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Being There

Being There
Being There

was also nominated for the 1980 Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay.

Plot
original film poster Directed by Produced by Written by Starring Hal Ashby Andrew Braunsberg Jerzy Kosiński Robert C. Jones Peter Sellers Shirley MacLaine Melvyn Douglas Jack Warden Richard A. Dysart Richard Basehart Johnny Mandel Don Zimmerman United Artists (theatrical release) Warner Bros. (DVD release) December 19, 1979 130 min. United States English

Music by Editing by Distributed by Release date(s) Running time Country Language

Being There is a 1979 film directed by Hal Ashby, adapted from the 1971 novel written by Jerzy Kosiński. The film stars Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas, Jack Warden, Richard A. Dysart and Richard Basehart. Douglas won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Sellers was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role. This was the last Peter Sellers film to be released while he was alive. The screenplay was coauthored by Kosinski and the award winning screenwriter Robert C. Jones, winning the 1981 British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Film) Best Screenplay Award and the 1980 Writers Guild of America Award (Screen) for Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium. It

Chance (Sellers) is a middle-aged man who lives in the townhouse of a wealthy man in Washington D.C. Chance seems very simpleminded and has lived in the house his whole life, tending the garden, with virtually no contact with the outside world. His cultural and social education is derived entirely from what he watches on the television sets provided by the "Old Man", who raised him. The only other person in his life is Louise, the maid who cooks his meals and looks upon him as nothing more than a child who has failed to grow up. When his benefactor dies, Chance is visited by attorneys handling the estate. They force him to leave his sheltered existence and discover the outside world for the first time. He wanders aimlessly through a wintry and busy Washington in old-fashioned clothes, a homburg hat, suitcase and umbrella. In the evening Chance comes across a TV shop and sees himself in one of the TVs due to a camera in the shop window. While watching himself in it he is struck by a car owned by Ben Rand (Douglas), a wealthy businessman. Rand’s wife Eve (MacLaine) invites Chance to their home (the famous Biltmore Estate doubles as the Rand Estate) to recover from his injured leg. After being offered alcohol for the first time in his life, Chance coughs over it while being asked his name which, instead of "Chance the Gardener" (which is what he said), is interpreted to be "Chauncey Gardiner". During dinner at the Rands’ home, Chance describes attorneys coming to his former house and shutting it down. Judging by his appearance and overall demeanor Ben Rand automatically assumes that Chauncey is an upper class well-to-do, highly educated business man. Although Chance is really describing being kicked out of the home where he tended to the garden, Ben Rand perceives it as attorneys shutting down Chance’s business due to financial

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problems. Sympathizing with him, Ben Rand takes Chance under his wing. Chauncey’s personal style and seemingly conservative and insightful ways embody many qualities which Ben admires. His simplistic, serious sounding utterances, which mostly concern the garden, are interpreted as allegorical statements of deep wisdom and knowledge regarding business matters and the current state of the economy in America. Rand is also the confidant and adviser of the US President (Warden), whom he introduces to "Chauncey". Chance’s remarks about how the garden changes with the seasons are interpreted by the President as economic and political advice, relating to his concerns about the mid-term unpopularity that many administrations face while in office. Chance, as Chauncey Gardiner, quickly rises to national public prominence. He becomes a media celebrity with appearances on TV talk shows, and is soon on the A-list of the most wanted in Washington society. Public opinion polls start to reflect just how much his "simple brand of wisdom" resonates with the jaded American public. Rand, dying of aplastic anemia, encourages his wife to get close to Chance, knowing Eve is a fragile woman. Rand’s doctor (Dysart) makes a few inquiries of his own and gets to see Chance for what he truly is: an actual gardener totally oblivious and unaware to the ways of the world. However, the fact that Chance has given Rand an apparent acceptance of his illness and peace of mind with his imminent death makes the doctor hesitant to say anything. He also obviously sees that Chance possesses no guile, intent to deceive, or any interest which would adversely impact upon Ben or Eve. Just days before his death Rand rewrites his will to include Chauncey. It can be assumed that both Chauncey and Eve will inherit Rand’s mansion as well as a final say in all his future business dealings. At his funeral, the President gives a long-winded readout of Rand’s quotations, which hardly impresses the pallbearers, members of the board of Rand’s companies. They hold a whispered discussion over potential replacements for the President for the next term of office. As Rand’s coffin is about to be added to his family’s Masonic pyramid-like mausoleum they finally agree on "Chauncey Gardiner".

