Confessions of a Dangerous Mind  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is a 2002 biographical spy comedy film depicting the life of popular game show host and producer Chuck Barris, who claimed to have also been an assassin for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The film was directed by George Clooney. It was written by Charlie Kaufman, and starred Sam Rockwell, Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, and Clooney.

Columbia Pictures had planned to produce a film adaptation of Barris's memoir of the same name in the late 1980s. When the film rights were purchased by producer Andrew Lazar, Charlie Kaufman was commissioned to write a new script, which attracted various A-list actors and filmmakers to the project. Bryan Singer at one point planned to direct the film with Johnny Depp in the lead role, but the production was canceled. The production resumed when Clooney took over directing duties.

Barris remained heavily involved in production in an attempt to portray the film from his point of view. To accommodate the $30 million budget, Clooney convinced actresses Drew Barrymore and Julia Roberts to lower their asking prices. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was released with respectful reviews from critics and was modestly successful at the box office. Rockwell, in particular, was praised for his acting and won the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 2003 Berlin International Film Festival.


Tired of being rejected by the beautiful women he lusts after, Chuck Barris (Rockwell) moves to Manhattan to become an NBC page with dreams of becoming famous in television but is eventually fired. He moves back to Philadelphia and becomes Dick Clark's personal assistant on American Bandstand in 1961. He writes the successful song "Palisades Park" and becomes romantically involved with a woman named Penny Pacino (Barrymore). Chuck is given permission to pitch the concept for The Dating Game at the American Broadcasting Company (ABC); he receives $7,500 to create a television pilot for the studio. However, ABC abandons The Dating Game in favor of Hootenanny.

One night after Barris is kicked out of a bar for fighting, he is approached by CIA agent Jim Byrd (Clooney), who recruits him as an assassin. Returning from a mission in Mexico, Barris finds that Penny has become a Hippie. Meanwhile, ABC decides to greenlight The Dating Game, and by 1967 the TV show is a phenomenon.

Barris takes another mission for the CIA in Helsinki, Finland, where he meets female operative Patricia Watson (Roberts). He finds more success back home when The Newlywed Game goes on air. He and Penny decide to move to Los Angeles into a house, but Barris is cautious of marriage, much to Penny's dismay. The journey in Barris's life is tied in to the story of Thomas Carlyle's main character in Sartor Resartus, Teufelsdröckh, and this parallel is referred to throughout the film. In 1970, Byrd convinces Barris to go on another mission in East Berlin to assassinate communist Hans Colbert (Norman Roy). Barris is introduced there to German-American agent Keeler (Rutger Hauer), whom he helps to murder Colbert. However, he is captured by the KGB and, after some weeks, freed during a West-East spies exchange.

In 1976, in Los Angeles, Barris creates The Gong Show and becomes even more famous as its host; he is also criticized for lowering the general quality of television. Meanwhile, Keeler is murdered and Byrd warns Chuck of a mole in the agency. His TV shows are canceled due to poor ratings, and Penny threatens to leave him after catching him cheating on her. One night, Barris finds Byrd sitting atop the diving board of his backyard pool. Byrd reveals to Barris why he was chosen by the CIA to become an assassin: he is the son of a serial killer and has been raised during his infancy as a girl by his mother, so he "fit the profile". Barris threatens to kill Byrd, and the film cuts to a point soon after Byrd is killed, with Barris still pointing his gun at him.

Faced with the unpleasant truth about himself, Barris begins to spiral out of control. After almost having a nervous breakdown on one of his shows, Barris shuts himself away in a New York City hotel. Penny manages to find him there and tries in vain to convince him to return to California to get married.

Barris finally leaves his room and confronts Patricia in Boston. After a cup of coffee with her, Barris falls to the floor, seemingly poisoned. Patricia then reveals that she is the mole. However, Barris actually tricked Patricia into drinking from the poisoned cup, and he himself wasn't actually poisoned at all. After her death, he returns home and begins to write his autobiography, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. He finally decides to marry Penny. At the end of the ceremony, he notices some of the people he previously killed among the crowd. Distraught, he confesses to her his double life as a CIA agent and assassin, but she merely laughs, assuming he is joking, and he decides not to correct her. In 2002, he prepares for an interview for the film adaptation of his autobiography.


Barris, Dick Clark, Jim Lange, Murray Langston (The Unknown Comic), Jaye P. Morgan, and Gene Patton (Gene Gene the Dancing Machine) are featured in the film through interviews central to the storyline through self-referencing events.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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