Spike Jonze, not to be confused with Spike Lee, was born Adam Spiegel in 1969 in St. Louis. He got the nickname ‘Spike’ because he loved buzz cuts, and he took the name ‘Jonze’ as an homage to the hilarious bandleader from the 1940’s. His parents divorced when he was young, and the young Spike Spiegel grew up in Maryland, basically living a normal life. He loved skateboarding, freestyle biking and music.
Jonze decided to not waste his time in college and instead joined the staff at the magazine ‘Freestyle.’ He then co-founded the magazine ‘Dirt’ which was basically a younger brother to ‘Sassy’, the girl’s magazine. However, ‘Dirt’, despite being well executed and clever, failed after a measly seven months. So, Jonze went back to his hobbies of riding skateboards and bikes and photography. To earn money, he shot photo spreads of skaters for magazines.
Thankfully for him, Spike Jonze’s work was noticed by Sonic Youth and they asked him to contribute skater footage for a video. This put Jonze’s foot in the door and offers began to stream in for other work with videos. He directed for the Beastie Boys, Weezer and Bjork, always able to add clever twists and tell a complete story in the short time span. So it was not much of a surprise when Hollywood came calling.
The first movie Jonze directed was Charlie Kaufman’s script, ‘Being John Malkovich’, starring John Cusack, Cameron Diaz and… wait for it… John Malkovich. The film is quirky, odd, somewhat graphic and gained a huge cult following. Jonze received an award for best debut feature for this film.
Jonze then tried out some acting and joined the Coppola family by marrying Sophia Coppola in about 1999. Jonze then went back to MTV and played a large role in the hit show Jackass. He worked with this show until a suitable follow-up to ‘Malkovich’ came along in the form of ‘Adaptation’, another script by Charlie Kaufman. The film did not do as well commercially as ‘Malkovich’ but the actors: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, and Chris Cooper, all received Oscar nods. Cooper took the hardware home.
Jonze’s greatest commercial success actually came with the tiny-budget big-screen version of Jackass. The film grossed over $60 million, making many talking heads bemoan the death of cinema. Jonze didn’t really care what they said, as he ended up pocketing a nifty paycheck for his labors.
Finally, Spike Jonze has settled down to work on his pet project. He is putting together a big-screen adaptation of Maurice Sendaks’s “Where the Wild Things Are.” If nothing else, fans can expect an unconventional and unexpected visual treat when this film finally is released.