The Truman Show – About

The Truman Show

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The Truman Show
Film poster. On the side of the building is a large screen, showing a man laying his head on a pillow, eyes closed and smiling. Digital text above and below the screen state

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Peter Weir
Produced by
Written by Andrew Niccol
Music by Burkhard Dallwitz
Cinematography Peter Biziou
Edited by
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • June 1, 1998 (Los Angeles)
  • June 5, 1998 (United States)
Running time
103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $60 million
Box office $264.1 million

The Truman Show is a 1998 American satirical science fiction film directed by Peter Weir, produced by Scott RudinAndrew NiccolEdward S. Feldman, and Adam Schroeder, and written by Niccol. The film stars Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank, adopted and raised by a corporation inside a simulated television show revolving around his life, until he discovers it and decides to escape. Additional roles are performed by Laura LinneyNoah EmmerichNatascha McElhoneHolland TaylorEd Harris, and Brian Delate.

The Truman Show was originally a spec script by Niccol, inspired by an episode of The Twilight Zone called “Special Service“. Unlike the finished product, it was more of a science-fiction thriller, with the story set in New York CityScott Rudin purchased the script, and set up production at Paramount PicturesBrian De Palma was to direct before Weir signed as director, making the film for $60 million—$20 million less than the original estimate. Niccol rewrote the script while the crew was waiting for Carrey to sign. The majority of filming took place at Seaside, Florida, a master-planned community located in the Florida Panhandle.

The film was a financial success, debuting to critical acclaim, and earned numerous nominations at the 71st Academy Awards56th Golden Globe Awards52nd British Academy Film Awards and The Saturn AwardsThe Truman Show has been analyzed as a thesis on Christianitymetaphilosophysimulated realityexistentialism, and reality television.


Truman Burbank is the unsuspecting star of The Truman Show, a reality television program broadcast live around the clock worldwide. He has spent his entire life in the seaside town of Seahaven Island, which in reality is an enormous set near Hollywood, equipped with state of the art technology to simulate day/night, weather conditions, and five thousand cameras are watching him. The producers discouraged Truman from leaving Seahaven by instilling him with aquaphobia through the “death” of his TV father in a boating “accident”, and by constantly broadcasting and printing messages of the dangers of traveling. All of Seahaven’s other residents are actors. Christof, the show’s creator and executive producer, seeks to capture Truman’s real emotion and human behaviour and give audiences a relatable everyman.

Despite Christof’s control, he could not predict all of Truman’s actions. During his college years, Truman was intended to fall in love with and marry co-student Meryl, but fell for Sylvia, an extra. Sylvia warned him that his reality is fake before having to move to Fiji with her father. While Truman went on to marry Meryl, he continues to think about Sylvia. He uses scraps from magazines to recreate her face in secret, and seeks travel to Fiji. Outside of the show, Sylvia has become part of a “Free Truman” campaign that demands the end of the show and Truman’s freedom.

As the show goes on, Truman starts noticing unusual events: a spotlight falling out of the sky, a radio frequency that precisely describes his movements and rain that falls only on him. Truman spots a disheveled man and recognizes him as his father, who had snuck back onto the set, but other actors quickly drag the man away. Despite efforts by Meryl and Truman’s best friend Marlon to reassure him, Truman becomes even more suspicious about his life. One day, he takes Meryl by surprise by going on an impromptu road trip, but their way is blocked by increasingly implausible emergencies. Meryl begins to break down from the stress; during an argument with Truman, she breaks character and is taken off the show. Hoping to bring Truman back to a controllable state, Christof re-introduces Truman’s father to the show properly, under the guise of having lost his memory after the boating accident. This helps the show regain the ratings lead with audiences and Truman seems to return to his routines.

One evening the production staff discovers that the sleeping Truman is completely out of their sight. Marlon is sent to check on Truman, finding that he has left a dummy and a tape recorder playing snoring sounds in his place and disappeared through a makeshift tunnel. Marlon breaks character, and Christof orders the first transmission cut in the show’s history while a citywide search for Truman is launched. Audiences around the world are drawn to this sudden change. Truman is found sailing out of Seahaven, having conquered his fear of water, and Christof resumes the broadcast as he sends a man-made lightning storm to try to capsize the boat, after an attempt to fetch Truman fails. Network executives fear that Truman may die on live television, but Truman manages to persist. Realizing he cannot dissuade Truman any further, Christof ends the storm.

