Released on June 5, 1998, Peter Weir's The Truman Show is often credited with predicting the reality television phenomenon that would begin in earnest two years later with Survivor. It's also notable in that it gave already-famous movie star Jim Carrey credibility as a dramatic actor, and even earned him a Golden Globe. Here are 15 things you might not know about the Oscar-nominated film.
1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY TITLED THE MALCOLM SHOW AND WAS MUCH DARKER IN TONE.
2. THE PLOT IS SIMILAR TO A MOVIE AND TWO EPISODES OF THE TWILIGHT ZONE.
Critics compared The Truman Show to Paul Bartel’s 1968 short film The Secret Cinema, which starred Amy Vane as a secretary who doesn’t know that her life is being filmed and shown to her duplicitous friends and family in private screenings. The Secret Cinema was played before showings of Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run in 1969 and remade into a 1986 episode of Amazing Stories. Niccol said he had never heard of the film or the episode in question when he wrote The Truman Show. Niccol’s screenplay was also compared to two episodes of The Twilight Zone: “A World of Difference” and “Special Service.”
3. JIM CARREY TOOK A PAY CUT TO PLAY TRUMAN BURBANK.
Instead of his then-standard $20 million paycheck, Carrey accepted $12 million for his dramatic acting services.
4. NORMAN ROCKWELL AND THE 1940s WERE BIG INSPIRATIONS.
Laura Linney looked at 1940s Sears & Roebuck catalogs as preparation for her role as Meryl, Truman’s wife. Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers were studied by director Peter Weir before shooting to get the right look. In the shooting script, seven-year-old Truman’s school mistress is described as a “kindly Norman Rockwell-style” teacher.
5. LINNEY HAD ANOTHER INSPIRATION FOR HER PART.
Linney took some inspiration from her own mother for the film, not to play actress Hannah Hart, but to play actress Hannah Hart playing Meryl Burbank, Truman’s wife and a nurse at the Seahaven hospital. Linney’s mother was a cancer nurse at Memorial Sloan-Kettering.
6. MOST OF THE FILM WAS SHOT IN THE PLANNED COMMUNITY OF SEASIDE, FLORIDA.
7. PRODUCTION WAITED ONE YEAR FOR CARREY TO FINISH WORKING ON LIAR LIAR.
During that time, Weir and Niccol worked on 14 drafts of the script. Weir also wrote a 10-page backstory that went into the history of the television show The Truman Show within the movie. According to the backstory , Christof was 29 years old when he convinced the Omnicam Corporation to give him the go-ahead to produce a show called Bringing Up Baby, starring an infant whose first year in the world would be fully documented.
8. A DOCUMENTARY WAS PRODUCED WITH THE SEAHAVEN ACTORS ABOUT THE TV SHOW.
Weir found that he had so much good material asking the actors to come up with answers to his questions as their onscreen personas that he put together a documentary unit to capture everything. Some parts made it to the movie, and the rest were turned into a half-hour documentary about the show that ran on Nick at Nite, presented as an episode of Tru Talk, hosted by Harry Shearer’s Mike Michaelson character.
9. ED HARRIS WAS A LAST-MINUTE REPLACEMENT FOR DENNIS HOPPER.
Hopper was supposed to play Christof, but he was either fired or left due to “creative differences” two months into filming (different versions of the story abound). Harris met Weir on set on a Thursday, worked on another project in New York for four days, then started work as Christof on a Tuesday. He would end up winning the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and scoring one of the film's three Oscar nods.
10. HARRIS AND CARREY NEVER MET DURING FILMING.
Carrey finished filming before Harris was brought in.
11. PHILIP GLASS MAKES A CAMEO.
12. THEATER AUDIENCES WERE ALMOST PART OF THE MOVIE.
Weir had planned for projectionists to stop the film at one point during all screenings, cut to video shot by cameras installed in every theater, then cut back to the movie. To make things even more meta, the Oscar-nominated director flirted with the idea of playing Truman’s director, Christof, himself.
13. RON AND DON WERE HIRED TO DIRECT TRAFFIC ON SET.
Police Lieutenants Ron and Don Taylor were Seaside, Florida cops who Weir noticed had great relationships with the crew, so he hired them as actors.
14. THERE IS A PSYCHIATRIC CONDITION CALLED "THE TRUMAN SHOW DELUSION."
In 2008, a psychiatrist shared that he had met five schizophrenic patients and heard of another dozen who believed their lives were reality television shows. One patient climbed the Statue of Liberty believing that his high school girlfriend would be at the top, which was the key to him being able to leave the show.
15. AN ACTUAL TV SHOW MAY BE ON ITS WAY.
On April 10, 2014, it was reported that a television series based on The Truman Show was being developed at Paramount. No further updates have been announced.