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HER

About The Film
THEODORE:

I've been seeing this girl. It's good to be around someone that's excited about the world. I forgot that existed.

Writer/director Spike Jonze brings his distinct style and insight to this modern relationship story, "Her," a film that takes an unconventional look at the nature of love.

"One of the most challenging aspects of a relationship is being truly honest and intimate and allowing the person you love to be the same," he says. "We're changing and growing all the time, so the question is, how do you allow them the freedom to be who they are, moment to moment, day to day and year to year? Who are they going to become, and can you still love them?"

Moreover, can they still love you?

These are some of the questions and ideas that emerge when Theodore brings home a state-of-the-art, voice-controlled computer operating system…and meets Samantha.

"It's advertised as an intuitive system that listens, understands and knows you," says Jonze.

A highly sophisticated artificial intelligence, Samantha is immediately warm and empathetic. She soon reveals an independent streak, a wicked sense of humor, and a knack for getting to the truth of things, as well as an increasingly rich emotional range. Upon coming into existence, she quickly progresses, as does their relationship, Jonze says, "from that of an assistant to a trusted friend and confidant, and from that to something much, much, more."

Jonze co-wrote the screen adaptation of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are with Dave Eggers and, in 2010, wrote the 30-minute short "I'm Here," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, but "Her" marks the first feature film on which he is the sole screenwriter.

That he would choose to explore the all-too-human nature of love through the bond between a man and the disembodied consciousness of his operating system (OS) is not surprising. His work has been synonymous with innovation, from his breakthrough days as a music video director and documentary filmmaker, to such creative triumphs as "Being John Malkovich," "Adaptation." and "Where the Wild Things Are."

Joaquin Phoenix, who stars as Theodore, found the story "astonishing." Though involved at the time in what would become his Oscar-nominated performance in "The Master," he recounts, "Whenever we had the opportunity, Spike and I would talk about the script and about the characters, and it was great to watch it all develop."

"I trust his instincts. If he has any hesitation with something, I know it needs a deeper look," says Jonze, who approached the actor a week after completing the script. "Within the first five minutes of talking to him I thought, 'I love this guy. This is who I want to be in the movie.' Joaquin brings so much heart and sincerity to the role. Even though Theodore holds so much sadness, he also has a capacity for joy and playfulness and it's a sweet contrast, all of which Joaquin brings to the performance_and more."

Designed to learn and evolve on her own, Samantha is delighted by each novel experience and always wants more. At the same time, she begins to bring out the best in Theodore. "Although she has access to all the information in the world, she is creating every thought and response in the moment," says Scarlett Johansson, who stars as Samantha. "She has no predetermined views. So for all her depth, there's also an innocence and openness."

As Samantha's self-awareness grows, so does Theodore's. He takes her on excursions to the city, the mountains, the beach, and into the pattern of his daily routine and, with her perspective, sees these familiar haunts as he's never seen them before. He begins to see himself differently, too, which the director cites as the hallmark of every budding romance: "You show each other different ways to look at things, which is what falling in love and being in love hopefully is all about_being with someone whose point of view excites and inspires and challenges you, and gives you insight into yourself in a new way," he says.

Sophisticated but eminently relatable, "Her" moves from drama and heartbreak to moments of soaring romance and reflection, to the natural comic rapport of its two leads.

Phoenix and Johansson, together with Jonze, took on the challenge of imbuing Samantha, who is never seen on screen, with the fullness and presence she deserves. "There are so many facets to Samantha," notes Jonze. "She has to be guileless, yet witty, smart and self-possessed, and also sexy and intriguing, while believably developing as an emotional being, and it all has to come through Scarlett's performance."

Johansson recalls, "It was a very fluid process. Sometimes Joaquin and I would record together and sometimes I'd be working with Spike, but there was always a degree of spontaneity in uncovering the nuances of the character and the relationship."

"Everyone on the production was committed to making it feel intimate and real," adds Phoenix, who noted that even the atmosphere during filming was not the usual hub of kinetic activity that can compromise an actor's focus. "Nothing felt typical on this film, from the script to working with Scarlett, to the feeling on the set, and that made it all an amazing experience."

The idea for "Her" had been simmering with Jonze for years. "The initial spark," he recalls, "was an article I saw online about 10 years ago, about instant-messaging with an artificial intelligence. I linked to it and I said 'Hello,' and it said 'Hello.' 'How are you?' 'Good. How are you?' We had a little exchange and there was an initial buzz of, 'Wow, I'm talking to this thing, this thing is listening to me,' and then the illusion quickly dissolved and I could tell it was parroting what it had heard before and it wasn't intelligent, it was just a clever program. But that initial buzz was exciting. Eventually I thought about the idea of a man who's having a relationship with an entity like that, but a fully formed consciousness, and what could happen, and used that as a way to imagine this love story."

Once written, its execution quickly took on a life of its own. In addition to writing and directing, Jonze also produced the film with longtime producing partner Vincent Landay and Oscar-nominated producer Megan Ellison. Says Jonze, "Megan is very impressive. She has clear opinions and clear taste and is building a company that feels personal and intimate. She's doing something very special."

Likewise, Ellison states, "Working with Spike has been a phenomenal and treasured experience. He is an extraordinarily generous and empathic filmmaker whose contributions to culture are so vast, varied, and brilliant. His ability to be playful, emotional and intellectually profound_in his work and as a person_will never cease to amaze me."

Work on "Her" brought together the talents of Jonze's numerous frequent collaborators, including production designer K.K. Barrett, editor Eric Zumbrunnen, and costume designer Casey Storm. It also marked the first time the director has worked with cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, of whom he says, "What I especially liked about Hoyte was the sensitivity of his approach. I wanted this film to feel intimate and romantic and tactile, and he really brought a sophisticated and poetic sensibility to it.

"There are lots of ideas here about technology and the world we live in, the isolation that it can create as well as the connections it creates, and the way we're changing as a society," says Jonze. "But as I was writing the story, I always ended up putting those themes in the background. The high concept always takes a back seat to the relationship between Theodore and Samantha. Every scene is based in their reality as a couple. We wanted to look at it as a relationship between two individuals and, through them, make a story that looked at love and relationships as complexly and from as many angles as possible.

"I wanted to touch on some of the needs and fears, the judgments and expectations we bring into a relationship; the things we don't want to acknowledge, or things we pretend we don't need, but need anyway; the ways in which we connect with each other, or try to connect and fail," he continues. "We want to be known, but at the same time, are afraid of being known.

"Samantha was created to evolve," he says. "And once she's set in motion, like once we're all set in motion, there's no limit to where that's going to take us and who we're going to become. If you fall in love with someone, that's the risk you take."

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