Number 23 is dark and stormy.  There.  That opening sentence about Jim Carrey’s latest movie (and his latest obsession) is exactly 23 characters long.  Coincidence?  Perhaps.  How about this one: The Number 23 is everywhere.  Again, 23 characters.  Again, coincidence?  Well, actually, both proclamations were written to fit.  

For thousands of other people, however, the number 23 is hardly coincidence and no laughing matter.  Bloggers, authors, and conspiracy lovers have seen it everywhere, for a long time.  This month, the spooky prime number steps into the spotlight with its own movie.  New Line Cinema is set to release The Number 23 starring Jim Carrey and Virginia Madsen on—wait for it—February 23rd.  


“It started out for me, when a friend of mine from Canada started seeing the number everywhere, adding up license plates, that sort of thing.  He had a book of 23 phenomenon and he handed it to me,” said Carrey.

“I said he was crazy, and then I started seeing it everywhere.  And, then one day, years later, after it had kind of entered my life in a big way, someone handed me the 23rd psalm—a book on the 23rd psalm—the Valley of the Shadow of Death: living without fear basically, knowing you’re taken care of, about not sweating it.”

From that point on, the number 23 changed Jim Carrey’s life.  He changed the name of his company from Pit Bull Productions to JC 23.  And, when he explained the company name change to a friend, the friend in turn handed Carrey a script called The Number 23.

“I read the script.  I was compelled by it,” Carrey said.  “I was freaked out, because the first page of the script is about trying to catch a pit bull.”

Carrey, who explained being drawn to films in a spiritual way, said it was convenient and appropriate that he should play dogcatcher Walter Sparrow in The Number 23, given that he played a similar role starting out in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

Needless to say, his new film is far from funny.  The psychological thriller, written by Fernley Phillips (who is slated to jump from the bed of Joel Schumacher to Bryan Singer for his next project), is a bright white, high-contrast spin on the film noir genre, featuring a very buff and heavily tattooed Jim Carrey as the alternate character Fingerling.


Carrey has been quoted as saying that he wanted to do the movie in order to have the number mess with the audience the way it has messed with him.  On the first day of shooting, the Golden Globe-winning actor gave co-star Virginia Madsen a dozen roses and a book on the 23 phenomenon.  Madsen, who says she watches all the Discovery Channel shows on the unexplained—ghosts, UFO’s, Bigfoot—says she knew about the number 23 before she was cast.  

“I had heard about it, but I didn’t know how vast it was until the first day of production,” she said, noting that the film went into production on January 23rd of last year.  And it doesn’t end there: The Number 23 is director Joel Schumacher’s 23rd directorial assignment for film and TV, the combination of letters in the names of the film’s two actors—Jim Carrey and Virginia Madsen—total 23, as  do the names of Jim Carrey and Joel Schumacher.  

Still not convinced about the significance of the number 23?  The film’s producers want you to consider this:

•    Each parent contributes 23 chromosomes to the DNA of a child.

•    It takes 23 seconds for blood to circulate throughout the entire body

•    In humans, the 23rd chromosome determines gender.

•    Earth’s axis is off by 23.5 degrees

•    The Knights Templar had 23 Grand Masters.

Jim Carrey said he had to go a very dark place within himself to play the deranged lead character whose life is ravaged by the number 23.  “I really have always thought of myself as somebody who lives in the middle of the wheel and is able to go to the extreme, to the outside of the wheel and in any direction.

“The best case scenario for me is to be able to be centered and to go out from there, to do something zany and funny and then do something that has some depth to it, that’s serious.

“There many colors to paint with, and I’d hate to get trapped in one little thing.  I always feel that funny is an appendage, but it’s not my whole body.”

Number 23 will strike a nerve.  There: 23 letters—no, wait: 24.  Close enough.

Jim Holt studied journalism in Canada at Carleton University and Ryerson Polytechnic University. He covered crime for 10 years in the steel-producing city of Hamilton, near Toronto. His investigative work earned him many awards and nominations including a National Newspaper Award nomination for having exposed a wife-beating police officer. In 1997, he moved to Los Angeles where he began working as a stringer for the Canadian Press (CP) wire service. As a freelance field producer he produced crime-related TV stories for KABC-TV and KCBS-TV. In 2001, he was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category of Serious News Story (multi-part) for his profiling of a terrorist. In 2007, the Canadian Association of Journalists named him in a team award for outstanding investigative reporting, specifically a story of wrongdoing by the CBC's The Fifth Estate. The team is also nominated for a Michener Award in Canada for the same story.