Andrew Niccol’s Truman Show 20 Years On
Jim Carrey, Peter Weir, New Zealand-born screenwriter Andrew Niccol, Laura Linney, and Sherry Lansing thought their paranoid dramedy The Truman Show seemed absurd – until life began to imitate art.
In the 1990s, as Canadian A-list actor Carrey was dodging photographers and contemplating his strange new life, London-based Niccol was grappling with a concept that had been nagging at him since childhood: that everything around him was nothing more than a charade.
The concept of “round-the-clock recording and the counterfeit world” came first, before Niccol figured out that a TV show could serve as a framework to rationalise those elements. “At the time of writing [The Truman Show], there was no reality television,” Niccol pointed out. “The Real World started just after I finished the script.”
Two decades ago, The Truman Show seemed preposterous. “We would laugh about how unrealistic some of it seemed,” said co-star Linney, remembering conversations the cast and crew would have on the film’s Seaside, Florida set. “We couldn’t quite believe that someone would want to tape themselves, so that people could tune in and watch what was considered at the time to be mundane, and see that as entertainment.”
“I have a very hazy crystal ball,” Niccol joked. “I certainly didn’t foresee the onslaught of so-called reality television. I doubt the film had much to do with it. If it did, I apologise.”
“Andrew is the king of paranoia,” said Lynn Pleshette, Niccol’s former literary agent, who took the screenwriter around town to pitch the project. “We once had a meeting at MGM. The valet took our car, and Andrew said, ‘Well, he’s wearing the valet uniform. But we don’t know if he’ll bring the car back, do we?’”
Now, of course, the tables have turned a bit. The film wouldn’t work if it were set in 2018: “I think it’s ironic that Truman was running from cameras, and our society is running toward them. No need to secretly broadcast a life when we broadcast it ourselves,” Niccol said.
Niccol was born in 1964.
Original article by Julie Miller, Vanity Fair, June 5, 2018.
Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon.