Peter Weir talks about The Truman Show
“I heard someone say the other day, ‘What a bizarre movie,’” recalls Australian director Peter Weir. “I don’t think so. I think life is outrageous right now, and the film is reflecting that.”
The movie in question is Weir’s most recent effort, The Truman Show, and it is certainly unconventional. The film stars rubber-faced comic Jim Carrey (Liar Liar) as an insurance salesman whose entire life has been televised internationally without his knowledge. Speaking by phone from Chicago, Weir says, “Some have said to me that they looked at things differently after they came out and made jokes about whether they were on-camera or not.”
Probably the strangest aspect of 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 cam
era installed in every theater 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.”