‘So you think you can tell heaven from hell? Blue skies from pain? Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail? So you think you can tell.’
For many people the oddest thing about The Truman Show is the fact that Weir cast the frequently hyperactive Carrey in an everyman role. Weir claims that putting Carrey in such a position is hardly a stretch. “The ability to make people laugh is unique and something you’re born with or not. It’s possible for someone who has this gift to make the transition to drama, but not the other way around,” he says. “You don’t think of Larry Olivier as good at light comedy. When he tried it, I wouldn’t say that’s what we remember him for.”
The Truman Show has several offbeat touches (strange camera angles and a shot of the moon being used as a spotlight). Weir remembers several of the ideas that he and his collaborators had were left out so the storytelling would not be sacrificed. “I even had a crazy idea at one time, which was impossible technically. I would have loved to have had a video camera installed in every theatre the film was to be seen. At one point, the projectionist would cut power and could cut to the viewers in the cinema and then back to the movie. But I thought it was best to leave that idea untested,” he says.
If The Truman Show does poke fun at the absurdities of media voyeurism, Weir doesn’t directly condemn it. He declares, “I think, as we saw with the whole Lady Diana business, the very people who were outraged at the perceived cause of her death, which were the paparazzi chasing the car, were the same people who bought the magazines and the sensational tabloid papers. That’s a complex situation, and you can’t blame them. They loved her, but they wanted to watch every moment of her life. If they’d had a camera in her house, they would have had the viewership of The Truman Show or more.”
Weir acknowledges that television, particularly classic American shows like I Love Lucy and The Twilight Zone, were an important influence when he was growing up in Sydney. “I was 12 years old when television came, and I couldn’t believe it,” he recalls. “I just was transfixed by it. I used to darken the room down like a theatre at night, like a movie house. My father used to always get annoyed and said, ‘You’ve got to leave a lamp on, or you’ll lose your eyesight.’ I said, ‘It’ll be worth it.’ No one was allowed to talk. At one stage, I wouldn’t let anyone go to the bathroom. That didn’t last long.”
Weir also said of his film that the movie’s themes were hardly limited to the United States. ”We’re all plugged in,” he said. ”We’re all there, the world is watching. We all watched the gulf war as if it were a television show. Cameras have gone in on everything. There’s nothing strange now about hearing of a terrible accident, a child killed, and then seeing clips from his life because his parents shot video of the child. Like a movie. So strange.”