The Truman Show
|The Truman Show|
|Directed by||Peter Weir|
|Produced by||Edward S. Feldman
|Written by||Andrew Niccol|
|Music by||Burkhard Dallwitz
|Editing by||William M. Anderson
|Studio||Scott Rudin Productions|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||103 minutes|
The Truman Show is a 1998 American satirical fantasy film directed by Peter Weir and written by Andrew Niccol. The cast includes Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank, as well as Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich, Ed Harris and Natascha McElhone. The film chronicles the life of a man who is initially unaware that he is living in a constructed reality television show, broadcast around the clock to billions of people across the globe. Truman becomes suspicious of his perceived reality and embarks on a quest to discover the truth about his life.
The genesis of The Truman Show was a spec script by Niccol, inspired by an episode of The Twilight Zone called "Special Service". The original draft was more in tone of a science fiction thriller, with the story set in New York City. Scott Rudin purchased the script, and instantly set the project up at Paramount Pictures. Brian De Palma was in contention to direct before Weir took over and managed to make the film for $60 million against the estimated $80 million budget. Niccol rewrote the script simultaneously as the filmmakers were waiting for Carrey's schedule to open up for filming. The majority of filming took place at Seaside, Florida, a master-planned community located in the Florida Panhandle.
The film was a financial and critical success, and earned numerous nominations at the 71st Academy Awards, 56th Golden Globe Awards, 52nd British Academy Film Awards and The Saturn Awards. The Truman Show has been analyzed as a thesis on Christianity, metaphilosophy, simulated reality, existentialism and the rise of reality television.
Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) has lived his entire life, since before birth, in front of cameras for The Truman Show, although he is unaware of this fact. Truman's life is filmed through about 5,000 hidden cameras, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and broadcast live around the world, allowing executive producer Christof (Ed Harris) to capture Truman's real emotion and human behavior when put in certain situations. Truman's hometown of Seahaven, is a complete set built under a giant arcological dome, populated by the show's actors and crew, allowing Christof to control every aspect of Truman's life, even the weather. To prevent Truman from discovering his false reality, Christof has invented means of dissuading his sense of exploration, including "killing" his father in a storm while on a fishing trip to instill in him a fear of the water, and making many news reports and "commercials" about the dangers of traveling, and featuring television shows about how good it is to stay at home. However, despite Christof's control, Truman has managed to behave in unexpected ways, in particular falling in love with an extra, Sylvia (Natasha McElhone), known to Truman as Lauren, instead of Meryl (Laura Linney), the character intended to be his wife. Though Sylvia is removed from the set quickly, her memory still resonates with him, and he "secretly" thinks of her outside of his marriage to Meryl. Sylvia shortly afterwards becomes part of a "Free Truman" campaign that fights to have Truman freed from the show.
During the 30th year of The Truman Show, Truman begins to notice certain aspects of his near-perfect world that seem out of place, such as a falling spotlight, from the artificial night sky constellations, that nearly hits him (quickly passed off by local radio as an aircraft's dislodged landing light) and Truman's car radio accidentally picking up conversation between the show's crew. As well as these strange one-off occurrences, Truman also becomes aware of more subtle abnormalities within his regular day-to-day life, such as the way in which the same people appear in the same places at certain times each day and Meryl's tendency to blatantly advertise the various products she buys. These events are punctuated by the reappearance of Truman's supposedly "dead" father onto the set, at first dressed as a hobo. The old man is suddenly whisked away as soon as Truman notices him. In a deleted scene Truman gives a sandwich to a wheelchair-bound man and then sees him jogging two days later. When the man denies everything Truman points out he was wearing the same sneakers with the taped initials attached.
Despite the best efforts of his family and his best friend Marlon to reassure him (the latter being fed lines of comforting dialogue by Christof through a wireless earpiece), all these events cause Truman to start wondering about his life, realizing how the world seems to revolve around him. Meryl grows increasingly stressed by the pressure of perpetuating the deception, and their marriage unravels in the face of Truman's increasing skepticism and attendant hostility towards her. Truman seeks to get away from Seahaven but is blocked by the inability to arrange for flights, bus breakdowns, sudden masses of traffic, a forest fire, and an apparent nuclear meltdown– which he believes until the policeman, whom Truman had never met before, calls him by name. After Meryl breaks down and is taken off the show, Christof officially brings back Truman's father, hoping his presence will keep Truman from trying to leave. However, he only provides a temporary respite: Truman soon becomes isolated and begins staying alone in his basement after Meryl "leaves" him. One night, Truman manages to fool the cameras and escapes the basement undetected via a secret tunnel, forcing Christof to temporarily suspend broadcasting of the show for the first time in its history. This causes a surge in viewership, with many viewers, including Sylvia, cheering on Truman's escape attempt.
