In an interview, director Peter Weir stated he wanted to have cameras installed in every theater the film was shown in, having the projectionist at one point cut the power, cut to the viewers, and then cut back to the movie.
According to a 2008 New York Times article, psychologists in Britain and the U.S. reported a number of people experiencing "Truman Syndrome" or "the Truman Show delusion," the belief that they are the unwitting star of their own reality TV show. Reportedly, many of those afflicted have specifically mentioned the film while in therapy. More recently, on September 16, 2013, the detailed account of one Ohio student who suffered for years from the Truman-Show delusion is documented in the New Yorker magazine article, "Unreality Star," by Andrew Marantz.
Every street name in Seahaven refers to a movie actor, e.g. "Lancaster Square" or "Barrymore Road." All of the "cast" members are likewise named after movie stars: Meryl, Marlon, Lauren, Kirk, Angela, etc.
The events in the movie take place over a four to five-day time span, Day 10,909 to Day 10,913 of the show, as shown by the ticker over the TV in the Truman Bar. Truman would have been six to seven weeks from his 30th birthday. A "30th Anniversary" Truman Show commemorative plate can be seen hanging in the bar.
To help Ed Harris develop the character for Christof, director Peter Weir presented to him a 10 page biography. Part of this biography consisted of Christof doing a film on the homeless for which he won an award.
Just before the boat stops, we see the number "139" prominently displayed on its sail. The ensuing dialogue between Truman and Christof contains some paraphrased references to Psalm 139, as do many other aspects of the film.
The location shoot for Seahaven Island (the film's town in the dome) was in a place called Seaside, Florida. When director Peter Weir arrived there with his pre-production team, he said, "Unpack our things, we've found our town." The week they arrived during the location scouting is the week they began pre-production.
Jim Carrey and Peter Weir initially found working together on set difficult (Carrey's contract gave him the power to demand rewrites), but Weir was impressed with Carrey's improvisational skills, and the two became more interactive.
Dennis Hopper was originally cast as Christof, but walked off the set after his first day. Ed Harris replaced him. Hopper went on to a supporting role in Edtv (1999), which has striking similarities to the premise of "The Truman Show."
Various trailers included scenes that were deleted from the theatrical and DVD releases: A cast read-through (a sign on the wall warns "ATTENTION: 1. REMOVE CELLPHONES. 2. NO SCRIPTS ON SET. 3. NO I.D. CARDS ON SET"); a visible tear in the "sky" after a stage light falls on the "street" in front of Truman's house; Truman singing the Planet Trumania anthem.
While figuring out how to play the character of Christof, Ed Harris suggested him being a hunchback (causing him to have an unhappy childhood and instilling his desire for Truman to have an idealized life), but he changed his mind after trying on a prosthetic hump and seeing what he looked like.
Paramount was cautious about the film which they dubbed "the most expensive art film ever made" because of its $60 million budget. They wanted the film to be funnier and less dramatic. Peter Weir also shared this vision, feeling that Andrew Niccoll's script was too dark, and declaring "where he [Niccol] had it depressing, I could make it light. It could convince audiences they could watch a show in this scope 24/7." Niccol wrote sixteen drafts of the script before Weir considered the script ready for filming.
The couple at the picnic table, Daryl Davis and Robert Davis, are the founders of Seaside, the town where the movie is filmed. Robert Davis inherited the 80 acres from his grandfather, and he and his wife built the first home, and his concept of a small town and mixed-use building has become enormously popular and influential in the last twenty years.
Sylvia's apartment contains photos of cast members labeled with Post-It notes. One picture is of Marlon, labeled "Unable to Get Near Marlon - PRIME!" Other photos are labeled "Jogger - 'No Way'" and "will think about it." A printed banner above these photos contains the word "Agents."
A scene in the original script depicts a staged rape scene witnessed by Truman, who doesn't go to help the actress about to be violated and just moves on. When he's gone, the actors and actress return to normal and express wonder at how he didn't try to help, or even do anything about it.
Director Peter Weir filmed in the 1.66:1 ratio to make it feel more like a television show. Only the original DVD is in this aspect ratio. The theatrical cut was cropped to 1.85:1 and the Blu-ray release to 1.78:1.
The overall look was influenced by television images, particularly commercials: Many shots have characters leaning into the lens with their eyeballs wide open, and the interior scenes are heavily lit, because Weir wanted to remind viewers that "in this world, everything was for sale."
Peter Weir had planned for projectionists to stop the film at one point during all screenings, cut to video shot by cameras installed in every theater, then cut back to the movie. To make things even more meta, he flirted with the idea of playing Truman's director, Christof, himself.
