Being There (1979) Movie Poster

Trivia for Being There (1979)

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  • Final film of Ruth Attaway.
  • The mansion used in the movie was The Biltmore Mansion in Asheville, North Carolina.
  • After the novel's release and the subsequent purchase of rights to the book, Peter Sellers successfully lobbied for the lead role by sending a telegram to author Jerzy Kosinski with the message, "Gardener available for work". It was during casting and after the success of the later Pink Panther movies that Sellers became the only choice for the lead role.
  • Peter Sellers was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor. Some said the reason Sellers lost was because of the outtakes at the very end of the movie as the credits are rolling. Sellers himself later said the outtakes "broke the spell" of the movie.
  • Despite Peter Sellers' repeated requests, the producers would not remove the outtakes from the version they submitted to Cannes.
  • Henry B. Dawkins, who plays Billings the X-Ray Technician, really was an X-Ray technician. In the 1990s he became head of the Radiology Department at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in Asheville, North Carolina, one of this film's shooting locations.
  • Peter Sellers patterned the voice for Chance the gardener after his idol, Stan Laurel.
  • It took Peter Sellers nearly nine years to get this movie made by a studio, mainly because by the 1970s Sellers' career had hit rock bottom and no studio in Hollywood would work with him. After the revival (and success) of the Pink Panther movies, Lorimar Pictures finally greenlit the project.
  • In different versions, the end credits are either shown over several outtakes of Sellers trying to say a line (the message for Raphael) ultimately not used in the movie version (restored to the home video version), or they are shown over TV white noise. Peter Sellers was at the film's screening at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival. He was furious with director Hal Ashby and the producers for including the outtakes version of the end credits for this performance and at the audience's reaction to them. This incident may have finally persuaded the producers to change their minds. When the film opened soon after in Australia in late May 1980, the entire end credits were removed from all prints (leading to a deafening thud on the soundtrack after the film's final line). Eventually these prints were all replaced with versions including the "white noise" end credits and the film's main theme by composer Johnny Mandel.
  • Every contract that Peter Sellers signed included a clause which stipulated that his accommodations must have the bed facing East-West. Chance says: "I like to sleep with my head facing North". The attorney he's with says "But this bed is facing West!"
  • Peter Sellers prepared for the role of Chance by recording his voice over and over again, experimenting with different styles and tones. He chose a deliberately blank style to convey the character.
  • (Director Cameo) Hal Ashby: The bearded man at a filing cabinet in the newsroom, just before Chance's TV appearance.
  • Final film of Richard Basehart.
  • In the scene where Chance decides to try kissing Eve, he is watching The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) from 1968 on television as his example. Hal Ashby, the director of this film, was the editor of that film.
  • A gay partygoer who thinks Chance has suggested an interest in watching gay sex says, "You wait here, I'll go get Warren." This may be a dig at Warren Beatty. whose heterosexual activity was legendary. The professional and personal relationship between Beatty and Hal Ashby was at times virulent, with Ashby refusing to see Beatty during the waning months of his life.
  • Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
  • In the scene on the Madison Drive sidewalk at the National Mall in Washington D.C., Chance stops and appears to be taking direction from a pointing statue (of Benito Juarez, which is actually located near the Watergate Complex on Virginia Avenue.) Chance, standing in front of the National Gallery of Art, then walks toward the domed Natural History Museum.
  • The orchestra performing Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony at the very start of the movie is the North Carolina School of the Arts Orchestra. Its conductor, seen in close up, is Nicholas Harsanyi.
  • Burt Lancaster was considered for Senator Benjamin Rand.
  • The film is included on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list.
  • Peter Sellers' then-wife, Lynne Frederick, was originally slated to have a part in the film, but her psychiatrist advised them not to work together. She did accompany him to the set every day to give him emotional support.
  • While lobbying for the part of Chance, Peter Sellers told Jerzy Kosinski, "You don't understand, I am Chance Gardiner!"
  • The tomb is in the shape of a pyramid with a Masonic Eye carved into it.
  • Included on the American Film Institute's 2000 list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
  • Buffy Sainte-Marie can be seen in one of the TV shows Chance watches. She appears with Big Bird.
  • Sellers' youngest child, Victoria, was watching the film with him at a private viewing. When she responded to the film with average enthusiasm, he allegedly poured his soft drink over her.
  • This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #864.
  • After the President leaves the Rand house the table clock in the hall that Chance is watching indicates 10:30, but it chimes twelve times, even though he's been told several times that they are very accurate.
  • Like the anonymity of Chance himself, Sellers, who was British, incorporated an accent that was neither wholly British nor American, creating a distinct alien feel to his character. The same has been said over the years about the so-called "French" accent of his Inspector Clouseau.
  • Although the fans loved the series of outtakes at the conclusion of the film, some felt that it took away from the magic at the end of the film. By the time the film was available for rental on VHS Sellers had passed away. At that time the outtakes took on more importance. As he had played his role being very true to the character, the final scene in the film brought Sellers' death to mind. The outtakes at the end - which were extremely uncommon at the time - transitioned the gentle departure at the end into a celebration of Seller's great sense of humor and served as a wonderful farewell.
  • The character of Lolo (the kid who gives Chance the message to take back to Raphael) is played by Oteil Burbridge, future bassist for The Allman Brothers.
  • Peter Sellers had a facelift before the film was shot, because he felt a smoother, unlined face was more appropriate for the stress-free life Chance had lived.
  • The characterization of Chance was inspired by a real gardener who worked for Peter Sellers, and later Stephen Stills, who bought Seller's Brookfield House. Stills' song "Johnny's Garden" was also inspired by the man.
  • The source novel for this film is in fact a work of plagiarism, based on a popular Romanian novel about a farmer who ingratiates himself with the then royal family.


  • The inscription "Life is a state of mind" is on Rand's tomb and also serves as the last line in the movie. These words were also inscribed on Peter Sellers' own tomb, when he died a year after the movie was released.
  • Originally there was a different last shot planned for the funeral sequence at the end of the film. Director Hal Ashby was chatting with another director one day about filming when he commented how well everything was going. "It's like walking on air," he said, then suddenly was struck with a thought. He changed the last shot to the one that appears now in the movie.
  • Laurence Olivier was offered the role of Benjamin Rand, but he passed when he read the completed script. He said he didn't want to be in a movie where Shirley MacLaine has to masturbate.
  • The South African Publications Control Board ordered that the final minutes of this film be cut from the South African release print because the scene showing Chance walking on the water surface "might offend many South African Christians".
  • Shirley MacLaine's masturbation scene was shot 17 times.
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