Being There

Being There

USA | 1979 | 130 minutes | Hal Ashby

Hal Ashby's delightful, resonant satire stars Peter Sellers as a childlike gardener whose only knowledge of the world comes from what he sees on television, until he is thrust into the world of Washington D.C. politics and becomes an unlikely power player. Co-stars Shirley MacLaine and Melvyn Douglas, in an Oscar®-winning performance.

"The timing is often so perfect that the film, at its very wittiest, strips conversation down to its barest manevers and stratagems. " Janet Maslin - The New York Times

Coming off a near-unprecedented string of critical successes—including Harold and Maude (1971), The Last Detail (1973), and Bound for Glory (1976)—director Hal Ashby closed out the 1970s with the delightful, resonant satire Being There. In his penultimate performance, Peter Sellers stars as Chance, a childlike gardener who has spent his whole life inside a wealthy man's townhouse in Washington, D.C. Chance has never ventured further than the garden he tends to, and his knowledge of the outside comes entirely from what he watches on television. But when the wealthy old man dies, Chance is evicted. While wandering the streets of America's capitol, he is struck by a car owned by mogul and presidential adviser Ben Rand (Melvyn Douglas, whose performance won an Oscar®). Mistakenly believing that he is a wise, down-on-his-luck businessman named Chauncey Gardiner, Ben and his young wife Eve (Shirley MacLaine) bring the injured gardener to their palatial estate to recover and quickly take to his congenial personality. Chance is soon welcomed with open arms into the upper-crust world of politics, and though he is illiterate, his musings about horticulture and popular culture are taken as brilliant political advice and launch him into national celebrity. Based on the novel by Jerzy Kosinski, Being There is a true American classic with one of cinema's greatest final shots.

Director Biography
Hal Ashby was an American filmmaker associated with the New Hollywood wave of filmmaking in the late '60s through the '70s along with Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Francis Ford Coppola, among others. He grew up in a Mormon family in Ogden, Utah. He started his filmmaking career off as an editor on such films as The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming! (1966) and In the Heat of the Night (1967), for which he won an Academy Award® for Best Editing. In 1970 he transitioned into directing with The Landlord. His other directorial credits include Harold and Maude (1971), The Last Detail (1973), Shampoo(1975), and Coming Home (1978). He is the subject of the SIFF 2018 documentary Hal.

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  • Director: Hal Ashby
  • Principal Cast: Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Jack Warden, Melvyn Douglas, Richard Dysart, Richard Basehart
  • Country: USA
  • Year: 1979
  • Running Time: 130 minutes
  • Producer: Andrew Braunsberg
  • Screenplay: Jerzy Kosinski
  • Cinematographers: Caleb Deschanel
  • Editors: Don Zimmerman
  • Music: Johnny Mandel
  • Language: English
  • Format: DCP