Jim Carrey's best comedy started out as a big budget horror
His version of the movie arrived in cinemas 25 years ago this week.
1994: The Mask, Dumb & Dumber, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. 1995: Batman Forever, Ace Venture: When Nature Calls. 1996: The Cable Guy. 1997: Liar Liar.
For the mid-90s, Jim Carrey was quite literally the biggest star in the world. Right after this run, he would release what many believe to be the best movie of his career, but production on it was delayed for two years, as Paramount Pictures were willing to wait for him to finish up his commitments with The Cable Guy and Liar Liar before starting filming on The Truman Show.
But in its original form, The Truman Show was not a movie that mid-90s Jim Carrey would've signed up to be a part of. While the end product that we got is a modern masterpiece that delivers as much drama as it does comedy, which is a big genre detour from Carrey's usual output, it is even further away from what the project actually began life as....
Created by screenwriter Andrew Niccol, who was hot off writing and directing 1997 sci-fi thriller Gattaca, the story was originally delivered as The Malcolm Show. It was set entirely in New York City - a far cry from Florida, where the final movie is set - and it was a dark sci-fi thriller.
Niccol was originally lining himself up to direct the movie as well, but with a proposed $80 million budget, Paramount wanted an A-list director to take the project on. Brian De Palma (Scarface, Mission: Impossible) almost took it on, until he parted ways with his talent agency. Tim Burton, Sam Raimi, Terry Gilliam, Bryan Singer, David Cronenberg, Barry Sonnenfeld and Steven Spielberg were reportedly all in consideration, until Niccol himself brought it to the attention of Peter Weir (Witness, Master & Commander).
It was Weir who then suggested to Niccol that the film be changed to a comedy-drama, believing that a lighter tone of "show" within the movie would be more believable for audiences to want to watch. Weir stated that "where [Niccol] had it depressing, I could make it light. It could convince audiences they could watch a show in this scope 24/7", and fifteen drafts of the script later, the final screenplay was ready to be filmed.
The concept of the movie - a man unaware that his every waking moment is being filmed and broadcast worldwide - has resulted in it being named one of the most prophetic movies ever made, as it predates the original airing dates for Big Brother, which kicked off in 1999.
The Truman Show landed in cinemas on 5 June 1998, and off the back of a $60 million production budget (yep, Weir brought it in $20 million under budget!), it banked over $264 million worldwide at the box office. It also racked up 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, and was nominated for three Academy Awards, although not for Best Picture. This was the year that Shakespeare In Love won the top prize, so there was no accounting for taste at that particular ceremony.
In the years since, psychologists around the world have noted cases of The Truman Show Delusion, in which people believed their lives were all part of an elaborate reality programme. When Niccol was informed of the syndrome, he replied: "You know you've made it when you have a disease named after you."
The Truman Show is available to watch on Sky Cinema or with a NOW Entertainment Pass right now.
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