Being Spike Jonze

The acclaimed rock-video director has made one of the year's oddest, funniest films. So why is he scared of his own shadow?

Mark Pellington, who has also made the transition from rock videos (for Pearl Jam and Nine Inch Nails) to feature films (most recently Arlington Road), calls Jonze "a great conceptualist." Jonze is stylish, he says, but all his work is driven by fresh, left-field ideas. Pellington compares Jonze to David Fincher (the video director who graduated to Fight Club and Seven) and Tim Burton in his ability to tell a story with visual verve without overwhelming it with effects.

"God gave him a special way to see the world," Pellington says, "and he does it with tongue in cheek and a good heart."

Though a rumor has floated that Jonze was worn-out by the process of working on Malkovich and Three Kings and wants to return to shorter projects, he says he's ready for more. He's spoken recently to Rage Against the Machine about a video and always has his eye out for other documentary ideas. But he's also known for being choosy, and when it comes to features, he'll continue to hold out for scripts as good as the movies he loves, among them such recent films as The Straight Story and Election.

Spike Jonze directs John Malkovich, perhaps the only man alive who doesn't need instructions on how to be, well, John Malkovich.
Melissa Moseley
Spike Jonze directs John Malkovich, perhaps the only man alive who doesn't need instructions on how to be, well, John Malkovich.

"He's a genius -- everybody knows it," says a friend from the skateboard days. "Whenever he does something, people just wait. People put everything aside. You just don't know what's going on in his head -- ever."

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