It’s hard to believe THE TRUMAN SHOW, which inspired this year’s Cannes Film Festival poster, opened 24 years ago as an early summer release.
Paramount launched TRUMAN on June 5, 1998, but it’s unlikely a studio would give such an unusual film a prime summer date today. TRUMAN was to have opened on Aug. 8, 1997, which would have been okay late summer timing for a unique comedy-drama with awards potential. Then it was pushed back to Nov. 14, a good slot for an awards contender. Finally, it was bumped to the following summer, allowing it more post-production time — but also ensuring TRUMAN didn’t compete in 1998’s Oscar race against Paramount’s mega-contender TITANIC. Of course, TITANIC, won 11 Oscars, including picture & directing.
TRUMAN didn’t resonate well with Academy voters next year. Director Peter Weir was Oscar-nominated but was the only directing nominee without a best-picture nod. Weir was well regarded for 1985’s WITNESS with Harrison Ford & 1989’s DEAD POETS SOCIETY with Robin Williams, but some bolder-faced names were considered before he was signed — including Tim Burton, Brian De Palma & Steven Spielberg. Weir was hired in early 1995 after a strong recommendation from writer & co-producer Andrew Niccol, whose screenwriting deal had provided for him to direct. Paramount, however, decided TRUMAN’s estimated $80M budget absolutely required an A-List director — and paid Niccol to agree.
TRUMAN star Jim Carrey was Weir’s first choice for the role. He cast him after seeing ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE (1994), saying Carrey reminded him of Chaplin. But Carrey’s role in TRUMAN was a far cry from what fans of his hit comedies like LIAR, LIAR (1997) & ACE VENTURA: WHEN NATURE CALLS (1995) expected to see him in.
His character, Truman Burbank, had lived for some 30 years without knowing his entire life since his corporate adoption at birth, following an unwanted pregnancy, was actually a carefully staged reality TV show in a world that was really just an elaborate set. Carrey agreed to take a $12M payday instead of his usual $20M, helping Weir bring TRUMAN in for a much lower $60M.
TRUMAN opened to a then terrific $31.5M and wound up doing $125.6M domestic & $264.1M worldwide. Critics loved it, scoring 95% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. And when Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert reviewed TRUMAN on their syndicated show, they gave it two thumbs up. Better yet, they also apologized to Jim Carrey for predicting, after they saw ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE, that he had no future making movies.
“Good morning… Oh, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.” – Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank