Being There #AutismMovie


The first time I watched this movie was around 1980, just after its release.

It seemed to be a very clever political satire, with an ending that blew my mind and continues to do so, more than 30 years later.


The first time I watched Being There, I was unaware that the main character might be Autistic.

  • Neither the book nor the film explicitly refer to Chauncey as being Autistic
  • What does not seem to be in doubt is his rather limited intellect
  • But this does not fully explain his behaviors, repetitive and other

In 1980 my knowledge of Autism was confined to 2 very distinct stereotypes

  • Autistic Savants – such as Stephen Wiltshire, the artist
  • People who were very severely impaired and often/usually non-verbal

Chauncey Gardiner, played by Peter Sellers, did not fit either of these 2 stereotypes.

Looking back, it is quite ironic that I was watching a movie, blissfully unaware that both the main character and I were both Autistic!


Innocence probably best captures the character of Chauncey.

  • His real name is ‘Chance’ and he happens to be a gardener
  • Those around him assume ‘Chance’ is an abbreviated form of Chauncey and that Gardiner must therefore be his family name
  • Late in the movie, Chauncey is directly challenged about his identity, for the first time
  • He happily admits that his name is Chance and that he is in fact, a gardener
  • Blissfully unaware of the fallacy that has been created around his enigmatic character



Here is a clip of Chauncey sharing his apparent wisdom with the US President.



The Closing scene

The closing scene is remarkable for 2 reasons.

The metamorphosis is now complete.

  • Chauncey Gardiner being chosen as the next Presidential candidate
  • Having spoken almost exclusively on the subject of gardening

The Ending scene.

  • Which I leave to the viewer



The Ending scene

The final minute of the movie.

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