Being There
Oblivious to all this, Chance wanders through Rand’s wintry estate. Ever the gardener, he straightens out a bush and then walks off, across the surface of a small lake. We now see Chauncey physically walking on water. He pauses, dips his umbrella into the water under his feet as if testing its depth, turns, and then continues to walk on the water as Rand’s quote "Life is a state of mind" is read out in the background.

Cast, characters and their perceptions
• Peter Sellers as Chance the Gardener, a.k.a. Chauncey Gardiner: a simple gardener who has spent his entire life isolated from the world. Chance’s calm and seemingly highly intelligent demeanor is essentially a blank canvas on which each of the film’s characters paint their own picture, sometimes making Chance out to be much more than he really is. In most of his interactions with others, mostly prominent individuals, he pays rapt attention, nods appreciatively, and often restates their comments by way of agreement, all simply oblivious actions on his part, but the types of response to cause the others to be flattered and feel confirmed by this man who has recently entered their circle. • Melvyn Douglas as Ben Rand: a dying business leader and political king-maker. Rand gains a perception of Chauncey as a failed though totally decent businessman down on his luck. He also sees Chauncey’s reference to seasons in gardening as an insightful comment about the national economy. Near the end of the film and due to Chance’s strong presence in his life, Ben finally makes some much needed peace with himself and his terminal illness knowing that Chance will be around to love and care for his wife Eve after his inevitable death. • Shirley MacLaine as Eve Rand: Ben’s wife. She is first puzzled by Chauncey’s strangeness and then thinks of him as having insight and a sense of humor. Later she sinks her own initial doubts and adopts the consensus view that he is a great man. She then pursues her own need for friendship and sexual contact, especially when her dying husband signals

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his consent to her forming a strong relationship with Chauncey. This ultimately leads her to act on her sexual desires with the oblivious Chance. In one scene, Chance kisses her, imitating a scene he has just seen on TV, but then tells her that he prefers to watch. Eve subsequently proceeds to masturbate while Chance continues to channel-surf (which is what he meant). Jack Warden as The President: He first sees Chauncey’s advice as inspiring, to the point that he quotes and names him on national TV. But he soon comes to regret bringing this mystery man into the spotlight since it might jeopardize his chances of running for a second term. His anxiety over Gardiner is so intense that it renders him sexually impotent. In one scene, after he has previously quoted Chauncey on television, interpreting his references to gardening and seasons as bright metaphors regarding the hope for improvement in the economy, he and his wife are watching Chauncey on a latenight talk show. As he is asked by the host about his opinion of the President’s view of the economy, Chauncey simply replies: "Oh? Which view?" The President cringes, as he obviously interprets what the viewer knows is simply an instance of Chauncey’s being ignorant of what the question really means, as a subtle criticism of him. The FBI, astounded by their inability to discover anything about "Chauncey Gardiner", come to the conclusion that someone has eliminated the entire record — a feat of such ability that: "Only an exFBI man could have done it!" The CIA prefer to think that the cover-up was perpetrated by one of their own agents, highlighting the rivalry between the two organizations. David Clennon as Thomas Franklin: the attorney, who distrusts Chance’s motives for acting the way he does when they first meet in the house owned by Chance’s late benefactor and orders him out. Later, Franklin, keen to start a career in politics, seems to view his contact with Chauncey Gardiner as potentially ruinous to his ambitions. Ruth Attaway as Louise: the AfricanAmerican maid, sees Chance, whom she has known since he was a boy, on national TV, and declares out loud that he only has

