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  • Writer's pictureAbby Brenker

The History of "The Truman Show"

In June of 1998, Peter Weir’s “The Truman Show” was released. While not technically a horror film, I think most of us would agree that the premise is indeed horrifying. For anyone not familiar, The Truman Show tells the story of Truman, played by Jim Carrey, who was officially adopted by a television studio after an unwanted pregnancy. Truman is the subject of an always on reality program that streams every second of his life to viewers. In the world of the film, the television station uses 5,000 cameras to cover every element of Truman’s life and present a relatable and honest program for viewers. Truman lives in a giant bubble dome where everything inside is a set that centers around him. Truman finds out that he is living in a reality show that’s being streamed around the clock and across the globe, and that every person in his life was an actor. 

A man looks through a keyhole

The first iteration of the script was called “The Malcolm Show,” set in Manhattan with a much darker tone and intended to star Gary Oldman. Though Weir pushed writer Andrew Niccol to change the script over sixteen drafts, until it landed with a lighter hearted tone. 

The film stars Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, and Ed Harris. Though it’s interesting to note that Jim Carrey and Ed Harris never met on set. Jim Carrey had finished his scenes before Ed Harris was brought on to play Christof. This is partially due to the fact that Christof was originally played by Dennis Hopper, who left 2 months into production due to creative differences. Harris went on to win a Golden Globe for supporting actor and an Oscar Nomination. 

“The Truman Show” was nominated for three Oscars. Also including best director and best screenplay. But it took director Peter Weir and Carry a bit to find their groove. Carry took a massive pay cut for the role, typically he was paid $20M and he took $12M. This is often attributed to the script and Carrey wanting to prove himself with a dramatic role. 

A man stands on top of sky colored stairs

Weir was actually initially considering Robin Williams but wanted Carrey after seeing Ace Ventura Pet Detective. Carry had re-write rights on the script and improved a bit, including when Truman is in the mirror talking about the planet Trumania in the Burbank Galaxy. 

The production had a budget of $60 Million dollars and brought in over $264 Million. The Truman Show is also credited with predicting the reality show boom that followed two years after its release, with the first episode of Survivor. Though there were reality shows that pre-dated Survivor (The Real World, Road Rules, Candid Camera). 

A man is rained on

"The Truman Show" stands as a thought-provoking exploration of reality, identity, and the pervasive influence of media in society. Despite its initial conception as a darker narrative, the film evolved into a lighter-hearted yet deeply unsettling portrayal of a man's life being manipulated for entertainment. Led by Peter Weir's direction and Jim Carrey's performance, the movie lives on as an audience favorite.

Truman Show Delusion is the description of a condition that impacted many individuals in the early 2000s. The term was coined by Psychologist Joel Gold, who saw hundreds of patients who claimed that they were the stars of reality shows. Learn more in episode 132 of the Lunatics Radio Hour podcast

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