Pleasantville (1998) Poster



During the publicity campaign surrounding the film's release, there was a contest for a trip to Pleasantville, Iowa (the smallest Pleasantville in the United States).
Since every scene from the middle of the movie on had to be in some way digitally changed to have black and white characters interact with characters who are in color, technically this film had the most digital effects shots until Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999).
The two books that Bud (David) narrates to the teenagers of Pleasantville, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "Catcher in the Rye," are the two most widely banned books in the United States.
For the sequence where Bud is applying the gray makeup to his mother, the color of the makeup was actually green. When they had to "black-and-white" the scene, the shades of green came out the best for the appropriate shades of her "gray" make-up. Conversely, when Betty first visits the soda shop, she is in full gray makeup which meant that Joan Allen was shot wearing full green make-up that is subsequently removed by Bill Johnson (Jeff Daniels).
The Native American in the test pattern behind Don Knotts changes to angry and then sad as the movie progresses.
Though many believe that the shot of Bud raising his arms up in triumph during a rainstorm is an homage to The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Gary Ross thought it was an original idea, and didn't realize the connection until after the film was released.
Don Knotts was not available to return for looping. The film's narrator, comic and impersonator Craig Shoemaker, was hired (uncredited) by the editor to fill in and do the voice work for Don Knotts.
When Jennifer enters Pleasantville, she becomes a character named Mary-Sue. "Mary-Sue" is a term that originated in fan fiction to describe a character who comes into the character's lives and completely solves all of their problems. It is also a fan-fiction term for an idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character, a young or low-rank person who saves the day through unrealistic abilities. Often this character is recognized as an author insert or wish-fulfillment.
Director Gary Ross acknowledges these cinematographic homages:
  • The scene of J.T. Walsh in front of the bowling alley scorecard recalls Patton's speech in front of the American flag in Patton (1970);
  • The courtroom segregated into black-and-white characters downstairs and "colored" characters upstairs recalls To Kill a Mockingbird (1962);
In a number of scenes, you can see the house used in Lethal Weapon (1987) just across the street from Bud and Mary-Sue's.
The film is dedicated to director Gary Ross' mother, actor J.T. Walsh and camera assistant Brent Lon Hershman who was killed in a car crash in the middle of the shoot.
Bud brings Mr. Johnson an art book from the library titled "The World Of Art" by an author named Edward Bissell. The book is purely fictional being made just as a prop for this film.
The author of the book that Reese Witherspoon's character is reading, D.H. Lawrence, was an early 20th century author, poet, playwright, essayist, and literary critic. His works were considered highly controversial when they were written, and confronted issues such as emotional health and vitality, spontaneity, human sexuality, and instinct.
The back lot street set where Bud and Mary Sue's house stands is located at Warner Brothers "Ranch" studio complex in Burbank, California. The main house was a new facade built for the movie but directly across the street, clearly seen in a number of scenes, are houses once occupied by other famous 1960's T.V. characters like Gidget, Hazel and Samantha Stevens. It is the Gidget / Hazel house that was also used as Danny Glover's house in the Lethal Weapon movies. Margaret's house (where Whitey drives up in his car at night and drops her off) was used as the residence of Mrs. Kravitz in Bewitched (1964) and The Partridge Family (1970).
In the original screenplay, the TV Repairman was to be played by Dick Van Dyke and the name of the repair company was Rob's TV Repair (Rob was Van Dyke's name on his first show) In a subsequent draft, the name in the script was simply TV Repairman, leaving room for Don Knotts.
The jukebox in Mr. Johnson's malt shop is a 1952 Seeburg M100C, known in collector circles as the "Happy Days" jukebox due to its appearance in the opening/closing segments of the ABC-TV series.
Directorial debut of Gary Ross.
While David answers questions in the diner scene, the music in the background is Take Five from Dave Brubeck's album Time Out. Almost all jazz is written in 4/4 time, but the Time Out album consists solely of tracks with non 4/4 time signatures. The Take Five cut, for example, is 5/4. Thus, with the song and in the movie, we are invited into a new world of possibility.
