About The Film
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 systemâ€¦and meets
"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
Joaquin Phoenix, who stars as Theodore, found the story "astonishing." Though
involved at the time in what would become his Oscar-nominated performance in
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,"
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
"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
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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