“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” celebrated its 15th anniversary this March, and Vanity Fair marked the occasion with a recent interview with director Michel Gondry and actor Jim Carrey. While Ellen Pompeo’s cut role as the ex-girlfriend of Carrey’s Joel has been known for quite some time, Gondry revealed that Tracy Morgan was a second actor who shot scenes for “Eternal Sunshine” that were eventually left on the cutting room floor.
According to Gondry, Morgan was cast as Joel’s neighbor and appeared in a handful of flashback scenes that were edited out of the “Eternal Sunshine” theatrical cut. Morgan was coming off his successful run on “Saturday Night Live” at the time and was a couple years off from starting work on “30 Rock.” While Gondry is a big fan of the comedian, he realized in the editing room Morgan was simply playing Morgan. If Gondry left Morgan in the film, any viewer familiar with the comedian’s “SNL” work would have been easily distracted during the flashback scenes.
“He’s a comedic genius,” Gondry said about Morgan. “But the reality is he was Tracy Morgan.”
As for Pompeo’s role, Carrey said he was upset when Gondry cast her as his character’s ex-girlfriend. “I was pretty hurt,” the actor told Vanity Fair. “Michel likes to have real feelings in the scene and real chemistry, so he hired Ellen Pompeo, who’s a wonderful actress. But she reminded me completely of Renée [Carrey had broken up in real life with his girlfriend Renée Zellweger]. Her look was similar. And I said, Bastard! And it ends up that she’s not even in the movie.”
Carrey commended Gondry for cutting Pompeo’s character, Naomi, from the film, saying, “It was almost too much. If it had been in the movie, it’s competing [with Clementine].”
Gondry and Carrey also told Vanity Fair about two endings that screenwriter Charlie Kaufman decided not to go with in the final draft. Gondry preferred to end the film on a happy note, with Joel and Clementine (Kate Winslet) deciding to stay together despite their flaws and the possibility things could fall apart all over again, but Kaufman originally wrote an “Eternal Sunshine” ending far more bleak.
“We don’t end up together in Charlie’s version,” Carrey said. “[Joel] walks away.”
Gondry said that during his conversations with Kaufman about the ending the screenwriter also thought about a final twist in which it would have been revealed the entire story was taking place inside Clementine’s mind. The twist ending somewhat recalled the finale of NBC’s medical drama “St. Elsewhere,” in which it was revealed the entire series had been taking place inside the mind of an autistic boy. By setting “Eternal Sunshine” in Clementine’s head, however, the film would have been entirely about Clementine’s projection of Joel and not Joel’s organic growth. Gondry’s relatively happy ending won out in the end.
For more on “Eternal Sunshine’s” 15th anniversary, head over to Vanity Fair.