The A-Z Of Spike Jonze
is for ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha
Confused? Anyone who has ever read The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy shouldn't be - it's the sector of space that contains our little, "mostly harmless" world.
The film version of Douglas Adams' iconic sci-fi satire ranks in Jonze "near misses" file, since he was offered the chance to direct it.
Jay Roach, who had been pondering the job himself, eventually backed out of it. Wanting the film to be in good hands, he brought the project to Spike Jonze. Jonze also passed on the movie, but suggested the directing team of Hammer and Tongs - AKA Nick Goldsmith and Garth Jennings.
Spike received a "thanks" credit for his efforts in getting them the job.
is for Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The band, fronted by singer Karen O, have been frequent collaborators with Jonze.
But his relationship with the group's free-spirited leader goes further, as the pair were dating. Despite breaking up in 2005, they've stayed close and O performed many of the songs on the Wild Things soundtrack.
"I got involved because of Spike - I guess there is a child-like innocence about my music or my persona that he always just kind of dialed into," she's said.
"So I guess he thought I should make music for Where the Wild Things Are and I assembled a group of mostly rock musicians to help out."
is for X
The Californian punk rock band.
You may never have heard of them - their success didn't exactly cross over into the mainstream all that much - but they were largely considered one of the most revered of LA's many punk outfits.
They formed in 1977 and put out their first record in 1980, influencing several genres.
During their second reunion, they produced an album called Hey Zeus! which featured among its singles was the song Country At War. The video was directed by a young Spike Jonze.
is for Where The Wild Things Are
Spike's latest film adapts Maurice Sendak's beloved children's' tome and, despite a truly troubled, lengthy production with shut downs and reshoots, has produced a great film.
"When I started working on it, I wasn’t thinking about children’s films. I wasn’t thinking that, Oh, this is my children’s film," he told Vanity Fair.
"I was thinking about the character, and about making a movie that felt like childhood. I was never referencing children’s films or reacting to children’s films.
"I was just trying to make a movie that felt like being that age and trying to understand the world and figure it out, how confusing it is; how scary it can be; what scary, unpredictable emotions it brings out; and things being out of control. Just like specific primal fear and feelings that I associate with being that age."
is for Vice magazine
The magazine, launched in Montreal and currently based in New York is a free alternative title covering indie and youth culture.
It's known for controversial content and is often banned on college campuses across the world.
Jonze is a creative director on the mag's 'net video outlet, VBS.TV It features both shorts and full length documentaries.
is for Undone (The Sweater Song)
Weezer were trying to find someone to shoot the video for their song in 1994.
Despite being certain they didn't want a single sweater in the promo, their label Geffen received 25 treatments for the thing, with every one featuring a version of the clothing.
And then Jonze pitched a concept that ran simply, "A blue stage, a steadicam, a pack of wild dogs."
The $60,000 video was shot in one unbroken take, featuring the band playing to a sped up version of the song.
When played at a slower speed, the illusion is created that the band is playing the song in the correct time, yet moving in slow motion. The one take was shot over twenty five times and the final version is somewhere between shot #15 and shot #20, in which the band had abandoned the idea of taking the video seriously at all.
You can peep it here .
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Spike agreed to a role in his mate David O. Russell's gulf war movie partly because it allowed him to indulge his skateboard-influenced love for stunts (which would also inspire Jackass).
"You know, Spike always wanted to be a stuntman when he was a kid," Russell told Newsweek.
"So I knew he had that daredevil quality. He did two of the biggest stunts in the movie. One is where a car blows up and almost lands on him. He took a total face plant on that. Just fell right on his face as he was running away from that car. One take, and it was perfect."
is for Sam
Sam Spiegel, AKA Squeak E Clean, is a producer/DJ composer and also happens to be Spike's brother. He's one of the few people that can get away with calling him "Adam".
The pair have worked together on the likes of the Adidas TV ad Hello Tomorrow, for which Sam composed a track and Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs performed.
It ended up topping the iTunes charts.
is for Rockville BMX store
It was in Rockville that he got another of his early jobs - working at the local BMX store.
And his co-workers were the ones who gave him his fateful nickname. Why? "He'd come to work without showering, and his hair was usually sticking straight up," store owner Jay Metzler told New York magazine.
"Everyone had a nickname: There was Tinkerbell, Wild Bill, Scooby-Doo, Nubby, and Root Girl."
"It was a legendary shop, and Spike was its ambassador," says Andy Jenkins, who would visit the place, who describes how Jonze would greet professional board riders who showed up. "Spike would show up at the airport to pick them up in a little chauffeur uniform."
is for Quintessential
It's the sort of word that Jonze would appreciate, we're sure, and easily sums up the blog that he created while working on Wild Things - We Love You So.
If you ever wanted a direct peek into the brain of the man, this is it. Dedicated to the things he finds cool and the inspirations he drew on while making the movie, it's a mishmash collage of artwork, videos, concepts and ideas.
