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Max Is The Heart Of The Movie
Casting for the lead role of Max was crucial. It involved a search of more than a year and spanned continents, as the filmmakers employed not only standard methods with casting agents but also reached out personally to friends and colleagues who might know of a youngster who fit the criteria.

"I wanted a real kid—not necessarily an actor who was going to give a ‘movie kid' performance, but someone who was going to give a real, emotional performance,” says Jonze, who goes on to concede, "As we progressed, it became clear that it was going to be hard to get the two sides of Max in one kid. He would have to be a really deep, internal kid, who had a lot going on in his head. A close-up of him should reveal his thinking and feeling. Simultaneously, we needed him at times to be totally out-of-his-head gleeful and wild. We could find one or the other, but finding both was hard.”

Jonze found this duality in a boy coincidentally named Max—Max Records. Not entirely inexperienced in front of a camera, Records had appeared in a couple of music videos. He and the director immediately connected. Says Landay, "It was fascinating to see Spike work with him and basically channel Spike's inner Max to him. He never compromised and said, ‘Well, he's just nine, it's all I can get out of him.' He expected as much out of him as he did from James Gandolfini.”

Records' work on the film split into two phases: Max's home life, and then his journey across the sea to confront the untamed wilderness.

"It's somewhat chaotic at home for Max, where a lot of things are out of his control,” says Eggers. "His parents are divorced, his sister has reached adolescence and is sort of abandoning him for other interests. He reaches a point where all these people are too busy to see that he needs attention so he puts on his wolf suit and goes charging around the house. The next thing you know, he's running out the door.”

These early scenes offer a sense of the myriad questions, as well as the creative impulses, frustrations and powerful emotions that might collide in the active mind of a young boy trying to get a handle on the world and his place in it—and the reasons why, oftentimes, a child might yearn for a world where he's in charge.

As part of his preparation, Jonze sought to get to the bottom of children's genuine concerns from their own point of view, saying, "I interviewed a lot of kids to get inspiration and ideas. I talked to them about things that made them angry, fights they had with their parents, how it makes them feel. It's dramatic, when you're that age.”

"When we shot the movie, I just let Max read the script once and said, ‘I don't want you thinking about it. I want you to just show up on the day and see what you're going to find,'” Jonze offers his strategy. "I wanted it to be fresh. The complexity of the dialogue is very demanding. To get these things to not just be dialogue but to be really thought and felt and coming from a specific place, is hard. What I was asking Max to do would be hard for an adult actor.”

"Where the Wild Things Are” stars Catherine Keener as Max's loving but stretched-to-the-limit single mother.

After wrapping her early scenes with Records, Keener, also an associate producer on the film, remained onboard through a portion of the subsequent location shoot in Australia to serve as Jonze's acting collaborator and extra set of eyes for working with Max and the Wild Things. "The whole experience of working with Max resonated very deeply with me,” she says. "His naturalness and purity of spirit really come through in every scene. It was months of hard work and he brought joy to it all the time.”

"Catherine helped me a lot,” says Records. "For instance, there's a scene where I go into my sister's room and I have<

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