"It was hellish," Carrey says in the Nov. 18 issue of TV Guide, comparing the costume he wears in the upcoming movie Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas to being buried alive, and saying the special contact lenses he had to wear "were like knives in my eyes."
"It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," Carrey later told Fox News. "It was very claustrophobic," he said.
Transforming the children's classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas into a blockbuster movie was no easy task, requiring not only Carrey's plastic features and comedic mania, but the Hollywood magic of director Ron Howard and producer Brian Glazer.
"To try and create a fantasy world that's really fun to watch, that's entertaining and lively is a big design challenge," Howard said. "Everything had to be created."
The physical mechanics of translating Carrey's every expression through his mask — as well as an entire town of Whoville extras — transformed the set into a surreal make-up assembly line. Rick Baker, the head make-up artist on Grinch, said the task required 60 make-up artists and 30 stylists every day.
"We had 91 [cast members] every day for five months in appliance makeup — rubber pieces glued to their face, dentures in their mouths, ears, wigs," Baker said.
Baker said many of the film's lead actors required 2 1/2-3 hours of make-up each day. Carrey spent 2 1/2 hours in the make-up chair every day.
"There were a lot of incarnations of the Grinch, and at one point [Baker] had eight different heads and possibilities for the look on a table at once," Carrey said. "One time, they tried to paint me, and I ended up looking like some weird reject from Cats," he said.
Acting with the appliance makeup presented its own challenges.
"It was like doing the comedy the same way, but with a fridge on your back," Carrey said. "It was a physical task," he said.
Because filming required the actors to be in the cumbersome costumes and uncomfortable makeup from 3:30 in the morning until eight or nine o'clock at night, director Ron Howard decided to feel his casts' pain first-hand.
"I did spend a day in the makeup [room], just to show a little empathy and to let everyone know that I could relate to what they were going through," Howard said.
For his part, Carrey enlisted the help of a Navy SEAL to help him deal with the discomfort of the costume.
"He gave me a couple of physical things that I could do, like pinching my leg when I start getting a panic attack," Carrey said. "I learned a huge lesson to stop compulsive thought."
But as difficult as the shoot was, Carrey said playing the Grinch was a dream come true.
"I grew up with it. Everybody I knew grew up with it. It just wasn't Christmas without the Grinch," Carrey said. "I'm up for any challenge, and there were a lot of them in this movie, but it was worth it," he said.
In the famous Christmas story, the Grinch eventually returns Christmas to Whoville, bigger and better than ever. This big-screen Grinch is expected to bring just-as-spectacular returns to the box office.
Fox News' Trace Gallagher and the Associated Press contributed to this report