Five Reasons To Love Timothy Carey

He had the face of a man you’d assume would be the last face you’d ever see – before being strangled, bludgeoned, chaffed to demise or drowned ceremonially. A tribute to the unsung hero that is Tim Carey
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Directors loved Timothy Carey because he had the most extraordinary visage this side of Easter Island and acted unlike anyone else.

It could barely be considered acting. It went way, way, way beyond that. Like a drunk with a megaphone bellowing into your soul. If performance is all about ‘choices’, TC made choices the way Frank Gehry makes opera houses. And he was on the cover of Sgt Pepper’s – just behind George.

Kubrick loved him, as did Cassavetes. Coppola tried to get him in everything (by way of gratitude, Carey reportedly fired a gun at him. It only contained blanks). And when it came to make his own cinematic masterpiece, he produced one of the most incredible and most incomprehensible films never released. Intrigued? Here are some more choice Tim Carey moments.


This scene between Carey as the fabulously named Morgan Morgan and Seymour Cassel was supposedly improvised. Incredible if true, though I doubt anyone could write a line like ‘this used to come pretty easy, then my elbows got fat’, as Morgan tries to take off his coat. Carey’s description of cinema as, ‘a bunch of lonely people going in, looking up. Forget about it’ is equally mind-blowing. I could watch those two go at it forever, Carey’s pallor resembles pesto and he even seems to sweat in a threatening way. Warning: it does contain some disturbing hot dog eating, but gains extra points for Seymour’s amazing sweater and moustache combination. Carey’s turn in Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is just as staggering.


Rumour has it that Brando, making his only credited film as director once Stanley Kubrick was axed, was driven crazy by Carey’s ‘acting’ demands. A bit rich coming from the king of bizarre thespian antics (this was the man who allegedly performed naked from the waist down during Don Juan DeMarco). Rumour has it that  an enraged Brando stabbed Carey with a pen. Here he is made to look like a slightly wooden cowboy hack, as Carey goes ballistic on a female companion. Brando seems to relish the beating he doles out to TC. And wasn’t it handy that they store a rifle under the piano?


Those ingrates The Monkees bite the hand that feeds them in this ninety minute psychedelic romp that attacks the pop dominated music industry with the odd tune thrown in. Carey pops up from time to time as Lord High ‘N’ Low, to represent all things evil and malicious in the rock stars’ world. Why wouldn’t every director in Hollywood be clambering for Carey’s services after seeing him hand-crank himself into a room in a mechanical wheelchair with a noose around his neck and say ‘Atta boy Mike!” in a hundred different demented ways. I think that is genuine fear on the Monkees faces as Carey shuffles towards them while apparently having a rage-induced stroke. Good comedy cloak work also in a performance that never dips under ‘11’.

Carey wrote, directed and starred as a man who is taken over by the spirit of rock and roll, believes himself to be God, and starts performing in a way that predates punk by 20 years.


Carey was called ‘Kubrick’s good luck charm’ by one critic, but just made two blinding appearances in his films, as a doomed private in Paths of Glory and the ace sharpshooter in The Killing. Their relationship ended when Kubrick left One Eyed Jacks with Brando taking over and the pen-stabbing not far away. The scene here with TC holding a puppy is particularly intense and weird, while his interaction with the African-American parking lot attendant is almost too much to stomach. Carey was upset when Kubrick fled to England and left him behind. A shame, he would have been amazing in Strangelove.


Holy shitballs, a film so far ahead of its time, we still haven’t caught up. It’s hard to know where to begin. This was Carey’s magnum opus and has been decried as ‘the world’s worst movie’ (most tellingly by the unknown who did the score: Frank Zappa. Another reason, if one was needed, to hate Frank Zappa) and possessing “the brilliance of Einsenstein” (according to John Cassavetes). Either way it has to be seen to be believed. Except you can’t see it, as no one has had the good sense to release it and all copies appear to have been recorded from a VHS cassette that has been stored in a well. Carey wrote, directed and starred as a man who is taken over by the spirit of rock and roll, believes himself to be God, and starts performing in a way that predates punk by 20 years. Apparently it had a huge influence on the performance style of The Cramps’ Lux Interior. I have no idea why it isn’t screened on an endless loop everywhere at all times. Carey wanted to follow it up with a film about a rolling skating knitting club employee who wants to clothe all the world’s naked animals. Sadly, it was never realised.

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