Confessions of a Dangerous MindJanuary 24, 2003
An adaptation of the cult memoir of game show impresario Chuck Barris, in which he purports to have been a CIA hitman.
Release Year: 2002
Rating: 7.1/10 (44,116 voted)
Critic's Score: 67/100
Stars: Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore, George Clooney
Television made him famous, but his biggest hits happened off screen. "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" is the story of a legendary showman's double life – television producer by day, CIA assassin by night. At the height of his TV career, Chuck Barris was recruited by the CIA and trained to become a covert operative. Or so Barris said.
Writers: Chuck Barris, Charlie Kaufman
Tuvia, Age 8
Chuck, Age 8 and 11
(as Michael Céra)
Aimee Rose Ambroziak
Chuck's Date #1
Chuck's Date #2
Chuck's Date #3
Jaye P. Morgan
David Julian Hirsh
(as David Hirsh)
When you lead two different lives, it's easy to forget what side you're on.
Release Date: 24 January 2003
Filming Locations: California, USA
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $87,199
(5 January 2003)
(31 August 2003)
Did You Know?
Both Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore worked for a scale salary of $250,000 as a favor to their friend, director George Clooney. Brad Pitt and Matt Damon cameoed for free.
Crew or equipment visible:
When Chuck Barris and Penny are driving to California, a piece of equipment can be seen next to his head in the left side mirror.
I wouldn't want to live his life because he hasn't been happy all of his life. All I think is if you can find work, stay healthy, find somebody to share it with, you're the ultimate success. He's had some of the pieces of the puzzle, but not all of them.
Fact Stranger Than Fiction
We all remember Chuck Barris as the creator of some of television's most
successful – albeit notoriously mind-numbing – game shows: `The Dating
Game,' `The Newlywed Game,' and `The Gong Show.' But did you know that he
was also a hit man for the CIA? Well, that's what he claims, straight from
his own `unauthorized autobiography' entitled `Confessions of a Dangerous
Mind,' which has now been made into a movie by director George Clooney and
writer Charlie Kaufman. Kaufman is known for devising elaborately absurd
scenarios for his fictional films (`Being John Malkovich,' `Adaptation'
etc.), yet even Kaufman, in his wildest fantasies, could not have come up
with a more bizarre premise than the one this real life story affords. No
wonder he was drawn to this material. They are a perfect fit. In the world
of movies, who says fact isn't stranger than fiction?
In many ways, Barris was one of the men responsible for starting the trend
towards `reality television' that so dominates network programming today.
His most famous hits (especially `The Gong Show') were all based on the
premise that millions of Americans would be willing to humiliate themselves
in public for a few moments of fleeting fame and that millions more would
tune in to bear witness to the spectacle. Barris, craving fame himself, was
simply savvy enough to plug into that national mood – and managed to make
himself a fortune and turn himself into a household name in the process.
What most of us didn't know about Barris at the time was that, while all
this was going on, he was ostensibly leading a double life as a secret
agent, tracking down and killing any number of `bad guys,' all in the name
of `national security.'
Given the inherently incredible, jaw-dropping nature of the material, George
Clooney, in his directorial debut, brings an appropriately surrealistic tone
to the work. He employs a number of visual devices that help to fragment
the world in which the story takes place. Certain scenes break through the
constraints of time and space, as when Barris is talking on the phone in his
apartment to an ABC executive, who is sitting in his office, and the two
locations become one on the screen. The sense of dislocation this technique
creates perfectly reflects the mental split occurring in Barris' own
disturbed psyche. This style is further enhanced by the use of slightly
off-kilter camera angles, color filtering and sepia tones in some of the
shots. Scenarist Charlie Kaufman, as always, brings his own quirky vision
to bear on the material. He cleverly balances the two `sides' of Barris'
life, transitioning smoothly between those scenes revolving around his
career as TV show producer and those revolving around his career as CIA
operative. Moreover, Kaufman does a nice job getting inside the head of
this man who is trying to fight the demons of his own past, make a name for
himself in the high stakes world of network programming, cope with his own
inadequacies as a person, and come to terms with the vile things he is doing
in his secret life all at the same time.
As Barris, Sam Rockwell gives a terrific, high-energy performance, capturing
the sadness and paranoia of a man who seems to know deep down inside that
his fame is probably undeserved, built as it is on mediocre ideas and a
willingness to exploit the baser instincts of human nature. Drew Barrymore
brings her usual charm to the role of Penny, Barris' one true love and the
only person genuinely drawn to Barris as a person, even though he is unable
to commit himself to her fully, preferring instead to keep the relationship
`casual' and uncommitted. Barris finds it impossible to make a real,
meaningful connection to another human being, so twisted has he become in
his value system and bizarre lifestyle. Rounding out the cast are Clooney
himself, as the mysterious CIA agent who draws Barris into this strange
netherworld of intrigue and danger, Rutger Hauer, as a fellow hit man who
pours out his feelings about his chosen occupation to Barris, Julia Roberts,
as the icy cool CIA operative who pops up at various moments and in various
places to keep an eye on the young recruit, and even Brad Pitt and Matt
Damon, who show up for a truly hilarious cameo appearance together, one that
had the audience at the screening I attended howling with
The $64,000 question becomes, of course, is this story even remotely true,
or is it merely another case of this master showman's playing the public for
all its worth? I haven't the slightest idea. The filmmakers certainly take
it all very seriously, as evidenced by the fact that they have various
friends and business acquaintances of Barris (Dick Clark, Jay P. Morgan)
providing interviews for the film, interviews which hint at the dark
possibility that the basis of the story might indeed be factual, given the
kind of person these people claim Barris is. This gives the film a kind of
pseudo-documentary realism that heightens the verisimilitude of what we are
seeing on screen. Whether the film is really a true story or merely a grand
lark perpetrated on an increasingly credulous audience, the fact is that
`Confessions of a Dangerous Mind' turns out to be a thoroughly entertaining,
utterly loony piece of original filmmaking.
`Confessions of a Dangerous Mind' marks an auspicious debut for Clooney as a
director, who, in his work behind the camera, demonstrates a thorough
command of vision and style. One looks forward to his next endeavor.