The motto on the double archway in the Seahaven town center is UNUS PRO OMNIBUS, OMNES PRO UNO: "One for all, all for one" in Latin, thus fitting the premise of the Truman Show. The motto is also the used in the Alexandre Dumas's novel, The Three Musketeers.
1:06:17 Mike Michaelson (Harry Shearer) takes a call from The Hague for Christof (though the call is lost and they move on to Sylvia). This is where the international courts dealing with people like dictators on trial for crimes against humanity are based. So it is quite fitting since Christof proceeds to get into a moral debate with Sylvia about Truman. Further, when the Hague gets disconnected, a 2600Hz tone can briefly be heard, which is in fact what is heard when an international call hangs up. The same tone can be heard at the end of Pink Floyd's "Young Lust" when an American woman is attempting to call a man in the UK and he keeps hanging up.
One of the buildings Truman encounters bears the name "Omnicom." Common beliefs about God center around the qualities of being omniscient, all-knowing, omnipotent, all-powerful, omnipresent, present everywhere and omni-benevolent, perfect goodness. This alludes to Christof's role as the silent higher power embodying these qualities (except omni-benevolence) in playing God.
In 2008, a psychiatrist shared that he had met five schizophrenic patients and heard of another dozen who believed their lives were reality television shows. One patient climbed the Statue of Liberty believing that his high school girlfriend would be at the top, which was the key to him being able to leave the show.
Andrew Niccol rewrote the script twelve times, while Peter Weir created a fictionalized book about the show's history. He envisioned backstories for the characters and encouraged actors to do the same.
Part of the original screenwriting deal called for Andrew Niccol to have his directing debut, but Paramount executives later felt the estimated $80 million budget would be too high for him. In addition, Paramount wanted to go with an A-list director, paying Niccol extra money "to step aside." Brian De Palma was under negotiations to direct before he left United Talent Agency in March 1994. Directors who were considered after de Palma's departure included Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Barry Sonnenfeld and Steven Spielberg, before Peter Weir signed on in early 1995, following a recommendation from Niccol.
The State Examination Commission in Ireland listed the film as one of the options for the English comparative study for the Leaving Certificate (state exam taken when leaving school) of 2008 and has just been selected again for 2010.
A deleted scene reveals that had Truman not realized what was going on, Christof and network execs were going to broadcast the main show and its spin-off on a two-channel format; the main show following Truman and the spin-off following his unborn child, repeating the cycle all over again.
Truman and his best friend Marlon both own new Fords. (Truman has a Taurus sedan, and Marlon has a Ranger pickup truck.) This is probably intentional since it is said during the film that the show makes lots of money by using product placement.
During the film, Truman references his dream to visit Fiji, which, according to him, is the farthest place away he can go without starting to go back. If this is the case, then the set of "The Truman Show" would be located in Timbuktu, Mali, as it is on the opposite side of the world as Fiji.
Laura Linney took some inspiration from her own mother for the film, not to play actress Hannah Hart, but to play actress Hannah Hart playing Meryl Burbank, Truman's wife and a nurse at the Seahaven hospital. Linney's mother was a cancer nurse at Memorial Sloan-Kettering.
CGI was used to create the upper halves of some of the larger buildings in the film's downtown set. Craig Barron, one of the effects supervisors, said that these digital models did not have to look as detailed and weathered as they normally would in a film because of the artificial look of the entire town, although they did imitate slight blemishes found in the physical buildings.
While making purchases at a newspaper stand, the salesman asks Truman "Will that be all?" In the first scene, Truman replies "That's the whole kit and kaboodle." In the second scene, he responds "That's the whole ball of wax." Jim Carrey would later use these phrases in A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) while his character, Captain Sham, discusses the importance of grammar, saying "It's the whole ball of wax, the entire kit and kaboodle."
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The original script was darker and had crucial differences from the shooting draft. The city was not a utopian society but there were staged criminal incidents. Truman had a drinking problem. It is stated clearly that Truman makes love to his wife (whose real name is Hannah). Christoff's intention was for Truman to have Meryl impregnated and the child would carry on the show. There were more clues that help Truman realize the truth. The scene where Truman confronts Meryl was far more aggressive. Finally, and most importantly, after Truman passes the door, he meets Christoff and the main cast members on a rooftop, while in the film the story ends with Truman's exit from the fake world. In the encounter at the rooftop, which was in the script the actors stare at him sheepishly, but Truman in his rage attacks Christoff and tries to strangle him, but the rest of the actors hold him back. He is finally reunited with Sylvia.
The ending mirrors the ending of the C.S. Lewis book "Voyage of the Dawn Treader," #4 of the Narnia series (#3 in publication order), with a ship sailing to the end of the "known" world and encountering a sky-blue wall, with a doorway leading to "another" world.