Gay and Gayer

Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey bring the true story of con man Steven Russell and his former cell mate and lover to the big screen in I Love You Phillip Morris.

BY Michael Giltz

August 27 2008 12:00 AM ET

I Love You Phillp Morris 2 (Glen Watson) | Advocate.com

For Carrey, the
story presented a break for him as an actor: to tackle
one of his most romantic roles yet. “Russell was so
misguidedly relentless about love that you’ve
got to admire it,” Carrey says.

“I always
try to figure out what delusion the character is living
under. We all kind of have them, whether it’s a
feeling of worthlessness or whatever it is,”
says Carrey, who shaved back an inch of his hairline to
emphasize “the brain” of his character.
Russell reportedly has an IQ of 169.

To understand the
con man’s motivations, Carrey had to explore the pain
of Russell’s childhood. “When your mother
gives you up for adoption and then doesn’t want
you back when you find her—that definitely leaves a
hole in you,” he says. “It’s difficult
to trust somebody after that.”

Trust -- and a
level of comfort -- is something Carrey had to develop
with his fellow actors right away. Because of a tight film
schedule, the first scenes he shot were the love
scenes with each of his romantic partners. He made out
with Santoro in a gay bar in Miami on the first day of
the shoot, followed quickly by sex scenes with Leslie Mann
(who plays Russell’s wife) and then with
McGregor.

“It’s a very, very amusing scene,”
McGregor says of his and Carrey’s hookup. The
two are out on a boat, “and I’m giving Steven
a blow job. I look up and there’s this big huge
black storm cloud coming toward us. This is true --
Steven turns the boat straight toward the storm because
he knows that you can’t outrun a storm. You have to
go through the middle,” McGregor says.
“But Phillip doesn’t know this, and
it’s maybe his queeniest moment, when he has
this tiff and screams, ‘What the fuck are you
doing?’ ”

Carrey jumps in.
“I tell him I read it in a magazine. And he asks,
‘What magazine? If you tell me The
Advocate
, I’ll fucking kill
you.’ ”

The real Russell
is still in a Texas prison (Carrey was not allowed to
visit him). But Morris, who has a nonspeaking role in the
film as Russell’s lawyer, is a free man.

Friendly and
charming, the slight 49-year-old Morris seems fit, though
he’s recovering from a stroke. These days he lives in
Hot Springs, Ark., in the home of a friend, a
preacher, and says he’s convinced people in his
life today won’t associate him with the Phillip
Morris in the movie. (To be fair, he’s not
completely tight-lipped about the connection.
Occasionally he delights in telling people -- like the
waitress at his favorite diner -- to Google the movie
title.)

Morris, who says
it’s “wonderful” to have McGregor
portray him, isn’t dating anyone at the moment.
So the question naturally is, “Are you waiting
for Russell?” “No,” he says.
“But when he gets out, as far as I’m
concerned, we’ll probably be together.”

And by
“gets out,” does he mean parole or otherwise?
Morris laughs. “Well, you never
know.”

Tags: film

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