Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is a 2002 biographical spy comedy film depicting the fictional life of popular game show host and producer Chuck Barris, who claimed to have also been an assassin for the CIA. The film was George Clooney's directorial debut, 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, 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 Drew Barrymore and Julia Roberts to lower their salaries. The film was released to 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 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. Chuck is given permission to pitch the concept for The Dating Game at ABC. He is given $7,500 to create a television pilot, but ABC abandons the idea in favor of Hootenanny.

One night after Barris is kicked out of a bar for fighting, he is approached by CIA agent Jim Byrd, who recruits him as an assassin. Returning from a mission in Mexico, Barris finds that Penny has become a hippie. Meanwhile, ABC green-lights The Dating Game, and by 1967 the show is a phenomenon.

On a CIA mission in Helsinki, Finland, he meets female operative Patricia Watson. He finds more success back home when The Newlywed Game goes on air. He and Penny decide to move to Los Angeles, but Barris is cautious of marriage, much to Penny's dismay. In 1970, Byrd convinces Barris to go on a mission to East Berlin to assassinate Hans Colbert. Barris is introduced to German-American agent Keeler, whom he helps to kill Colbert. However, he is captured by the KGB and, after some weeks, freed during a West-East spy exchange.

In 1976, Barris creates The Gong Show and becomes famous as its host. Keeler is murdered and Byrd warns Barris of a mole in the agency. His TV shows are canceled due to poor ratings, and Penny threatens to leave 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 had been raised as a girl by his mother, so he "fit the profile". Barris threatens Byrd, and after Byrd is killed moments later, Barris is seen 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 and tries in vain to convince him to return to California to get married.

Barris finally leaves his room and meets Patricia in Boston. After a cup of coffee with her, Barris collapses, seemingly poisoned. Patricia reveals that she is the mole. Barris has tricked Patricia into drinking from the poisoned cup, and she falls dead. After her death, he returns home and begins writing his autobiography, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. He finally decides to marry Penny. At the end of the ceremony, he sees some of the people he killed in the crowd. Distraught, he confesses to her his double life as a CIA assassin, but she merely laughs, assuming he is joking, and he decides not to correct her.


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Barris, Dick Clark, Jim Lange, Murray Langston, Jaye P. Morgan, and Gene Patton are featured in interviews central to the storyline.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (film)" 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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