Truman continues to sail until, to his despair, his boat strikes the wall of the dome. He finds an exit door, but Christof, speaking directly to Truman through a speaker system, tries to convince him to stay, stating there is “no more truth” in the real world and that by staying in his artificial world, he would have nothing to fear. Truman considers this, then states: “In case I don’t see you… good afternoon, good evening, and good night,” (previously his catch-phrase), takes a bow, and exits. The viewers cheer Truman on, while Sylvia races to greet him. Christof’s supervisors end the program for the last time and the viewers see what else is on television.


  • Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank: Chosen out of six unwanted pregnancies and the first child to be legally adopted by a corporation, Truman is unaware that his daily life is broadcast continuously around the world. He has a job in the insurance business and a 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 was then 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 improvizational 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 acting as Meryl Burbank, Truman’s wife, 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 to act the part of Truman’s wife and ultimately to have a child by him, despite her reluctance to accomplish either. 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, 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. Hopper later stated he was fired after two days because Weir and producer Scott Rudin had made a deal that if they didn’t both approve of Hopper’s performance, they would replace him. A number of other actors had turned down the role after Hopper’s departure. Harris considered making Christof a hunchback, but Weir did not like the idea.
  • Noah Emmerich as Louis Coltrane playing Marlon, 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.” Very little of this is shown in the finished film, but several deleted scenes depict Louis actively expressing guilt over Truman’s situation, and in one sequence he spots Truman during his escape and purposely says nothing. 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 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 then becomes a protester against The Truman Show, urging Christof to release its lead.
  • Holland Taylor as Alanis Montclair playing Angela Burbank, Truman’s mother: Christof orders that she attempt to persuade Truman to have children.
  • 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.
  • Paul Giamatti as Simeon (control room director). Though second-in-command at the lunar room, he is conflicted when ordered to attempt to kill Truman via storm.
  • 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.


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 who were considered after De Palma’s departure included Tim BurtonTerry GilliamBarry Sonnenfeld and Steven Spielberg before Peter Weir signed on in early 1995, following a recommendation of Niccol. Bryan Singer wanted to direct but Paramount decided to go with the more experienced Weir.

Weir wanted the film to be funnier, 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 dissatisfied 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 immediately 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.

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.



Religious analogy

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 Rich Wagner, Christof is compared with Screwtape, the eponymous character of The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis.


“This was a dangerous film to make because it couldn’t happen. How ironic.”

Director Peter Weir on The Truman Show predicting the rise of reality television

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 BrotherSurvivor, 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’s paper in the Journal of Communication Enquiry suggests 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.

Psychoanalytic interpretation

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 an adult, leaving his child-self behind and becoming a True-man.

Similarity to Utopia

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 as an attempt to keep him happy and ignorant.


Originally set for August 8, 1997, the film’s theatrical release was pushed back initially to November 14, 1997, but eventually was released in the summer of 1998. 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.

Critical response

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 94% approval rating based on 126 reviews, with an average rating of 8.45/10. The website’s critics consensus reads, “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, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 90 out of 100 based on 30 critics, indicating “universal acclaim”. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “B” on an A+ to F scale.

Giving the film a perfect four star score, Roger Ebert compared it to Forrest Gump, claiming that 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 awards but did not win in any category. 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, as well as the film itself for Best Picture, but neither was. 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.

