BEING JOHN MALKOVICH
About The Production
Being John Malkovich is an outrageous comedic fantasia which is the first feature film to be helmed by award-winning director Spike Jonze. Being John Malkovich is a darkly compassionate exploration of love and identity which is the first produced feature film screenplay by writer Charlie Kaufman.
But, really, what is Being John Malkovich?
Being John Malkovich can be so many things to so many people. John Cusack, himself an accomplished screenwriter, calls the movie "the sickest thing I could never conceive of:
totally original, totally new, intricate, twisted, sophisticated, and lowbrow -- all at the same time. It's like an Escher painting. It has doors and stairways leading into themselves. It's totally wild."
When she sat down to read the script, Cameron Diaz found herself "laughing within the first three
pages...By the tenth page, I wondered, 'What is going to happen? This is so bizarre!"'
Charlie Kaufman comments, "I wrote Being John Malkovich without an outline, blindly, with no sense of direction or purpose. I don't have any interest in working that way. It's important to me that I don't have a map before I start. This allows me to surprise myself, stay engaged, discover things, and, hopefully, allows the unconscious to surface. So I had some characters in mind and I had some things I was interested in, either because they made me anxious or sad or angry or horny or lonely or because they seemed funny. Just a bunch of things I was drawn to. And I combined them. As I did this, different ideas came up or stories evolved and I incorporated them, went back and made the necessary revisions, then continued working like this until I was done."
Asked to describe Kaufman's unique screenplay, producer Vincent Landay defers to director Spike
Jonze's own synopsis: "I think Spike summed it up best when he said the film is about
City, a puppeteer, a tragic marriage, a chimp, a boss, a receptionist, another woman, an actor, the
New Jersey Turnpike, and a plate of lasagne'"
When Cameron Diaz met director Spike Jonze for the first time, she didn't quite know what to think. After all, how often does one of today's most sought-after actresses take a meeting with someone so creative, so imaginative, so.. .soundly asleep?
Diaz fondly recalls, "I had heard all these things about Spike, how cool and talented he was. Then I met him, and he wasn't anything like I thought he would be.
"I walked into the Pacific Dining Car, a few minutes late for our meeting, and was escorted to the table. There was Spike, in one of those big, high-backed chairs, nodding off. All I could think was, 'Gosh, who is this guy?"'
"Then I realized he looked like Robert De Niro," muses Diaz, adding, "That's another of his hidden talents, one of his endearing qualities: he can look like anybody. Sometimes he can look like Matthew McConaughey, and, every once in a while, he looks like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That really impressed me."
Catherine Keener also had an interesting first meeting with Jonze: "It must have lasted a couple of hours, which I hear is not unusual for Spike," laughs Keener. "I kept feeling like I should leave, but he made me feel like I didn't have to. After the audition process, I thought doing this great script with this cast would be a lot of fun--plus I'd get to work with Spike."
"His personality is kind of like the story," says Keener. "Nothing is ever what you think it is."
How, then, did the photographer-turned-director first come into contact with Kaufman's very original screenplay?
When violently prodded for full d
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