This is not your traditional Making Of puff site. You can visit it here .
is for Producer
In addition to his work on Human Nature, Jonze has been a producer on several films, including the Jackass movies and Synecdoche New York (which he thought he might direct before realising that Kaufman really had to do it).
His next producing project is an adaptation of Shane Jones' novel Light Boxes, which music video/shorts creator Ray Tintori (above) will direct.
"I grew up on Spike’s work, but it wasn’t like meeting the queen of England. It was a conversation, a collaboration," recalls Tintori.
"He told me he liked the baby seat in the video I did for MGMT’s Kids. You have no idea: That was one of those things where you pour all this work into a detail and you wonder, 'Is anyone even going to notice this?' And then it’s Spike Jonze noticing, which was cool."
is for Orlean
Susan Orlean, the writer of The Orchid Thief, which formed the basis for Jonze' film Adaptation - after it had first been filtered through the warped mind of Charlie Kaufman.
Orlean liked the eventual movie, even though it's not quite 100% about her book. After seeing an early cut, where she's portrayed by Meryl Streep, she commented, "it makes real sense now, as well as being insane - what a combination.
"I love that the story of the book is really whole and quite intact in spite of the whole web spun around it. i realized now what a good job Nic Cage does - two good jobs, in fact. i'm still really really excited and kind of giddy from it. Suddenly it's becoming very real to me."
is for Nollie Heelflip
For those unfamiliar with the world of skateboards, it's a basic trick.
It was invented by Alan "Ollie" Gelfand in 1978.
When doing an ollie the skateboarder leaps into the air bringing the board into the air without using their hands. The board appears to magically lift with the feet remaining in contact with the board throughout the jump.
The ollie is performed by the skater bending down and pushing the end of the board down then popping back up to give the illusion of the board defying gravity.
Want to see Jonze performing one? Watch the closing credits of Girl Skateboards (the board company he helped start and co-owns) film Yeah Right! which shows him pulling one off while sporting casual loafers - hardly standard board attire.
Oh, and skater snobs - yes, we know the picture above is a kickflip.
is for Maryland
Back when he was still Adam Spiegel, Jonze was born and raised in Rockville and Bethesda Maryland - and later, in Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania.
He first got into skateboarding in Rockville.
"It was billed as 'Break dancing on wheels! It's gymnastics! It's an art form!' " says Mark Lewman.
"So naturally, it attracted the cream-of-the-crop weirdos, losers, and sociopathic kids. They were doing their own 'zines and setting up their own local shows."
is for Lost In Translation
Sofia Coppola's 2003 film about a neglected newlywed (Scarlett Johansson) and an aging movie star (Bill Murray) forming a connection in Tokyo, also features Giovanni Ribisi as a committed young director.
Many figured that the frustrated Coppola was making a sly point about her dissolving marriage to Spike, but she has always denied this.
"I can see that, but he's not Spike," she told EW when asked about the remarkable similarities.
"There are elements from my life but that character is ridiculous and I meant it to be a comical character.
"Like any writer, you take things from your life, but then make stuff up."
is for Kanye West
Despite being deep in the middle of making Where The Wild Things Are, Jonze found time to shoot a short film, called We Were Once A Fairytale, with the musician and stage-invading figure of controversy.
"We shot this about six months ago," Jonze tells Slash Film.
"And we were in the middle of doing all the visual effects for Where the Wild Things Are. And, you know, that movie was, like, five years and such a long laborious thing, so I’m excited about doing things that are shorter.
"That I can have an idea and just have an idea, have a feeling that I want to try and make something about. And then, just go and do it. And put it out in the world, you know, and make something else.
"So, you know, this was an idea I had that Kanye was up for. And we did the very low budget, sort of, experimental film that, you know, we just did it ourselves."
is for Jackass
Jonze was a co-creator on the original show and helped produce the two movies that spun off from the crazed stunt/prank series.
He even appeared - under heavy latex, natch - as a boob-flashing woman in the first film.
Jackass regular Steve-O credits Jonze with getting the mad idea off the ground. "Spike Jonze is a co-creator of Jackass. There was one phone call from Spike Jonze that allowed us assholes to become famous around the world.
When former editor of skate rag Big Brother magazine Jeff Tremaine approached his good friend Spike Jonze with an idea for a show about a group of gentleman who perform absurd stunts at their own risk, Spike - who according to friends was always a stuntman at heart - immediately hopped on board.
The show was Jackass and after MTV beat Comedy Central in a highly publicized bidding war, Spike and his gang of troublemakers were on their way to making television history.
is for It's Oh So Quiet
Jonze directed the video for this 1995 Bjork song, which remains her biggest hit to date.
Riffing on Busby Berkley-style choreography, the video also employs slow-mo footage for the quieter moments of the song. Spike himself plays the dancing mailbox.
