Jim Carrey can play it all: dark and light, down-to-earth and outrageous. He can jump from The Cable Guy to I Love You Phillip Morris, from The Truman Show to Dumb & Dumber without missing a beat. In The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, in which he plays opposite Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi, his magician character Steve Gray is all kinds of things. Hes a talented performer, a daredevil, a shameless egotist, and a nasty, competitive fellow. Yet somehow, in Carreys capable hands, Steve Gray is funny. The rubber-faced, fast-talking actor, who will soon appear in Kick-Ass 2, spoke recently in Las Vegas.

How did you get into such amazing shape for this movie?

Ive just never taken my shirt off in a movie before. I figured that was Matthew McConaugheys thing, and I was just gonna leave him to it (laughs). But being in that kind of shape is really not a natural place to live. It looks great, it gets a lot of attention, but you have to eat, like, anti-matter to stay in that kind of shape. Its not a happy place to be. But Im back now. Ive got Mr. Cuddly back (pats his stomach), and Im happy.

What were you doing more of in this film sticking to the script or winging it?

It was a great script, and its great to start with a great script. But I always like to bring whatever I can to something. Im always thinking. I dont sleep. I think about things. And when we threw that long wig on the character, it kinda like did a 180. It required a little bit more of Who is this guy? He immediately struck me as a guy who had a Christ complex. And the combination of what was written, and being in the moment, is always the best way. Youve gotta start out with something solid, and then you play! Thats what keeps it alive for us.

What are your thoughts about the highs and lows of show biz?

Its a roller coaster, for sure. There are so many highs. There are moments of your life where you go, Wow, I cant believe how insanely lucky I am. But then you can turn around in the next moment and feel so completely caught up in your own wanting and desiring and needing, and feel like somehow youre missing something. The higher the high, the lower the low.

The story takes place in Vegas, and you had some early success here. Are you a fan of the place?

Theres everything you can possibly think of in Vegas. You look out there on the strip, and the energy thats happening is blinding. Its kind of a cool place that way. I used to open for Rodney Dangerfield years ago at Caesars. To see your name up there on that big sign is such a thrill for somebody when theyre starting out. But then I had a shift. I went away from the impressions, and I started dressing weird and I had spiky hair and I started imitating cockroaches, and things like that. And I totally lost the audience, which I planned to do from time to time. But Rodney used to stand backstage and howl with laughter at my failure. Id get offstage and hed say, (in a Dangerfield imitation), Man, theyre lookin at you like youre from another planet! Then the matre d came over and said, I hope you dont expect to get asked back lookin like that! And then Redd Foxx came by, and we got high.

The Amazing Burt Wonderstone opens on March 15.

Ed Symkus covers movies for GateHouse Media and has been writing about actors and filmmakers since 1987. His favorite interview was with Elliott Gould. His worst interview was with Tommy Lee Jones.