Christof orders every actor and crew member to search the town, even breaking the town's daylight cycle to help in the search. They find that Truman has managed to overcome his fear of the water and has been sailing away from the town in a small boat named Santa Maria (the name of the largest of the three ships with which Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World). After restoring the broadcast, Christof orders the show's crew to create a large storm to try to capsize the boat, prompting a heated debate with his superiors over the morality and legality of killing Truman off in front of a live global audience. However, Truman's determination eventually leads Christof to terminate the storm. As Truman recovers, the boat reaches the edge of the dome, its bow piercing through the dome's painted sky. An awe-struck Truman then discovers a flight of stairs nearby, leading to a door marked "EXIT". As he contemplates leaving his world, Christof speaks directly to Truman via a powerful sound system, trying to persuade him to stay and arguing that there is no more truth in the real world than there is in his own, artificial world. Truman, after a moment's thought, delivers his catchphrase — "In case I don't see you... good afternoon, good evening, and good night" —, bows to his audience and steps through the door and into the real world. The assembled television viewers excitedly celebrate Truman's escape, and Sylvia quickly leaves her apartment to reunite with him. A network executive orders the crew to cease transmission. With the show completed, members of Truman's former audience are shown looking for something else to watch.
- Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank: Chosen out of five unwanted pregnancies and the first child to be legally adopted by a corporation, he is unaware that his daily life is broadcast continuously around the world. He has a job in the insurance business and a lovely wife, but he eventually notices that his environment is not what it seems to be. Robin Williams was considered for the role, but Weir cast Carrey after seeing him in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective because Carrey's performance reminded him of Charlie Chaplin. Carrey took the opportunity to proclaim himself as a dramatic actor, rather than being typecast in comedic roles. Carrey, who is normally paid $20 million per film, agreed to do The Truman Show for $12 million. Carrey and Weir initially found working together on set difficult (Carrey's contract gave him the power to demand rewrites), but Weir was impressed with Carrey's improvisational skills, and the two became more interactive. The scene in which Truman declares "this planet Trumania of the Burbank galaxy" to the bathroom mirror was Carrey's idea.
- Laura Linney as Hannah Gill playing Meryl Burbank (Truman's wife): Hannah Gill plays Truman's wife, who holds a profession as a nurse at the local hospital. Since the show relies on product placement for revenue, Meryl regularly shows off various items she has recently "purchased," one of the many oddities that makes Truman question his life. Her role is essentially to act the part of Truman's wife and ultimately to have a child by him, despite her reluctance to accomplish either. Linney explains that Gill "was a child actress who never made it, and now she's really ambitious. Mostly she's into negotiating her contract. Every time she sleeps with Truman she gets an extra $10,000." Linney heavily studied Sears catalogs from the 1950s to develop her character's poses.
- Ed Harris as Christof: The creator of The Truman Show. Christof remains dedicated to the program at all costs, often overseeing and directing its course in person (rather than through aides), but at the climax/resolution, he speaks to Truman over a loudspeaker, revealing the nature of Truman's situation. Dennis Hopper was originally cast in the role, but he left in April 1997 (during filming) over "creative differences." Harris was a last-minute replacement. A number of other actors had turned down the role after Hopper's departure. Harris had an idea of making Christof a hunchback, but Weir did not like the idea.
- Noah Emmerich as Louis Coltrane playing Marlon (Truman's friend): Louis Coltrane plays Truman's best friend since early childhood. Marlon is a vending machine operator for the company Goodies, who promises Truman he would never lie to him, despite the latest events in Truman's life. Emmerich has said, "My character is in a lot of pain. He feels really guilty about deceiving Truman. He's had a serious drug addiction for many years. Been in and out of rehab." His name is an amalgam of two jazz musicians, Louis Armstrong and John Coltrane, and in one scene he plays trumpet.
