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Thursday, September 3, 2009

"How Do You Adapt a Poem?"

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Thu, Sep 3, 2009 at 4:30 PM

nytjonzecover.jpg
  • Photo by Dan Winters/New York Times.

From the New York Times Magazine's "Bringing Where the Wild Things Are to the Screen":

Along one wall of Jonze’s office was a bookshelf lined with DVDs that he referred to while making the movie—The Black Stallion, E.T. and The Red Balloon, along with various dirt-bike and skateboard videos. Jonze was perched on a couch with a copy of Sendak’s book on his lap. “It’s amazing how few words there are but how strong the sentences are,” he said, slowly turning the pages. “You can just stare at the drawings and take in all the detail.” Jonze has bright blue eyes, a bony nose that twists slightly to one side and a skateboarder’s spare physique. From the ankles up, he dresses like a 1950s studio director, in tailored suits of gray and tan, but then you look at his feet and see he’s wearing skateboard sneakers. He speaks in a small, halting voice and sprinkles his sentences with words like “cool” and “awesome.” Although he has no children of his own, his feeling for what it’s like to be a child seems to be stronger and more immediate than that of most people his age, and children are often drawn to him. Catherine Keener, who was nominated for an Oscar for her work in Being John Malkovich and who plays a divorced mother in Where the Wild Things Are, told me that her 10-year-old son, Clyde, once asked her why Jonze didn’t live with his parents; apparently Clyde didn’t realize that Jonze was an adult.

In Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, a child hammers some nails into a wall, is sent to his room without any supper and finds solace and wild fun on an island of monsters who pronounce him king. Considering Jonze’s own propensity toward mischief, it was tempting to see his fight with the studio (which, by the time I sat down with him, was more than a year old) as an embodiment of the eternal struggle between freedom-seeking child and authoritarian parent. Jonze chose a different family metaphor. “It’s like the studio was expecting a boy, and I gave birth to a girl,” he told me. “And now they’re learning to love and accept their daughter.”

Read it all. Immediately.

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