Being There
"rice pudding between the ears". It confirms her opinion that America is certainly a "white man’s world". Her actual monologue was known to have brought the biggest laughter in theatres during the movie’s theatrical lifespan: "It’s for sure a white man’s world in America. I raised that boy since he was the size of a ’piss ant’ and I’ll tell you he never learned to read nor write. No sir. Has no brains at all. Stuffed with rice pudding between the ears. Short-changed by the Lord and dumb as a jackass. Yes sir, all you got to be is white in America to get whatever you want. Gobbledegoop." • The , portrayed by the audience in the TV studio, opinion polls, and Thomas Franklin’s girlfriend, thinks that Chauncey is simply "brilliant." • seen at Rand’s funeral. They believe that Gardiner may be their man for the next presidential election instead of a second term for the current President. • Richard A. Dysart as Dr. Robert Allenby: the good-hearted doctor initially worries that Chauncey will sue Rand for damages following the accident. He eventually learns the truth and confronts Chance with the information, who confirms it, having never actually claimed to be anything else — the whole affair has been based on what people assume Chauncey is rather than what Chance led them to believe he was. However, Allenby ultimately decides to keep this knowledge to himself since Chance has given his patient a new outlook on life and death, and acceptance of his fate. He also understands Chauncey does not possess even the capability of nefarious intentions. • Richard Basehart as The USSR ambassador to the U.S.: he invites Chauncey to sit with him and his wife at a major Washington party, where Chauncey has escorted Eve at the ill Ben’s request. This being the Cold War era, the ambassador makes a reference to the "closeness" of the two nations’ positions. In reply, Chauncey notes that their "chairs are almost touching." Like many of Chance’s simple, literal remarks, this one

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is interpreted as a subtle, clever metaphor - here referencing there is a risk of conflict, but also one of opportunity. The ambassador, after agreeing, then pronounces there is something "Krylovian" about Chauncey, referencing the famous Russian fabulist Ivan Krylov. He then proceeds to quote a Krylov fable, in his native tongue; as usual, by pure "chance," the clueless Chauncey smiles and laughs at the appropriate time during the ambassador’s recitation. The latter then proclaims he was correct in feeling that Chauncey "knew Krylov, in Russian" - to everyone’s admiration for another example of Chauncey’s brilliance. Sam Weisman as Colson Arthur Rosenberg as Morton Hull Jerome Hellman as Gary Burns James Noble as Kaufman Fran Brill as Sally Hayes

Being There
Rand. The Biltmore House and Estate is the largest private residence in the United States and is located in Asheville, North Carolina. The scenes involving the funeral for Rand were also filmed on the grounds of the estate. MacLaine’s character writhing in longsuppressed sexual pleasure on a bear rug, having misunderstood his comment "I like to watch", while Chance obliviously channelsurfs and tries to mimic a yoga program by standing on his head. Before Ben dies, he says, "Tell Eve that...", and he dies in the middle of the sentence. The doctor puts Ben’s hand to his chest. Chance then puts his hand on Ben’s forehead as if reviving him or sending his soul to rest. When he takes his hand off Ben’s forehead, he speaks with the doctor, and then, leaves the room. As Chance is leaving the room, the doctor, blurred, is watching him with his back facing the screen. Someone (the doctor or Rand) then says, "I understand." The doctor turning around to look at the dead Ben, then says, "I understand?"

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Memorable scenes
Memorable scenes in the film version include Chance’s leaving the house he has lived in all his life to enter into the poor black Washington, D.C. neighborhood he has never explored. The scene is musically set to a funked-up version of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (performed by Deodato), the music popularized in 2001: A Space Odyssey and an accompaniment to many TV programs regarding space exploration. Chance is later confronted by a street gang. A street gang member pulls a knife on Chance and says, "Don’t give me no jive...I’ll cut up your white ass." Chance pulls out his TV remote control as though to change the vision before his eyes. They mistake him as a member of a rival gang sent by rival gang leader "Rafael." A lifetime of watching TV has not prepared him for the realities of life. In Eve Rand’s limousine, Chance asks to watch TV, to which he pays more attention than the luxurious vehicle around him or the woman he has just met. Chance watches the Cheech and Chong short film Basketball Jones in Eve’s limo, and the song continues to play when he arrives at the Rand estate and is brought into their mansion. George Harrison plays guitar on the song "Basketball Jones". A large portion of the film including the final scene take place at the massive Biltmore House, which "stands in" as the home of Mr.