- Natascha McElhone as Sylvia (unknown last name) playing Lauren Garland (Truman's college schoolmate): Sylvia was hired to play a background extra, a fellow student at Truman's college, named Lauren. She became romantically involved with Truman and tried to reveal to him the truth about his life, but was thrown out of the show before she could do so. She is also a protester against The Truman Show, urging Christof to release its lead.
- Brian Delate as Walter Moore playing Kirk Burbank (Truman's father): When Truman was a boy, his character on the show was killed off to instill a fear of water in his son that would prevent Truman from leaving the set; however, he sneaks back onto the set when Truman is an adult. This causes Truman to begin questioning his staged life, and as he tries to get away from it the writers are forced to write a plot in which Kirk had not drowned but had suffered from amnesia.
- Holland Taylor as Alanis Montclair playing Angela Burbank (Truman's mother): Christof orders that she attempt to persuade Truman to have children.
- Harry Shearer (cameo appearance) as Mike Michaelson (news anchor): Michaelson hosts TruTalk, an entertainment-news program about The Truman Show that broadcasts early in the morning.
- Paul Giamatti as Simeon (control room director).
- Peter Krause as Laurence (Truman's boss): At Truman's office, Laurence often interrupts Truman when he talks about his dreams of moving to Fiji.
- Philip Glass, who composed and performed some of the film's soundtrack, makes a cameo appearance as the incidental keyboard player.
Andrew Niccol completed a one-page film treatment titled The Malcolm Show in May 1991. The original draft was more in tone of a science fiction thriller, with the story set in New York City. Niccol stated, "I think everyone questions the authenticity of their lives at certain points. It's like when kids ask if they're adopted". In the fall of 1993, producer Scott Rudin purchased the script for slightly over $1 million. Paramount Pictures instantly agreed to distribute. Part of the deal called for Niccol to have his directing debut, though Paramount felt the estimated $80 million budget would be too high for him. In addition, Paramount wanted to go with an A-list director, paying Niccol extra money "to step aside." Brian De Palma was under negotiations to direct before he left United Talent Agency in March 1994. Directors being considered after de Palma's departure included Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Barry Sonnenfeld and Steven Spielberg before Peter Weir signed on in early 1995, following a recommendation of Niccol.
Paramount was cautious about The Truman Show which they dubbed "the most expensive art film ever made" because of its $60 million budget. They wanted the film to be funnier and less dramatic. Weir also shared this vision, feeling that Niccol's script was too dark, and declaring "where he [Niccol] had it depressing, I could make it light. It could convince audiences they could watch a show in this scope 24/7." Niccol wrote sixteen drafts of the script before Weir considered the script ready for filming. Later on in 1995, Jim Carrey signed to star, but because of commitments with The Cable Guy and Liar Liar, he would not be ready to start filming for at least another year. Weir felt Carrey was perfect for the role and opted to wait for another year rather than recast the role. Niccol rewrote the script twelve times, while Weir created a fictionalized book about the show's history. He envisioned backstories for the characters and encouraged actors to do the same.
Weir scouted locations in Eastern Florida but was unsatisfied with the landscapes. Sound stages at Universal Studios were reserved for the story's setting of Seahaven before Weir's wife introduced him to Seaside, Florida, a "master-planned community" located in the Florida Panhandle. Pre-production offices were instantly opened in Seaside, where the majority of filming took place. Other scenes were shot at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, California. Norman Rockwell paintings and 1960s postcards were used as inspiration for the film's design. Weir, Peter Biziou and Dennis Gassner researched surveillance techniques for certain shots.
Weir saw The Truman Show as a chance to use the long-abandoned silent-era cinematic technique of vignetting the edges of the frame to emphasize the center. The overall look was influenced by television images, particularly commercials: Many shots have characters leaning into the lens with their eyeballs wide open, and the interior scenes are heavily lit, because Weir wanted to remind viewers that "in this world, everything was for sale." Those involved in visual effects work found the film somewhat difficult to make, because 1997 was the year many visual effects companies were trying to convert to computer-generated imagery. CGI was used to create the upper halves of some of the larger buildings in the film's downtown set. Craig Barron, one of the effects supervisors, said that these digital models did not have to look as detailed and weathered as they normally would in a film because of the artificial look of the entire town, although they did imitate slight blemishes found in the physical buildings.
