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WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE

The Wild Things Find Their Voices
Drawing greatly from the book's illustrations, Jonze and Eggers developed Sendak's motley band of horned, clawed and hairy giants into a group of individual personalities, each with his or her own impulses and motives. The actors cast to voice the Wild Things were instrumental in forging their distinct identities. They also focused on the ways in which the Wild Things interacted with each other: at times bickering and conflicted, at other times playful and comforting.

James Gandolfini portrays the powerful—and powerfully sensitive—de facto leader of the pack, Carol. Lauren Ambrose is the free-spirited but somewhat melancholy KW, who enjoys the group dynamic but also craves time alone. Chris Cooper is the rooster-feathered Douglas, energetic and industrious. Catherine O'Hara is the sarcastic, gloriously negative and domineering Judith; and Forest Whitaker is Judith's modest and patient companion, Ira, who happens to be very good at punching holes into things. Paul Dano is the diminutive goat-horned Alexander, a mere eight feet tall, who often feels he's not taken seriously enough.

"They're all meant to represent different things and be tangential relationships with Max's world without being direct representations,” Eggers explains. "We didn't think of them as creatures, really. We thought of them as people the entire time.”

"Everything started with the voice actors,” says Jonze, who eschewed the traditional method of recording voice performances from lone actors in sound booths, in favor of throwing them all together on stage to act out the entire movie in a kind of physical pre-visualization. This way, their actions as well as their voices were recorded. "We were going into a movie that incorporated puppets and animation. Both those mediums are inherently not spontaneous. So we decided to shoot the whole movie on a soundstage over two weeks. We needed the spontaneity of what these incredible actors did in the moment.”

At the same time, notes Chris Cooper, it was traditional in that "it was actor-to-actor. I wore a microphone attached to a headband and was followed by a boom mike. Everyone was outfitted in the same way. For each scene, Spike set up the situation and we had the freedom of some improvisation. James and I, for example, using the same space, were able to work off one another.”

Having worked with Jonze before, Cooper cites their "built-in trust” and says, "I came to the project ready to collaborate on bringing Douglas to life in a way that was both true to the book and to Spike's vision of how film could expand that character.”

"There were more cameras than actors and we improvised all day around the wonderful dialogue. Spike is an amazing and inventive director,” says Catherine O'Hara. "He doesn't take yes for an answer so he keeps working and playing and working with you until…well, I'm still thinking about Judith!”

The set resembled a minimalist playground through which the actors padded around shoeless to reduce extraneous sound as the action escalated. As Paul Dano points out, "With the Wild Things, there's a juxtaposition between their size and behavior. They seem like they'd be adults but they're very childlike. To capture that, we did a lot of childish things to provoke each other. You get crazier and funnier; you howl, you laugh. It's important not to break that energy once you have it.”

Foam cubes substituted for the trees, caves and boulders that would comprise the landscape of the Wild Things' island home. The actors lobbed stale bread rolls at each other to simulate the explosive dirt clod battle Jonze would later stage on location with the fully-formed creatures. Forest Whitaker recalls, "It was an all-encompassing experience, actively playing Ira and interacting with the other actors—fighting with them, la

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