Lake scene
In the final scene, as the party elite discuss choosing Chance as their preferred candidate in the upcoming presidential election, Chance is seen wandering over the estate. He comes to the edge of a lake and then continues to walk on the surface of the water, and not into it. Film critic Roger Ebert mentions this in his 2001 book The Great Movies, saying that his students suggested Chance may be walking on a submersed pier. Ebert comments, "The movie presents us with an image, and while you may discuss the meaning of the image it is not permitted to devise explanations for it. Since Ashby does not show a pier, there is no pier — a movie is exactly what it shows us, and nothing more."[1]

Rand’s quotes
• "I have no use for those on welfare, no patience whatsoever, but if I am to be honest with myself, I must admit that they have no use for me either." • "I do not regret having political differences with men that I respect. I do regret however, that our philosophies kept us apart." • "I could never conceive why I could never convince my kitchen staff that I looked

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forward to a good bowl of chili every now and then." "I have heard the word "sir," more often than I have heard the word "friend," but I suppose there are other rewards for wealth." "I have met with kings; during these conferences I have suppressed bizarre thoughts. Could I beat him in a foot race? Could I throw a ball farther than he?" "No matter what our facades, we are all children." "To raise your rifle is to lower your sights." "No matter what you are told there is no such thing as an even trade." "I was born into a position of extreme wealth, but I have spent many sleepless nights thinking about extreme poverty." "I have lived a lot, trembled a lot, was surrounded by little men who forgot that we entered naked and exit naked and that no accountant can audit life in our favor." "When I was a boy, I was told that the Lord fashioned us from His own image, that’s when I decided to manufacture mirrors." "Security. Tranquility. A Well Deserved Rest. All the aims I have pursued will soon be realized." "Life is a state of mind."

Being There
Sellers was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1980 at the 52nd annual Academy Awards, but did not win.

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Television clips
The film makes continued use of actual television clips throughout. These clips are part of the ambient visual and audio background, presented as a natural occurrence of a television being on in the room where the scene is taking place. The clips were chosen by Dianne Schroeder, and are referenced in the film credits as "Special Television Effects". These clips are an essential element of the film. They provide a window into the mind of Chance, who knows nothing of the world outside the old man’s home except from what he’s learned on television. • A car being driven out on The Price is Right. (This clip was later sampled for the 1981 song "New Car!", performed by Daniel Amos.) • Orchestral program, playing Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, the "Unfinished Symphony". • Scene from Jezebel, "Yowsah!" • Sealy mattress commercial: "It’s a Sealy Posturepedic morning! Yeah!" • Scene from Sesame Street, with the song "Different People, Different Ways" sung by Buffy Sainte-Marie and Big Bird. • Lt. Mumbly cartoon: "I dare you to stop me in my Super Cop Clobberer." • Green Acres scene. • Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. • Captain Kangaroo scene. • Quaker State Motor Oil commercial. • Washington Post commercial. This commercial is composed of a sequence of short clips and pictures: one of these is a picture of Paul McCartney performing live in a concert. McCartney composed and produced the song Come and Get It, which appeared on the soundtrack of Peter Seller’s 1969 film The Magic Christian (costarred by McCartney’s fellow Beatle Ringo Starr). McCartney’s picture can be seen, for just a fraction of second, around minute 17.51. • Basketball Jones cartoon and song (sung by Cheech and Chong), including the line "I’ve got more moves than Ex-Lax!" • Get Smart: "Pardon me for intruding at a time like this, but were you very close to

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Closing credits
While the closing credits are rolling, bloopers from a scene that does not appear in the movie are played: Sellers, lying on an operating bed, tries in vain to quote inner-city slang and swearwords with a straight face and ends up getting the lines wrong and laughing instead. The audience gets to see Peter Sellers as himself — "out of character". Outtakes like these being shown in a major Hollywood production were very rare at the time, and Sellers reportedly disapproved of the decision to include them — since, by all accounts, it was his attempt to show his skills as an actual actor as opposed to just a comedian.

Sellers’ view
This was Peter Sellers’ penultimate film, his last being The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu.