Trivia note: the song is a cover of a cover - Quiet is a renamed version of Betty Hutton's song Blow A Fuse, which itself in turn covers 1948's Austrian song Und jetzt ist es still.
Want to watch the video? Click here .
is for Human Nature
Jonze' second collaboration with Kaufman, though this time he didn't direct, he just produced, handing over the reigns to fellow helmer Michel Gondry, with whom he created the Director's Label DVD series featuring the work of various advert and music video makers.
Human Nature stars Rhys Ifans as a man who was raised as an ape and ends up raising temperatures for the scientists - Tim Robbins and Patricia Arquette - trying to socialize him.
It never achieved the success levels of Malkovich, but Jonze explained why he was drawn to it: "That’s why Charlie’s scripts are fun to read. When I first read the script, it just kept going to different places, and that probably comes from Charlie not knowing where he’s going."
is for George Lucas
Spike met Lucas on the set of Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace, which happened to feature his other half, Sofia Coppola in a tiny role.
The filmmakers hit it off, which led to a rumour - more than likely spread by prankmeister Jonze himself - that he was in talks to direct the follow-up, later to be called Attack Of The Clones.
We're not sure his freewheeling style would have meshed with Lucas tightly reined, CG-filled world, but there's some part of us that would have loved to see a Spike Jonze Star Wars film…
is for Freestylin' Magazine
The skateboard title was one of Jonze' earliest jobs.
"Spike had written us some letters, and he had panache," close friend Mark Lewman, who worked with Editor-in-chief Andy Jenkins at the magazine, told New york magazine . "We needed another writer, and Andy was like, 'We should offer Spike the job.'"
For the next two years, Jonze and Lewman lived in a townhouse across a parking lot from Freestylin' headquarters and commuted to work by skateboard.
"The first day Spike came to work, he was skating around the parking lot," says Jenkins. "Bob Osborn, the owner, was like, 'Who's that kid skating in the parking lot? Get rid of him.' And then we introduced him to his new employee."
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Author Dave Eggers, who rose to prominence with his beloved cult tome A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius.
According to Eggers, working alongside Jonze on the script for Where The Wild Things Are was a real experience.
"From the beginning, I knew Spike was doing a naturalistic, live-action version of the book. He had a sense of all that at the very beginning, and it immediately seemed like the right choice, but difficult. He knew he wanted real trees, real dirt, and that Max would sail in a real boat on a real ocean.
"So from the start there was a clear sense that the look would be the sort of human, naturalistic cinematography that he’s used in all his movies.
"But I’ve seen enough over the years to know that Spike absolutely achieved what he set out to do, which was to make an honest and beautiful film about childhood. I always knew he would, because he’s uniquely suited to make a movie about a boy, given he’s still got a lot of boy in him.
"He skateboards, and I’ve seen him wrestle dogs. The last time I was at his house, he shot me with a BB gun."
is for Disguise
Never one to push himself out into the spotlight - he prefers to let his work speak for him - Jonze has been known to adopt disguises and enjoys confusing journalists who interview him by dressing weirdly and faking details of his life.
But his best trick was convincing the world - and the MTV Music Video Awards in 1999 - that Richard Koufey, director of Fatboy Slim's Praise You promo Torrance Community Dance Group, exists. He doesn't. He's Spike.
He accepted the Best Directed Video as Kouffey, staying in character on stage. See the video here .
is for Coppola
Sofia Coppola, that is, who Spike married on June 26, 1999. He'd known her for 10 years before that, as they met on the set of a Sonic Youth music video, but despite their experience and deep friendship, the marriage ended on December 5, 2003.
The pair never worked together. "We're not made to be collaborators," she once told the Guardian. "But we usually read each other's screenplays and talk about them, and both of us understand when one of us is wiped out, or what it's like to wait for an actor to respond to a script."
is for Being John Malkovich
Jonze's first feature film received rapturous responses for its quirky imagination - partly thanks to an amazing script by Charlie Kaufman.
Given his usual quiet, nervous style, it's a wonder the director ever got Malkovich to agree to the film, especially after his first impression…
“He mentioned some projects he’d worked on, and they were interesting,” Malkovich told the New York Times, “but none of them showed that he was necessarily well-suited to make this film.
“I thought he was Czech. He had such a funny way of expressing himself. It sounded like he’d learned English as a second language.”
Still, the actor found, “funny and charming and strange, and he seemed to desperately want to do this film.”
is for Adam Spiegel
It might not surprise you to learn that, despite its faintly ordinary sound, "Spike Jonze" is not the man's real name.
Nope, he was born Adam Spiegel to Arthur Spiegel III, a healthcare consultant and Sandy Granzow, a publicist.
His parents divorced before he even hit high school and he, his brother and sister were often left to amuse themselves on weekends while their mother worked.
"For all intents and purposes, the kid kind of raised himself," says Jay Metzler, the owner of the dirt-bike shop where Jonze worked when he was in junior high and high school. "He was basically a ward of the Rockville BMX store."