Being There is a 1979 American comedy-drama film about a simple-minded gardener who has never left the estate of his guardian until the guardian dies. Assumed by others to be a wealthy and wise genius, his origins remain a mystery, and his simple TV-informed utterances are taken by others for profundity.
- Directed by Hal Ashby. Written by Jerzy Kosiński and Robert C. Jones, adapted from Kosiński's 1971 novella.
Chance the Gardener
- I like to watch.
- Repeated lines, initially referring simply to his lifelong habit of watching television.
- This is just like television, only you can see much further.
- Riding in a car for the first time.
- That was a very small room.
- Stepping out of an elevator.
- [while watching Chance on television] It's for sure a white man's world in America. Look here: I raised that boy since he was the size of a piss-ant. And I'll say right now, he never learned to read and write. No, sir. Had no brains at all. Was stuffed with rice pudding between th' ears. Shortchanged by the Lord, and dumb as a jackass. Look at him now! Yes, sir, all you've gotta be is white in America, to get whatever you want. Gobbledy-gook!
- Chance [glancing up from television]: Good morning, Louise.
- Louise: He's dead, Chance. The old man's dead.
- Chance: I see. [continues watching television]
- Abraz: Bullshit. Who sent you here, boy? Did that chickenshit asshole Raphael send you, boy?
- Chance: No. Mr. Thomas Franklin told me I must leave the old man's house. He's dead, you know.
- Abraz: Dead, my ass. You tell that asshole, if he got somethin' to tell me, to get his ass down here himself! You got that, boy?
- Chance: If I see Rafael, I will relay your message.
- Doctor Allenby [preparing a needle for a shot]: This won't hurt a bit.
- Chance [impassively, after being injected]: It did hurt.
- President "Bobby": Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?
- Chance: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.
- President "Bobby": In the garden.
- Chance: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.
- President "Bobby": Spring and summer.
- Chance: Yes.
- President "Bobby": Then fall and winter.
- Chance: Yes.
- Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we're upset by the seasons of our economy.
- Chance: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!
- Benjamin Rand: Hmm!
- Chance: Hmm!
- President "Bobby": Hm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I've heard in a very, very long time. … I admire your good, solid sense. That's precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.
- Ron Steigler: Mr. Gardner, uh, my editors and I have been wondering if you would consider writing a book for us, something about your um, political philosophy, what do you say?
- Chance: I can't write.
- Ron Steigler: Heh, heh, of course not, who can nowadays? Listen, I have trouble writing a postcard to my children. Look uhh, we can give you a six figure advance, I'll provide you with the very best ghost-writer, proof-readers...
- Chance: I can't read.
- Ron Steigler: Of course you can't! No one has the time! We, we glance at things, we watch television...
- Chance: I like to watch TV.
- Ron Steigler: Oh, oh, oh sure you do. No one reads!
- Dennis Watson: You know, I've never met anyone like you in Washington before.
- Chance: Yes, I've been here all my life.
- Dennis Watson: Really? And uh, where have you been all MY life? … Ah, tell me, Mr. Gardner... have you ever had sex with a man?
- Chance: No... I don't think so.
- Dennis Watson: We could go upstairs right now.
- Chance: Is there a TV upstairs? I like to watch.
- Dennis Watson: You like to uh, watch?
- Chance: Yes.
- Dennis Watson: You wait right here. I'll go get Warren!
- Morton Hull: Do you realize that more people will be watching you tonight, than all those who have seen theater plays in the last forty years?
- Chance: Why?
- Thomas Franklin: It's that gardener.
- Johanna: Yes, Chauncey Gardiner.
- Thomas Franklin: No, he's a real gardener.
- Johanna: He does talk like one. I think he's brilliant.
Quotes about Being There
- There's an exhilaration in seeing artists at the very top of their form: It almost doesn't matter what the form is, if they're pushing their limits and going for broke and it's working. We can sense their joy of achievement — and even more so if the project in question is a risky, off-the-wall idea that could just as easily have ended disastrously.
Hal Ashby's Being There is a movie that inspires those feelings. It begins with a cockamamie notion, it's basically one joke told for two hours, and it requires Peter Sellers to maintain an excruciatingly narrow tone of behavior in a role that has him onscreen almost constantly. 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 a confoundingly provocative movie.
- What is Being There about? I've read reviews calling it an indictment of television. But that doesn't fit; Sellers wasn't warped by television, he was retarded to begin with, and has TV to thank for what abilities he has to move in society. Is it an indictment of society, for being so dumb as to accept the Sellers character as a great philosophical sage? Maybe, but that's not so fascinating either. I'm not really inclined to plumb this movie for its message, although I'm sure that'll be a favorite audience sport. I just admire it for having the guts to take this weird conceit and push it to its ultimate comic conclusion.
- Roger Ebert, in a reeview of Being There (1 January 1980)
- The movie presents us with an image, and while you may discuss the meaning of the image, it is not permitted to devise explanations for it.
- Roger Ebert, in The Great Movies II (2006), p. 52
- Getting there is half the fun; being there is all of it!
- Life is a state of mind.
- A story of chance.
- Peter Sellers - Chance the Gardener, a.k.a. Chauncey Gardiner
- Shirley MacLaine - Eve Rand
- Melvyn Douglas - Ben Rand
- Jack Warden - The President
- Richard A. Dysart - Dr. Robert Allenby
- Richard Basehart - US Soviet Ambassador
- David Clennon - Thomas Franklin