Benson Y. Parkinson of the Association for Mormon Letters noted that Christof represented Jesus as an "off-Christ" ("Christ-off") or Antichrist, comparing the megalomaniacal Hollywood producer to Lucifer. The conversation between Truman and Marlon at the bridge can be compared to one between Moses and God in the Book of Moses.
In C.S. Lewis and Narnia for Dummies by Richard Wagner, Christof is compared with Screwtape, the eponymous character of The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. In this example, Christof manipulates Truman for his own personal ends, much as Screwtape instructs his nephew Wormwood to manipulate his patient. Screwtape instructs Wormwood that he "should be guarding him like the apple of your eye." Similarly, some of the workers in the control room wear a T-shirt that reads, "love him, protect him." Finally, both Truman and the patient leave the world: Truman by walking through a door and the patient by dying. Screwtape described the action in the book by saying, "He got through so easily! Sheer, instantaneous liberation."
In 2008, Popular Mechanics named The Truman Show as one of the 10 most prophetic science fiction films. Journalist Erik Sofge argued that the story reflects the falseness of reality television. "Truman simply lives, and the show's popularity is its straightforward voyeurism. And, like Big Brother, Survivor, and every other reality show on the air, none of his environment is actually real." He deemed it an eerie coincidence that Big Brother made its debut a year after the film's release, and he also compared the film to the 2003 program The Joe Schmo Show: "Unlike Truman, Matt Gould could see the cameras, but all of the other contestants were paid actors, playing the part of various reality-show stereotypes. While Matt eventually got all of the prizes in the rigged contest, the show's central running joke was in the same existential ballpark as The Truman Show." Weir declared, "There has always been this question: Is the audience getting dumber? Or are we filmmakers patronizing them? Is this what they want? Or is this what we're giving them? But the public went to my film in large numbers. And that has to be encouraging."
Ronald Bishop of Sage Journals Online thought The Truman Show showcased the power of the media. Truman's life inspires audiences around the world, meaning their lives are controlled by his. Bishop commented, "In the end, the power of the media is affirmed rather than challenged. In the spirit of Antonio Gramsci's concept of hegemony, these films and television programs co-opt our enchantment (and disenchantment) with the media and sell it back to us."
Simone Knox, in her essay "Reading The Truman Show inside out" argues that the film itself tries to blur the objective perspective and the show-within-the-film. Knox also draws a floor plan of the camera angles of the first scene.
An essay published in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis analyzed Truman as
[A] prototypical adolescent at the beginning of the movie. He feels trapped into a familial and social world to which he tries to conform while being unable to entirely identify with it, believing that he has no other choice (other than through the fantasy of fleeing to a far-way island). Eventually, Truman gains sufficient awareness of his condition to "leave home" — developing a more mature and authentic identity as a man, leaving his child-self behind and becoming a True-man.
Parallels can be drawn from Thomas More's 1516 book Utopia, in which More describes an island with only one entrance and only one exit. Only those who belonged to this island knew how to navigate their way through the treacherous openings safely and unharmed. This situation is similar to The Truman Show because there are limited entryways into the world that Truman knows. Truman does not belong to this utopia into which he has been implanted, and childhood trauma rendered him frightened of the prospect of ever leaving this small community. Utopian models of the past tended to be full of like-minded individuals who shared much in common, comparable to More's Utopia and real-life groups such as the Shakers and the Oneida Community. It is clear that the people in Truman's world are like-minded in their common effort to keep him oblivious to reality. The suburban "picket fence" appearance of the show's set is reminiscent of the "American Dream" of the 1950s. The "American Dream" concept in Truman's world serves in an attempt to keep him happy and ignorant.
The film's original theatrical release date was August 8, 1998, but Paramount Pictures considered pushing it back to around Christmas. NBC purchased broadcast rights in December 1997, roughly eight months before the film's release. In March 2000, Turner Broadcasting System purchased the rights and now often airs the film on TBS.
