Over months of speculation about the state of Spike Jonze’s adaptation of the classic Maurice Sendak book Where The Wild Things Are, Jonze has been notably silent. But a roundabout chain of communication recently caused him to contact Moriarty at AICN. Knowing well that Moriarty had seen an early cut of the film Jonze and his editor Eric Zumbrunnen sat down to discuss both the making and polishing of Wild Things, among many other subjects. The resulting interview is epic, and I’ve cut out just a few pieces below.
On creating the performance base and vocal tracks for the Wild Things:
So [prior to shooting the ‘real’ film in Australia] we shot the whole movie with the voice actors on a soundstage, and we just shot it like a workshop. It looked like some sort of ‘70s experimental theatre or something like that, because it was just this blank soundstage with shag carpeting, and they were all in their socks so the sound was muted. It was just a really dead soundstage, sound-wise, and they could just act it out. We’d take foam cubes and build little trees or huts or whatever, and then we’d just workshop the scene like I would do with a live-action movie, and just find what the scene is about through blocking and improvising dialogue.
On the question of intent versus studio reception:
And I think from the beginning, I told the studio, “I don’t think this is gonna be a movie for four-year-olds.” And I think they said “Oh, okay,” but I think that when they saw it, that’s another… you know, that’s something else.
On nailing the tone:
I think the script is so wordy that I slowly just tried to trust that there were certain feelings in the movie that didn’t need dialogue, and that we didn’t have to have dialogue saying what the movie is about so much as the movie just being about it. So we slowly just tried to find places where we could strip the dialogue back and let the feeling of the photography and the mood and the performances do the work.
On the nature of the shoot:
…it’s so long and it’s so complicated. When I was writing it, I kind of knew it was complicated, but I kind of just had to be willfully naïve about that to not get bogged down in it. But it’s hard. I think by the time we got to Australia and were shooting it, the realities of what we were trying to do set in.
Read the entire interview at AICN. More than anything else, I’m struck again by how Jonze seems able to operate on his own terms. He doesn’t make movies in quite the same way as anyone else, and so he creates films that are unique and, for lack of a better word, wild. More important, this doesn’t feel like damage control. Jonze says picture is now locked and they’re into the beginning of several months of effects work, with the intent to deliver in May.