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Max?" "Are you kidding? We were inseparable." Fuzzbuster commercial: "You wouldn’t think of driving without your rear view mirror. And yet some people still drive without a Fuzzbuster." Gatorade commercial: "Ever watch a game on TV and see the players chuggin’ down this stuff? Ever wonder why?" Scene from either Land of the Lost or Days of our Lives (actor Wesley Eure). Sanford and Son scene. Scene from the film Little Caesar. Scene from The Beverly Hillbillies. Match Game clip. Lilias! Yoga and You exercise program. Paul Lynde on The Hollywood Squares. Love-making scene from The Thomas Crown Affair, featuring Faye Dunaway and Steve McQueen. Hal Ashby served as editor of The Thomas Crown Affair. TV news broadcast about a blizzard in the Midwest. Documentary or news clip about a wheelchair-bound man who gets his Masters degree. Anheuser Busch Natural Light beer commercial: "You can call me Ray." Scene from The Gong Show.

Being There
translation of the term Dasein used by the German phenomenological philosopher Martin Heidegger to describe the essential nature of human beings. Chauncey invariably responds to people and phenomena as they present themselves. It has been mentioned by some that the Chance character was created purposely as a character that was only capable of living "perfectly in the moment". It is said the author used "being there" to actually mean, live in the "here and now". And that he wants us to believe that is where the magic in life occurs, when one can live purely and perfectly "in the moment". That concept puts a spin on Chauncey’s walk upon the lake.

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Honors
American Film Institute recognition • 2000: AFI’s 100 Years... 100 Laughs #26

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See also
• Politics in fiction • The Career of Nicodemus Dyzma, a Polish novel with strong resemblances to Being There

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Score
The little original music used in the film is by Johnny Mandel and primarily features two recurring piano themes based on Gnossienne No. 4 and No.5 by Erik Satie. The other major piece of music used is the Eumir Deodato jazz/funk arrangement of the opening fanfare from Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, in the scene where Chance leaves the house and ventures out into the world for the first time. This composition is widely known for its use (the original Strauss orchestration) in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

References
[1] Being There at rogerebert.com

Bibliography
• Finkelstein, Joanne (2007). The Art of Self Invention: Image and Identity in Popular Visual Culture. I.B. Tauris. pp. 9, 98–99. ISBN 1845113950. http://www.ibtauris.com/ display.asp?ISB=9781845113957. • Neupert, Richard (1995). The End: Narration and Closure in the Cinema. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0814325254. • Nichols, Peter M.; A. O. Scott, Vincent Canby (2004). The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made. Macmillan. pp. 93–94. ISBN 0312326114. • Sikov, Ed (2002). Mr. Strangelove: A Biography of Peter Sellers. Hyperion. ISBN 0786885815. • Tichi, Cecelia (1991). Electronic Hearth: Creating an American Television Culture. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195079140.

Inspiration
Kosinski named the character of Chance for a teacher of transcendental meditation in Cambridge, Massachusetts named Jerry Jarvis, who resembled the calm and simple manner of Chance Gardiner. Jarvis was based at the corner of Chauncy and Garden Streets. The film’s title, ’Being There’, is a direct

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Being There
• Review by Roger Ebert, who puts Being There on his Greatest Movies list • Films shot in North Carolina • Western North Carolina Film Commission • NC Film • WGA article on the ending of Hal Ashby’s Being There

External links
• Being There at the Internet Movie Database • Being There at Filmsite.org • Allmovie entry

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Being_There" Categories: English-language films, 1971 novels, 1979 films, Films featuring a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award winning performance, Films featuring a Best Musical or Comedy Actor Golden Globe winning performance, Films featuring a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe winning performance, Films based on novels, Films about television, 1970s comedy films, Political satire films, Asheville, North Carolina, Buncombe County, North Carolina, Films shot in North Carolina, Films set in North Carolina, Films set in Washington, D.C., Films directed by Hal Ashby This page was last modified on 16 May 2009, at 06:50 (UTC). All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. (See Copyrights for details.) Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a U.S. registered 501(c)(3) taxdeductible nonprofit charity. Privacy policy About Wikipedia Disclaimers

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