The Grinch Deserved More
Imagine Entertainment hired a CIA operative to teach Jim Carrey how to endure the process of becoming The Grinch because it felt like he was being “buried alive.” The ordeal caused Carrey so much anxiety he became abhorrent to the makeup team. World renowned lead makeup artist Kazuhiro Tsuji actually checked into therapy post production.
So I don’t turn to this film to get into the holiday spirit. It def doesn’t give me any “good vibes”. If anything it’s a merry example of how traumatizing processes should not be something we accept as audiences. When I see him as the Grinch I feel pain. It’s a similar feeling when I hear about shows with anti-care processes, it just feels gross. And I certainly do not attend and give them my money because then I’m culpable of condoning harmful creative practices.
The process is the art and this Grinch creation process was fraught with problems and unfair positioning for the ENTIRE team. Reading the account of the makeup artist Tsuji made me feel sick. Then I think about how that experience came to be by having a traumatized actor in lizard brain mode treating the team like shit which is also horrible. I radically empathize with Carrey and his positioning. I’m sure he is not proud of his grossly embarrassing behaviour.
Especially when on day 1, after enduring 8 hours in the makeup chair he walked to his dressing room, kicked his leg through the wall, walked to the Director and handed in his resignation. He told director Ron Howard “this is not for me.” Which is super fucking responsible - to recognize ones own ceiling, when a project is beyond ones abilities is profoundly courageous, astute and intelligent.
But then the producers came in and said nah we’ll give you a CIA agent to support you - HE SPECIALIZES IN TORTURE. Like that was the response. Talk about a case of hearing someone but not actually deeply listening.
I appreciate that Carrey had the reflective and conscious sense so early on to communicate his incapacities for this ridiculous process. As an artist, creator and human he deserved way more support.
And for the producing team to not listen, to not act and transform the situation makes them responsible for the violent impacts the whole team endured. I hope they paid for Tsuji’s post production care practices.
On every show I’ve directed, there has always been a moment when I said, we do not have to continue. We do not have to do this. We can end the day, end the production, none of this is worth an artists ongoing pain. Especially if we cannot remedy the situation and remove the instigators and or systems of violence. Which is always much for BIPOC performers and with humility, impossible to remove them all at this moment in our theatrical era.
I’ve found preventative measures and pre-production training and foundation creating is the greatest tool we have to foresee and prepare for the inherent and inevitable racist and ignorant systems canadian theatre has bestowed upon us. I never promise a performer I can protect them entirely though. I do say to them way before day one I will fail you, this process will not be perfect but I will do evrything I can to protect, witness and provide you many opportunities to check in and co-create a process that has your success in mind.
I think something we as arts leaders have to reckon with is we have to ensure “no” is an actual option throughout the process. We cannot just have a safe word for tech for physical endangerment because we miss the harm that can live and metastasize in a spirit far beyond focusing the lights.
If Producers and Artistic Directors don’t deeply understand the power and responsibilities they have, their duty of care, they should be nowhere near that position and level of decision making. It’s an act of gross neglect and reckless behaviour and we as the community have the power to either give these processes our time, resources and attention or say no, we as the community do not accept.
11 years ago I had ZERO support in a production and was being asked to live through trauma (kill myself and my baby) on stage night after night and surprise surprise it traumatized me in real life because that’s the power of stories.
I went on to have another 4 month long traumatizing touring experience with again no support other than my fellow actors trying to help because we always know when another one of us is in trouble. There wasn’t a smudge bowl in sight my friends. Nobody on any producing team ever asked me “how are you doing?” Not once.
Now I’m creating stories and processes of healing, courage and ignition and I’m fortunate enough to be drenched in teachings and get to spend time with knowledge keepers who are dedicated to healing spirits.
We must lock it into our blood that what we write, what we ask people to embody, what we lead, deeply impacts individuals and our collective spirits. I won’t ever see the Grinch but I will continue to work and create methodologies that have preventative care measures embedded, exit strategies entrenched and peoples spiritual and physical health at the heart of our priorities.
That is my responsibility as a storyteller for my peoples and it is my role and honour to activate and facilitate our healing. Ultimately I don’t believe stories can change the world, I know the mystical nature and power of stories is what will transform this world. For it’s the only thing that ever has
With deep love and healing energy for all those who’ve felt buried alive and powerless in an artistic process,
p.s here is a pic of Kazuhiro Tsuji winning two Oscars for the Darkest Hour. He was the first Japanese person to win this award. I honour this moment because it’s a colonial construct to infinitely connect BIPOC people’s with negativity and challenging times. So here’s Tsuji smiling and being fucking victorious!!!