15 Truths About The Truman Show

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.

In May of 1991, screenwriter Andrew Niccol presented a drama titled The Malcolm Show to his then-manager, which he envisioned as a paranoid drama set in Manhattan, with Gary Oldman in the title role.

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.

It fit the vintage, Rockwellian aesthetic the filmmakers were seeking. All of those building in Seaside are asked to include a front porch and white picket fence.

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.

Seven of Glass’ compositions are part of the movie’s soundtrack. Glass himself plays the piano in a scene where Truman is asleep on screen.

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.

10 Things You Might Not Know About Robert De Niro

RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images
RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images

Robert De Niro is part of the pantheon of independent-minded filmmakers who cut through Hollywood noise in the 1970s with edgier fare to create what became known as “The New Hollywood.” Following stints with Brian De Palma and Roger Corman, De Niro teamed up with Martin Scorsese for the first time with 1973's Mean Streets, which launched a fruitful artistic collaboration that has produced some of the best movies of the past half-century.

Even after his shift into commercial comedies like Meet the Parents, “dedication” has remained De Niro’s watchword. The two-time Oscar winner has earned Hollywood legend status with panache and bone-deep portrayals. Here are 10 facts about the filmmaker on his 75th birthday. (Yes, we’re talkin’ to you.)

1. HIS FIRST ROLE WAS IN A STAGING OF THE WIZARD OF OZ—AT AGE 10.

Robert De Niro got bit by the acting bug early. He threatened to thrash a hippopotamus from top to bottom-us as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz at the tender age of 10. (This is the remake and casting the world needs right now.)

2. HE DROPPED OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL TO PURSUE ACTING.

Robert De Niro arrives at the UK premiere of epic war drama film 'The Deer Hunter', UK, 28th February 1979
John Minihan, Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

De Niro’s mother, Virginia Admiral, was a painter whose work was part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and his father, Robert De Niro, Sr., was a celebrated abstract expressionist painter. So the apple falling into drama school instead of the art studio still isn’t that far from the tree. Having already gotten a youthful dose of stage life, De Niro quit his private high school to try to become an actor. He first went to the nonprofit HB Studio before studying under Stella Adler and, later, The Actors Studio.

3. HE’S A DUAL CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES AND ITALY.

De Niro is American, Italian-American, and, as of 2004, Italian. The country bestowed honorary citizenship upon De Niro as an honor in recognition of his career, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing to the passport office. A group called the Order of the Sons of Italy in America strongly protested the Italian government’s plan due to De Niro’s frequent portrayal of negative Italian-American stereotypes.

4. HE GAINED 60 POUNDS FOR RAGING BULL.

Preparing to play the misfortune-laden boxing champ Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull required two major things from De Niro: training and gaining. For the latter, De Niro ate his way through Europe during a four-month binge of ice cream and pasta. His 60-pound-gain was dramatic enough that it concerned Martin Scorsese. It was one way to show dedication to a role, but the training element was even more impressive. De Niro got so good at boxing that when LaMotta set up several professional-level sparring bouts for the actor, De Niro won two of them.

5. HE AND MARLON BRANDO ARE THE ONLY ACTORS TO WIN OSCARS FOR PLAYING THE SAME CHARACTER.

De Niro won his first Oscar in 1975 for The Godfather: Part II, for portraying the younger version of Vito Corleone—the wizened capo played by Marlon Brando, who also won an Oscar for the role (Brando’s came in 1973, for The Godfather). No other pair of actors has managed the feat, although Jeff Bridges came close in 2010 when he was nominated for playing Rooster Cogburn in Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit (a role originated by John Wayne in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 movie of the same name). Oddly enough, Bridges was in contention for the role of Travis Bickle, the role that earned De Niro his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

6. HE DROVE A CAB TO PREPARE FOR TAXI DRIVER.

If you’re looking for commitment to a role, ask Hack #265216. De Niro got a taxicab driver’s license to study up to play Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and spent several weekends cruising around New York City picking up fares. It’s possible that having his teeth filed down for Cape Fear is the most intense transformation he’s undergone for a role, but picking up a part-time job to live the lonely life of Bickle is more humane.

7. ONE OF HIS FILMS POSTPONED ONE OF HIS OSCAR WINS.

The 53rd Academy Awards—where De Niro won for playing Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull—were originally scheduled for March 30, 1981 but were postponed until the following day because of an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr., claimed the attack was intended to impress Jodie Foster, who Hinckley grew obsessed with after watching Taxi Driver.

8. HE LAUNCHED THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL IN THE WAKE OF 9/11.

Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal speak onstage at the 'Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives' Premiere during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City
Theo Wargo, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Producer Jane Rosenthal, philanthropist Craig M. Hatkoff, and De Niro founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2001 as a showcase for independent films that would hopefully “spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan” after the devastation of the 9/11 terror attacks. With its empire state of mind, the inaugural festival in 2002 featured a “Best of New York Series” handpicked by Martin Scorsese and drew an astonishing 150,000 attendees.

9. HE WAS ONCE INTERROGATED BY FRENCH POLICE CONCERNING A PROSTITUTION RING.

One of the most bizarre chapters in De Niro’s life came when he was publicly named in the investigation of a prostitution ring in Paris. The 1998 incident included a lengthy interrogation session (De Niro filed an official complaint) and a pile of paparazzi waiting for him when he left the prosecutor’s office. De Niro railed against the entire country, vowing to return his Legion of Honour and telling Le Monde newspaper that, "I will never return to France. I will advise my friends against going to France.” (He had cooled off enough by 2011 to act as the Cannes Film Festival’s jury president.)

10. HE LOVED THE CAT(S) IN MEET THE PARENTS.

Meet the Parents’s Mr. Jinx (Jinxy!) was played by two Himalayans named Bailey and Misha, and De Niro fell in love with them. He played with them between scenes, kept kibble in his pocket for them, and asked director Jay Roach to have Mr. Jinx in as many scenes as possible.

National Portrait Gallery Celebrates Aretha Franklin With Week-Long Exhibition

Courtesy of Angela Pham BFA
Courtesy of Angela Pham BFA

With the passing of Aretha Franklin on August 16, 2018, the world has lost one of its most distinctive voices—and personalities. As celebrities and fans share their memories of the Queen of Soul and what her music meant to them, the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery will pay tribute to the legendary songstress's life with a week-long exhibition of her portrait.

Throughout her career, Franklin earned some of the music industry's highest accolades, including 18 Grammy Awards. In 1987, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Nearly 30 years later, in 2015, the National Portrait Gallery fêted Franklin with the Portrait of a Nation Prize, which recognizes "the accomplishments of notable contemporary Americans whose portraits reside in the National Portrait Gallery collection." (Madeline Albright, Spike Lee, and Rita Moreno are among some of its recent recipients.)

Milton Glaser's lithograph of Aretha Franklin, which is displayed at The National Portrait Gallery
© Milton Glaser

Franklin's portrait was the creation of noted graphic designer Milton Glaser, who employed "his characteristic kaleidoscope palette and innovative geometric forms to convey the creative energy of Franklin's performances," according to the Gallery. The colorful lithographic was created in 1968, the very same year that the National Portrait Gallery opened.

Glaser's image will be installed in the "In Memoriam" section of the museum, which is located on the first floor, on Friday, August 17 and will remain on display to the public through August 22, 2018. The Gallery is open daily from 11:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. and admission is free.

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