We caught up with Jonze at the end of a long day of interviews, where he shared with us his inspiration for making his first family-friendly film, how Sendak was a surprising influence and why he used an unorthodox method to bring the monsters to life. Spike Jonze, the innovative auteur behind such big-screen head trips as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, now brings his unique vision to Maurice Sendak's classic bedtime favourite, Where the Wild Things Are.
We caught up with Jonze at the end of a long day of interviews, where he shared with us his inspiration for making his first family-friendly film, how Sendak was a surprising influence and why he used an unorthodox method to bring the monsters to life.
What was your inspiration for bringing this book to the big screen?
It's something that I grew up loving. I don't know, I just love the idea of making a movie starring Max and the wild things, it seems really exciting.
This is the first movie you've made that is family friendly. Did that play into your process? Did you have to tone it down?
I don't know. I mean, we were writing about a 9-year-old, so in a way we were writing about what was relative to being 9. I certainly knew it was going to be PG, I didn't want to put violence and sex in it, because it wasn't relevant to what it's like to be 9 years old.
Can you relate to Max?
Yeah ... Right now I'm just tired. So right now I can only relate to napping.
Did you you know Maurice Sendak before you made the movie?
I did; actually I've known him for the last 14 years, and we talked over the years about doing 'Where the Wild Things Are.' He's the one that came to me and offered it to me, which was really exciting and sort of a little scary too because it's something I love so much. I didn't want to add something just to add something to it ... I was apprehensive.
Did he have any input while you were making the movie?
Yeah, but not in the way you would think. Not as some protective artist -- like "Don't! No! Not from my book!" -- but actually in the other way. As an artist, he was not interested in making a movie out of the book just because he could, you know. I guess part of the reason he waited so long to make the movie out of it is he wanted there to be a reason for it to exist or he would've rather just not made it. One of his biggest influences on [the movie] wasn't trying to get us to have some reverence to the book, but actually, you know, it was his insistence for me to make something that was my own and make something personal and make something that was as surprising and dangerous for its time as the book was in its time. And also something that didn't pander to children; [he's] somebody who doesn't consider himself a children's book author, but someone who writes about childhood and tries to do it in the most honest way possible. And I think that's why his books resonate with children ... because it's not by the numbers, it's never like trying to teach kids a lesson. He's trying to capture the feeling of childhood.
Are the monsters in the movie all represented in the book?
Visually, they're all from Maurice's drawings; actually we left a couple out that we didn't have characters for.
The actors who voiced the monsters acted out the roles on stage together; that's an unusual process for voice acting, isn't it?
We worried about the traditional way -- that it would become staid. I wanted them to be together, because when you have two actors going in a scene together, they affect the other one. It just sounds different, it feels different, there's something more alive in it. That was the real goal, to get them in a room and let it come to life, from the spontaneity that can happen when you have great actors acting in the moment together.
You acted in 'Three Kings' -- any plans to act again?
I don't know. If there's somebody doing something that they think I'd be right for and it feels right, I would do it. For me, it's a lot more to do with the experience of it. It was a director I love, David Russell, and it was just a really fun, strange, challenging thing to do. I'd like to do more, but then I get so sucked into my own thing, and get lost in whatever I'm doing.