The scores projected during the bowling alley scene indicate all the bowlers are on pace for final scores of 230 or better. Two bowlers have perfect scores through eight frames.
Feature film debut of Maggie Lawson.
This was Don Knotts' last live-action appearance in a theatrically released film. He still continued to work on various TV and cartoon projects.
Melissa Joan Hart turned down the role of Jennifer.
Danny Strong and Marc Blucas both appeared as unnamed characters in Pleasantville. Both also acted for several overlapping years in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though their characters in Buffy only appeared together in 1 episode, Superstar.
When David and Jennifer first arrive in Pleasantville and are flicking through the TV, after Don Knotts first appears, there is a very quick clip of Leave It to Beaver (1957), with the Beaver standing by a chair. An obvious homage to the early shows that Pleasantville is based on.
The film cast includes one Oscar winner: Reese Witherspoon; and two Oscar nominees: William H. Macy and Joan Allen. Seventeen years later, they would go on to play the divorced parents of "Ma" in the Oscar-winning movie, "Room".
The calendar in the Parkers' front room informs us that the Pleasantville-based portion of the film is set in April 1958. Another calendar in the back room of the soda shop is also for 1958.
In the scene where 'Bud' is asked how he knew how to handle the fire it's mentioned that the books have now started to fill in if the plot is described. After describing the plot of 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" to the diner he is asked about another book. The title is not mentioned by name but the character of Holden Caulfield is mentioned. That means the book in question is "The Catcher in the Rye". The book is also featured in a mural later in the film. "The Catcher in the Rye" is the book that inspired Mark David Chapman to kill John Lennon. The song used in the end credits and is basically the theme of the film is a Fiona Apple cover of "Across the Universe". A song witten by John Lennon.
Although technically not his debut, this was Paul Walker's first wide release and successful big screen film.
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In the bowling alley scene when the elder men decide to do something about the chaos unfolding around them, a very popular black and white cinematic trick known as the "Dutch Tilt" or "Dutch Angle" - often noticed in Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock shows - was utilized. The camera is tilted to create a crooked, dark, disorienting shot emphasizing madness and discontent, thus making the viewer feel uneasy.
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Rachael Leigh Cook auditioned for the role of Jennifer.
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In the scene where Tobey Maguire (Bud/David) is driving Marley Shelton (Margaret) to Lover's Lane, he is driving a white 1952 Buick Roadmaster, and the song, "At Last," by Etta James, is playing in the background. Contrary to some claims, this is not the same model year car that Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman's characters drove in Rain Man (1988).
Early appearances of color: the red rose, after the encounter at Lover's Lane;
  • pink bubblegum seen in the hallway at school;
  • one girl's pink tongue;
  • the red hearts of the cards in the bridge hand;
  • the subtle green of the car in front of the diner;
  • the jukebox in the diner becomes multicolored the guy in front of the jukebox combs his hair with a yellow comb Jennifer's red cherry on her shake in the diner;
  • the pink cherry blossoms reflected in the side mirror of the car;
  • the subtle green of the grass at Lover's Lane before it turns completely colorized.
William H. Macy and Joan Allen also appeared in Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993) and Room (2015).
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Joan Allen and Tobey Maguire previously appeared in The Ice Storm (1997).
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William H. Macy and J.T. Walsh also appeared in House of Games (1987), Things Change (1988) and The Client (1994).
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"Elm Street" is a street shown in a classroom during a geography lesson. Since the Warner Bros. owned New Line Cinema owns this movie, Pleasantville (1998) and the one to do with Elm Street, this could very well be an Easter Egg.
Marc Blucas (Basketball Hero) and Danny Strong (Juke Box Boy) both appeared in multiple episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997).
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Both Denise Dowse (health teacher) and McNally Sagal (science teacher) were in the 2015 season of the TV show Secrets and Lies.
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