the U.S.A. and North Korea were particularly strained. Moreover, Hawaii was in close range to missiles launched from the hostile state should the two nations ever go to war. By some accounts, a warhead from the Korean peninsula could hit the islands in around ten to 20 minutes. If this were the case, residents had little time to prepare for the impact.

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Presumably Carrey knew little of this when he first heard of the supposed attack. Unlike many involved in the incident, the comedian didn’t discover the earth-shattering news through a text. Rather, it was via a video call from his assistant Linda, who was tearfully recounting the information to her employer.

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During an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in July 2020, the actor remembered receiving the devastating call. “I was writing,” Carrey recounted. “My assistant Linda called me, she was crying. She said, ‘We have ten minutes left.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ She said, ‘The missiles are coming.’”

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Indeed, there was nothing to suggest that the information they’d received was false. As Carrey relayed on the show, the incoming attack was “completely real to us” – as was their terror. Panicking, Linda accidentally took a screenshot of the star’s reaction. And it was the photo that would eventually appear on the cover of Memoirs and Misinformation.

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But for all the terror anyone would find themselves experiencing during an event like this, Carrey was, above all else, overcome by a sense of bewilderment. “The feeling was, ‘Wow,’” he revealed on The Graham Norton Show in February 2020. “‘That’s kind of weird. What a funny way for it to end.’”

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With what residents believed to be their imminent deaths fast approaching, people throughout the island descended into a state of unimaginable panic. Many searched desperately for some form of shelter to protect themselves from the incoming blast. Some got in their cars and sped at breakneck pace in order to see loved ones a final time.

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Likewise, Carrey was faced with the dilemma of how to spend his final moments. After first trying to “get off the island to my daughter,” the actor considered traveling to be with Linda. But with his assistant too great a distance away, he knew he’d never be able to get to her in time.

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From there, the conversation turned to a group goodbye. “The question was posed – should we all try to get together?” Carrey recalled. “I said, ‘I don’t want to die in my car.’” So with little else to do with his last minutes on Earth, the actor sat on the porch and looked out towards the ocean. And waited. And waited…

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And yet, nothing happened. At least eight minutes went by without anything falling from the sky. Then, with only two minutes left until the missiles were supposed to hit, Carrey received some new information. The attack wasn’t real. Nobody’s life was in danger. The alert had been a false alarm all along.

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In reality, there was never any threat of an attack. The warning that residents received was actually just a test of the state’s alert system. It was never meant to be shown to the public. And while Carrey remembered waiting for eight minutes before discovering there had been a false alarm, the error wasn’t officially announced until 38 minutes after the initial text was sent.

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As it would transpire, the warning was sent by an emergency management worker who mistook the exercise for a real missile attack. Regardless, inhabitants of the state were naturally furious. Not only had they and their loved ones gone through a nightmare, but all the trauma was for nothing.

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Like many people who had gone through this horror, Carrey was beside himself with rage. “I was angry,” he fumed on The Graham Norton Show. “I was p*****. And then [the authorities] said something like, ‘Oh, we pushed the wrong button.’ I’m like, ‘Come on. It’s not that much of a family business on the island, is it?’”

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Justifiably, Carrey almost immediately began venting his anger in public. Less than one hour after the initial alert, in fact, the actor took to Twitter to inform his followers of the strange turn of events on the island. Moreover, he focused his ire on the current political administration who he blamed for allowing the alert to even happen.

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For all Carrey’s rage after learning the attack was false, however, he was in a very different mood during the ten-minute warning period. With little time left to live, the actor began finding a way to cope with the thought of death. And for that, his long-sought after spirituality came right to the fore.

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Looking out across the ocean, something remarkable happened within Carrey’s mind. As if by magic, the actor’s negative emotions – fear, panic and despair – began to melt away, leaving him with nothing but tranquility. “I sat down and this overwhelming sense of peace came over me,” he recalled to Fallon.

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Rather than spend those final moments in a state of hopelessness, Carrey instead looked back over his life. What he discovered was not a life beset with difficulties, personal struggles and periods of unhappiness. In its place was a life of amazing achievement and possibilities that the actor had countless people to thank for.

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Speaking to Fallon, Carrey elaborated on his mental state at the time. “I just decided to go through a list of gratitudes,” the star explained. “I could not stop thinking of wonderful things that have happened to me and blessings I’ve had.” And in spite of this terrifying situation, the actor soon found himself comfortable with his own death.

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Carrey went on to describe his brush with death in almost glowing terms. “It was lovely,” the actor continued. “And I got to a point of grace with about two minutes to spare when I found out it wasn’t actually happening. And all I was planning to do was close my eyes and be thankful because it’s been a good ride.”

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Thankfully, this terrible event never happened and Carrey has many more years left in front of him. Nevertheless, it’s an experience that can shake anyone and stick with them for the rest of their life. For the star, at least, it has given him some hope about what’s waiting for him at the end of his days.

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Indeed, it’s a state that seems applicable to everyone regardless of their situation in life. “I know what it’s going to be like in the last ten minutes, if I was to know that it was going to end,” he explained to Norton. “So it’s kind of a unique place to be, you know, to be able to sit back and go, ‘Okay.’ There’s actually a state of calm.”

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By any measure, the missile alert in Hawaii was horrifying for everyone involved. And yet Carrey managed to discover within the terror something transcendent, a state that reminded him of the greater beauty of life. Certainly, it’s safe to say he’d never want to repeat the experience. But his case shows that there’s comfort to be found in even the most desperate situations.

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