The Truman Show – the backstory

Many writers know the importance of a back story to help develop their characters. In this article, which is the introduction to The Truman Show – a title in The Shooting Script Series – Peter Weir, director of The Truman Show, introduces us to the history of Truman Burbank and the producer, Christof.


Introduction by Peter Weir

Andrew Niccol’s screenplay deals with the last few days of a live television program which ran for twenty-nine years – twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

As part of my preparation I wrote a background describing how this extraordinary show came into existence. I had plenty of time for reflection as Jim Carrey wasn’t available for twelve months, and believing him perfect casting as Truman I settled down to wait.

It seems impossible not that I considered doing another picture in the meantime, as the months filed up with constant rewrites and fine-tuning of the script.

Andrew and I worked well together and I felt free to try anything, in the process coming to know the material really well.

The background to the show I wrote for myself, but in pre-production cast and crew got to hear of it and asked for copies.

With the actors it became a source of amusement during shooting, particularly with Noah Emmerich, who played “Marlon” and Laura Linney as Truman’s wife, “Meryl”. We would ad-lib for hours, they in their actor persona (Marlon was “Louis Coltrane”, Meryl, “Hannah Gill”), and with me playing, rather naturally, a director on the show. These ad-libs helped remind us of the schizophrenic nature of their characters, and kept us in touch with the lie that was at the heart of their relationship with Truman. Apart from that it was a lot of fun, and occasionally provoked ideas for new scenes.

I began to see potential for a documentary in these off-camera conversations and suggested the idea to the marketing department at Paramount. Andrew flew out to location and interviewed the cast in their actor personae and wrote a script we referred to as “Mockumentary.” My Visual Effects Supervisor and Second Unit Director, Mike McAlister, took on the job, with Harry Shearer as the interviewer.

The documentary was finally abandoned as a promotional idea but some scenes found their way into the movie and at least one version of the trailer.

Here then, with a little editing, is the background material passed on to cast and crew, which, in a way, serves as an introduction to Andrew’s brilliant screenplay.

Read the rest here at Screenstyle.


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