Being There (1979)
Chance (Peter Sellers) is a simple gardener employed by a wealthy man. When the man dies, Chance is left to fate. Oh the irony. His simplistic wanderings and philosophies soon find a chord. He happens to say the right things at the right time and people assume he is more intelligent that he really is, bringing him much attention. Being There is a satirical look at the trappings of the media and how we project onto others. It’s very similar in tone to Forrest Gump (‘94), itself born from a novel ('86). Some say Gump was born from Chance.
The screenplay by Robert C. Jones and Jerzy Kosinski is based on the Kosinski’s 1971 novella of the same name.
Sellers hounded Kosinski and Director Hal Ashbury for years to make the film, seeking a more serious role. His dedication paid off. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance. It was the last film he saw released before he died. You can almost see him looking worn out, yet remains one of his best. The making of the film is seen in the solid biopic, ‘The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.’ ‘Being There’ also won a BAFTA for its writers.
Kosinski, a Polish Jew, who had survived the War by hiding, was a successful novelist prior to the film. Yet he was accused of plagiarising the story from a 1932 Polish novel, ‘The Career of Nicodemus Dyzma.’ Kosinski was a colorful character who enjoyed his fame and attracted his critics. Some say he even had a borderline personality disorder. Yet the claims were never proven, nor disproven and the mud stuck. He eventually committed suicide in 1991 at the age of 57.
Either way, the film remains a quiet triumph; subtle, ironic and with a dose of genius.
More on the film.
More on Jerzy Kosinski.
More on Sellers.
A children's story, Trunk Town
and a new series in September, Famous After Death.