2023 is the 25th anniversary of the release of The Truman Show movie.
If you haven’t seen the movie, starring Jim Carrey, close this book now and go watch it. And it doesn’t matter whether you watch the original 1998 version, the Special Edition version, or the 25th Anniversary version. Just watch whatever you can find.
Once you’ve seen the movie, this book is going to try to convince you that the movie is the closest thing to “The Truth” ― the most accurate explanation of how our world actually works ― that has even been written, produced, or offered to humanity in any form by any one at any time. In fact, the most recent research in physics is proving that Andrew Niccol, who wrote the screenplay for The Truman Show, may be one of the greatest prophets of our era ― although he apparently is unaware of it.
Here’s part of a 2023 ScreenRant interview with Andrew Niccol 25 years after he wrote the screenplay….
Andrew Niccol: When I first conceived of the film, there wasn’t any so-called reality television. (The first episode of The Real World aired when we were in post-production.) I say “so-called” because I’ve always thought Truman is the only genuine reality star because when you know there’s a camera, there is no reality. What I guess I’m a bit surprised about is that we would become our own Trumans, turning the camera on ourselves and cataloging every aspect of our own lives willingly.
SR: I know Peter Weir coming on to direct and Jim Carrey starring in it really influenced the final product, but you were along for the ride the whole time. What were your favorite memories of collaborating with them and moments you felt really became movie magic?
Andrew Niccol: I’ve always thought the premise was bullet-proof and even though the original script is set in an alternate version of New York City (if you can fake it there, you can fake it anywhere), I was happy to embrace Peter’s more idyllic, small-town take on a counterfeit world. As for a memory, I tend to hold onto one image in every film I do… a moment that somehow sustains me through a shoot. On The Truman Show, it was Truman touching the sky. (If you can’t trust the veracity of the sky, the moon and the stars, then surely nothing is real.) The moment meant so much to me, I worried that it wouldn’t live up to my imagining of it. It exceeded it. Jim played it with simplicity and purity and, dare I say, truth that gave me chills. I don’t think Peter did many takes. No need.
SR: Would you ever consider a sequel, chronological or spiritual, or a remake in the present day? Is that something you would want to see anyone attempt, or do you want it to stand on its own?
Andrew Niccol: There has been talk of doing a musical — believe it or not — or a series. When it’s a different art form, I don’t think it takes anything away from the original. In my version of a series, I thought it would be fun, if after Truman walked through the sky, the audience clamored for more (which you sense at the end of the film). I imagine there would be a network with multiple channels all starring a subject born on the show. If I set it in New York City, there would be girl living on the Upper East Side, a boy from Harlem, a kid from Chinatown, etc. Since they are all on their own channel and move in their own circles, they are never meant to meet. But at the end of the first season, the boy from Harlem and the rich girl find themselves drawn to each other. They both sense that the other is acting differently from anyone they’ve ever met… because for the first time, they’ve met someone who is not acting! (In the second season, the Network would desperately try to kill off their romance.)
SR: I know there have been some wild theories about what The Truman Show is “really about,” but what has been your favorite fan response or theory in the last 25 years?
Andrew Niccol: Well, there’s one sad and somewhat alarming response that people started believing that they actually were the star of their own reality show. It’s an actual psychological condition called a Truman Show Delusion or Truman Syndrome. The most bizarre fan letter I received was from someone who was convinced that the film was a pro-life metaphor. Truman represented a fetus; the domed soundstage was a womb and he was sailing to freedom across a uterine sea. (I kid you not.)
There are some key sentences in that interview I’d like to spend a little more time on…
“I say ‘so-called’ [reality television] because I’ve always thought Truman is the only genuine reality star because when you know there’s a camera, there is no reality.” So, take that, Kardashians!
“But at the end of the first season, the boy from Harlem and the rich girl find themselves drawn to each other. They both sense that the other is acting differently from anyone they’ve ever met… because for the first time, they’ve met someone who is not acting!” As we continue in this book, we’re going to see just how prophetic Niccol is with this statement!
“Well, there’s one sad and somewhat alarming response that people started believing that they actually were the star of their own reality show. It’s an actual psychological condition called a Truman Show Delusion or Truman Syndrome.”
It’s true. There are unofficial DSM diagnoses like a “Truman Show Delusion” or a “Truman Syndrome” which are defined as “a type of delusion in which the person believes that their life is a staged reality show, or that they are being watched on cameras.” (Wikipedia)
And just to be clear, that’s NOT what this book is suggesting ― although, as a 2013 article in Popular Science magazine pointed out, “In a world where the government really does have the capability to broadly and furtively spy on its citizens, it’s suddenly delusional to not think Big Brother is watching… or as author Joseph Heller wrote in Catch-22, ‘Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.’”
Niccol himself admits he frequently experiences what he calls Trumanesque moments. Terrible acting. Incongruous casting. Sloppy art direction and set design. Continuity errors. Generally inept production management. And he doesn’t mean anything happening on a set or on a screen. He means daily life. For example, in a British Film Institute interview: “There’ll be a traffic jam, for instance, for no reason,” Niccol says. “In my mind, the reason is actually that Christof [the all-powerful, demiurge director of The Truman Show] isn’t ready for the next scene…. Or I’ve acted out of character and gone into some equestrian supply store, which I never would do. And they think I never would either, so they’re not prepared; and I realize that the extra standing there pretending to be running the store knows nothing about that particular store. So, they’re either extras or an actor ― they’ve got no dialogue; they don’t know how to talk to me. For me that’s what I call Truman-esque moments.…. I can’t tell you how long I’ve felt this way,’ he says. ‘I can never truly escape the idea.’”
You can find any number of so-called “film critics” on the internet who will offer their own speculation about The Truman Show and what it represents. Here’s just one example from The Atlantic magazine: “The film culminates in a hectic collision of metaphors: for religion, for politics, for the question of what the individual owes to the collective, and vice versa. Truman struggles to be himself in an environment built to enclose him.”
But that’s not what this book is about either. Despite what everyone else will tell you, there’s no metaphor in The Truman Show that needs to be deciphered; there’s no hidden meaning lurking behind the scenes that needs to be uncovered and explained. Everything you need to know about The Truman Show is staring you in the face from the screen right there in front of you, in plain English. It’s about the fact that for the first time in human history, someone is showing us how our world really works. And it isn’t what every religion in history has claimed, or every philosopher, or even every poet. But it is very possibly, finally, The Truth, and we need to pay attention, because the Truth has ramifications that we must become aware of and then change our behavior accordingly. If we continue to ignore The Truth, we do so at our own peril.
So, let’s start diving into The Truth and figure out what I’m talking about….
[i] Tatiana Hullender, Screenrant, The Truman Show Writer Reflects On Classic Movie’s Legacy After 25 Years