Award Category Subject Result
71st Academy Awards Best Director Peter Weir Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Andrew Niccol Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Ed Harris Nominated
ASCAP Film and Television Awards Top Box Office Film Burkhard Dallwitz Won
Top Box Office Films Philip Glass Won
American Comedy Awards Funniest Actor Jim Carrey Nominated
Australasian Performing Right Association Best Film Score Burkhard Dallwitz Nominated
Australian Film Institute Best Foreign Film Peter Weir Nominated
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Best Supporting Actor – Drama Ed Harris Won
Best Actor – Drama Jim Carrey Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Drama Laura Linney Nominated
Bogey Awards Bogey Award Won
52nd British Academy Film Awards Best Film Nominated
David Lean Award for Direction Peter Weir Won
Best Original Screenplay Andrew Niccol Won
Best Supporting Actor Ed Harris Nominated
Best Production Design Dennis Gassner Won
Best Cinematography Peter Biziou Nominated
Best Special Effects Nominated
British Society of Cinematographers Best Cinematography Peter Biziou Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Best Film Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Best Score Burkhard Dallwitz Won
Best Actor Jim Carrey Nominated
Best Director Peter Weir Nominated
Best Picture Nominated
Best Screenplay Andrew Niccol Nominated
Costume Designers Guild Excellence in Costume Design Marilyn Matthews Nominated
Directors Guild of America Best Director in Motion Picture Peter Weir Nominated
Empire Awards Best Film Nominated
European Film Awards Screen International Award Peter Weir Won
Film Critics Circle of Australia Best Foreign Film Won
Florida Film Critics Circle Awards 1998 Best Director Peter Weir Won
Fotogramas de Plata Best Foreign Film Won
56th Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Director Peter Weir Nominated
Best Screenplay Andrew Niccol Nominated
Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Jim Carrey Won
Best Supporting Actor Ed Harris Won
Best Original Score Philip Glass and Burkhard Dallwitz Won
3rd Golden Satellite Awards Best Art Direction Dennis Gassner Won
Hugo Award Best Presentation Peter Weir Won
International Monitor Awards Theatrical Release Won
Nastro d’Argento Best Male Dubbing Roberto Pedicini (Jim Carrey) Won
Best Foreign Director Peter Weir Nominated
1999 Kids’ Choice Awards Best Movie Actor Jim Carrey Nominated
London Critics Circle Film Awards Director of the Year Peter Weir Won
Screenwriter of the Year Andrew Niccol Won
Film of the Year Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards 1998 Best Production Design Dennis Gassner Nominated
1999 MTV Movie Awards Best Male Performance Jim Carrey Won
Best Movie Nominated
Motion Picture Sound Editors Best Sound Editing Nominated
Movieguide Awards Grace Award Jim Carrey Won
National Board of Review Awards 1998 Best Supporting Actor Ed Harris Won
Online Film Critics Society Awards 1998 Best Screenplay Andrew Niccol Won
Best Director Peter Weir Nominated
Best Film Nominated
Best Editing Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Ed Harris Nominated
Robert Festival Best American Film Won
25th Saturn Awards Best Fantasy Film Won
Best Director Peter Weir Nominated
Best Writing Andrew Niccol Won
Best Actor Jim Carrey Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Ed Harris Nominated
Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards 1998 Best Supporting Actor Won
Best Director Peter Weir Nominated
Valladolid International Film Festival Golden Spike Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards 1998 Best Original Screenplay Andrew Niccol Nominated
20th Youth in Film Awards Best Family Feature Nominated

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

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. 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 the 9/11 attacks to be an elaborate plot twist in his personal storyline. Another came to climb the Statue of Liberty, believing that he would 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, Andrew Niccol, writer of The Truman Show, said, “You know you’ve made it when you have a disease named after you.”

See also


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  5. ^ Steinberg, Don (September 23, 2011). “Films Inspired by Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone” – Snapshot”The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 14, 2012.
  6. Jump up to:a b c d e f g h Svetkey, Benjamin (June 5, 1998). “The Truman Pro”Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 16, 2008.
  7. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (May 21, 1998). “Director Tries a Fantasy As He Questions Reality”The New York Times. Retrieved April 1,2008.
  8. Jump up to:a b Busch, Anita M. (April 7, 1997). “New Truman villain: Harris”Variety. Retrieved March 27, 2017.
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  17. ^ Bernard Weinraub (July 9, 2000). “An Unusual Choice for the Role of Studio Superhero”. The New York Times.
  18. Jump up to:a b c Rudolph, Eric (June 1998). “This is Your Life”. American Cinematographer. Retrieved April 1, 2008.
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  23. ^ Wagner, Richard (2005). “C.S. Lewis and Narnia for Dummies”: 179.
  24. ^ Bishop, R. (2000). “Good Afternoon, Good Evening, and Good Night: The Truman Show as Media Criticism”. Journal of Communication Inquiry24 (1): 6–18. doi:10.1177/0196859900024001002.
  25. ^ Knox, Simone (2010). “Reading ‘The Truman Show’ inside out”Film Criticism35 (1).
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