Jim Carrey may be best known as a movie star and comedian, but to him, his most meaningful roles are that of father to Jane and grandfather to her son, Jackson. This month he adds “first-time author” to his resume when his children’s book, How Roland Rolls (Some Kind of Garden Media, $16.95) is published on September 24. It is dedicated to his grandson.
“There’s more joy and fulfillment in this project than I could have dreamed,” Carrey told PW in a phone interview. He got the idea for the book about two years ago and shared it first with his film management team. “They were not excited,” he recalled with a laugh. But then he connected with mind/body/spirit media book consultant John Raatz of The Visioneering Group in Los Angeles, who helped bring How Roland Rolls to fruition. Raatz introduced Carrey to illustrator Rob Nason, whose artistic interpretation of Roland, a little wave in the ocean, fit well with the story. By coincidence Nason and Carrey both hail from the same small town: Burlington in Ontario, Canada.
Carrey says his book is about understanding the "oneness of all life" through the metaphor of Roland, who realizes that he is part of the ocean and not simply a wave that’s separate from it. “I want the book to alleviate children’s fears about loss and what would happen to them if they were left alone,” said Carrey, whose favorite childhood authors were Dr. Seuss and Charles M. Schulz. “It’s an early existential crisis, one that I experienced as a child when I was afraid that my parents would die. But when we realize that beneath the surface of things – the activities of our lives – we are all connected, that fear of loss gets softened.”
Carrey has long been attached to transformational ideas and practices, and Roland is a reflection of his spiritual beliefs. It is not a religious book, however. “It doesn’t alienate,” he said. With Roland, Carrey hopes to teach kids how to recognize their true identities, and how they can be individuals while being part of something larger at the same time. The inspiration for his book came when Carrey, who lives in Malibu, was watching the ocean one day and realized that “the waves were all going in the same direction, just like us. With my book I want to share the joy of life as an eternal and internal experience.”
When Carrey starred in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events in 2004, he was delighted to meet Daniel Handler on the set. “I regret that there wasn’t more time to get to know him,” Carrey said, “but a film set is a very busy place. I’d read all of the Lemony Snicket books that existed at that point, and loved the series. I’d very much look forward to a film sequel.”
Roland will be distributed by Perseus Distribution Client Services. Raatz, who has worked as a project manager and publicist for many authors and publishers for the last 25 years, contacted most of the key book distributors before settling on Perseus. “I found a unique rapport with them,” Raatz said. “Perseus is genuinely enthusiastic about Jim’s book, and they feel a personal connection with it.” The first printing of Roland is 110,000 copies. Despite filming Dumb and Dumber To this fall, Carrey said he plans to make time for a Roland book tour, which will take him to several cities in October. An enhanced e-book will be released the same day as the book; it will include four songs about Roland sung by Carrey and his daughter. “My grandson, Jackson, who’s 3 1/2, was in the recording studio with us too,” Carrey said. “I’m inspired by him.”
One might assume that someone of Carrey’s fame would be a natural fit with a New York publisher, but he thought differently about that and decided to self-publish. “Movies are a communal experience, with lots of people involved at every stage of the production,” he said. “Things that seem to be in place get changed a lot. With the idea of Roland, I wanted the book to be exactly from its original source. I didn’t want other people to influence it, which is just the way of the world.” It’s possible that Some Kind of Garden, an entertainment and media company headed by Carrey, will publish other Roland titles, and a movie might also be in Roland’s future.
Unlike his often manic on-screen persona, in conversation Carrey can be thoughtful and introspective. “I was always two people when I was growing up,” Carrey said. “I was the kid who made my family laugh by pretending to fall down a flight of stairs, but then I’d retreat to my bedroom to think. Kids don’t get enough credit for their deeper thoughts.” To that end, Carrey hopes that the children – and adults – who read How Roland Rolls will finish it with a sense of expanded self-awareness and interconnectedness with the world.