The film received critical acclaim. Based on 99 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, The Truman Show received an average 95% overall "Certified Fresh" approval rating; the website's consensus states, "A funny, tender, and thought-provoking film, The Truman Show is all the more noteworthy for its remarkably prescient vision of runaway celebrity culture and a nation with an insatiable thirst for the private details of ordinary lives." Metacritic gave the film an average score of 90 from the 30 reviews collected. Roger Ebert, comparing it to Forrest Gump, thought the film had a right balance of comedy and drama. He was also impressed with Jim Carrey's dramatic performance. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "The Truman Show is emotionally involving without losing the ability to raise sharp satiric questions as well as get numerous laughs. The rare film that is disturbing despite working beautifully within standard industry norms." He would name it the best movie of 1998. In June 2010, Entertainment Weekly named Truman one of the 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years.
James Berardinelli liked the film's approach of "not being the casual summer blockbuster with special effects," and he likened Carrey's "[charismatic], understated and effective" performance to those of Tom Hanks and James Stewart. Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader wrote, "Undeniably provocative and reasonably entertaining, The Truman Show is one of those high-concept movies whose concept is both clever and dumb." Tom Meek of Film Threat said the film was not funny enough but still found "something rewarding in its quirky demeanor."
At the 71st Academy Awards, The Truman Show was nominated for three categories but did not win any awards. Peter Weir received the nomination for Best Director, while Ed Harris was nominated for Best Supporting Actor and Andrew Niccol was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Many believed Carrey would be nominated for Best Actor, but he was not. In addition, The Truman Show earned nominations at the Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Weir for Best Director – Motion Picture and Niccol for (Screenplay). Jim Carrey and Ed Harris both won Golden Globes as Best Actor – Drama and Best Supporting Actor, respectively, as did Burkhard Dallwitz and Philip Glass for Best Original Score.
At the 52nd British Academy Film Awards, Weir (Direction), Niccol (Original Screenplay) and Dennis Gassner (Production Design) received awards. In addition, the film was nominated for Best Film and Best Visual Effects. Harris was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, and Peter Biziou was nominated for Best Cinematography. The Truman Show was a success at The Saturn Awards, where it won the Best Fantasy Film and the Best Writing (Niccol). Carrey (Best Actor), Harris (Best Supporting Actor) and Weir (Direction) also received nominations. Finally, the film won speculative fiction's Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.
"The Truman Show Delusion"
Joel Gold, a psychiatrist at the Bellevue Hospital Center, revealed that by 2008, he had met five patients with schizophrenia (and heard of another twelve) who believed their lives were reality television shows. Gold named the syndrome "The Truman Show Delusion" after the film and attributed the delusion to a world that had become hungry for publicity. The syndrome predominantly affects young white men.
Gold stated that some patients were rendered happy by their disease, while "others were tormented". One traveled to New York to check whether the World Trade Center had actually fallen — believing 9/11 to be an elaborate plot twist in his personal storyline. Another came to climb the Statue of Liberty, believing that he'd be reunited with his high-school girlfriend at the top and finally be released from the show.'"
In August 2008, the British Journal of Psychiatry reported similar cases in the United Kingdom. The delusion has informally been referred to as "Truman syndrome," according to an Associated Press story from 2008.
After hearing about the condition, writer of The Truman Show Andrew Niccol said: "You know you've made it when you have a disease named after you."
- List of films featuring surveillance
- EDtv, another 1998 film about the star of a 24-hour reality television show
- "They" (1941) science fiction short story by Robert Heinlein
- "A World of Difference", an episode of The Twilight Zone (1960) about a man finding himself on a movie set as an actor playing himself, written by Richard Matheson.
- The Secret Cinema, a short film (1968) by Paul Bartel with a similar premise.
- "Special Service", an episode of The Twilight Zone (1989) with a similar premise, written by J. Michael Straczynski.
- Bolt, a 2008 film with a similar premise.
- Synecdoche, New York (2008)
- Simulated reality
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- The Truman Show at the Internet Movie Database
- The Truman Show at AllRovi
- The Truman Show at Box Office Mojo
- The Truman Show at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Truman Show at Metacritic
- The Truman Show screenplay
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- Goldman, Peter (2004-09-13). "Consumer Society and its Discontents: The Truman Show and The Day of the Locust". Westminster College.
- Hertenstein, Mike (2000-07-13). "The Truth May Be "Out There": The Question Is Can We Get There From Here?". Imaginarium Online.