Being There (1979)

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  • One of Peter Sellers finest and final roles as an unassuming gardener who is mistaken for a brilliant philosoper

Movie Info & Cast


Having lived his life as the gardener on a millionaire's estate, Chance (Peter Sellers) knows of the real world only what he has seen on TV. When his benefactor dies, Chance walks aimlessly into the streets of Washington D.C., where he is struck by a car owned by wealthy Eve Rand (Shirley MacLaine). Identifying himself, the confused man mutters Chance...gardener, which Eve takes to be Chauncey Gardiner. Eve takes him to her home to convalesce, and because Chance is so well-dressed and well-groomed, and because he speaks in such a cultured tone, everyone in her orbit assumes that Chauncey Gardiner must be a man of profound intelligence. No matter what he says, it is interpreted as a pearl of wisdom and insight. He rises to the top of Washington society, where his simplistic responses to the most difficult questions (responses usually related to his gardening experience) are highly prized by the town's movers and shakers. In fact, there is serious consideration given to running Chance as a presidential candidate. Both a modern fable and a political satire, Being There was based on the novel by Jerzy Kosinski and costars Melvyn Douglas, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar as Eve's aging power-broker husband.~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide


  • Peter Sellers
  • Shirley MacLaine
  • Melvyn Douglas
  • Jack Warden
  • Richard Dysart
  • Richard Basehart
  • Ruth Attaway
  • David Clennon
  • Fran Brill
  • Denise DuBarry

Did You Know?


  • Final film of Ruth Attaway.
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  • While at dinner for the first evening with Ben and Eve, Chauncey's wine glass fills and empties within seconds.
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    • Doctor Allenby: This won't hurt a bit.
    • [Sticks Chance with a needle]
    • Chance the Gardener: It did hurt.
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It's a movie based on an idea, and all the conventional wisdom agrees that emotions, not ideas, are the best to make movies from. But Being There pulls off its long shot and is one of the most confoundingly provocative movies of the year.

Metacritic review by Roger Ebert
Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times

A delightfully dark comedy that, despite a cynical bent, offers viewers a good time.

Metacritic review by James Berardinelli
James Berardinelli