Spike Jonze


Spike Jonze (b. 1969) is an American filmmaker best known for his collaborations with writer Charlie Kaufman, which include the 1999 film ‘Being John Malkovich’ and the 2002 film ‘Adaptation,’ and as the co-writer and director of the 2009 film ‘Where the Wild Things Are.’ He is also well known for his music video collaborations with Fatboy Slim, Weezer, Beastie Boys, and Björk.

He was also a co-creator and executive producer of ‘MTV’s Jackass.’ Since 2007, he has been the creative director at VBS.tv, an online television network supplied by Vice and funded by MTV. He is also part owner of skateboard company Girl Skateboards with riders Rick Howard and Mike Carroll. He also co-founded Directors Label, with filmmakers Chris Cunningham and Michel Gondry, and the Palm Pictures company

Born Adam Spiegel in Rockville, Maryland, Jonze grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, and in Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania. His father, Arthur H. Spiegel III, was a distant relation of the Spiegel catalog family, and founded APM Management Consultants. His mother, Sandra L. Granzow, is a writer, communications consultant in developing countries, and artist. His brother, Sam ‘Squeak E. Clean’ Spiegel, is a producer and DJ. He also has a sister. His father was from a German Jewish family, while his mother has German, Scottish, and English (Christian) ancestry.

When he was in junior high and high school, he spent time at a Bethesda community store, where the former owner Mike Henderson gave him his nickname ‘Spike Jonze’ in reference to Spike Jones, a bandleader in the 40s and 50s specializing in parody songs. He fronted ‘Club Homeboy,’ an international BMX club, with Mark ‘Lew’ Lewman and Andy Jenkins, both co-editors of ‘Freestylin’ Magazine’ in the mid- to late 1980s, where Jonze worked as a photographer. The three also created the youth culture magazines ‘Homeboy’ and ‘Dirt’ (the latter of which was described as ‘Sassy Magazine for boys,’ being published by the same company and distributed in cellophane bags with the landmark magazine for young women).

In 2006, he was nominated by the Directors Guild of America for ‘Outstanding Achievement in Commercials in 2005.’ He was nominated for a body of work that included ‘Hello Tomorrow’ for Adidas, ‘Lamp’ for IKEA, and ‘Pardon Our Dust’ for The Gap. He was a producer and co-creator of MTV television series ‘Jackass’ and ‘Jackass: The Movie,’ also directing some of the segments. Jonze has acted in some videos and films; his most prominent role was in ‘Three Kings’ as the sweet, dimwitted, casually racist Conrad, in which he was directed by friend David O. Russell.

In the past, Jonze shot street skateboarding videos, most notably Blind’s highly influential ‘Video Days’ in 1991, and Lakai Footwear’s ‘Fully Flared’ in 2007. He also co-directed the Girl Skateboards film ‘Yeah Right!’ (in the closing credits Spike is shown doing a nollie heelflip in loafers) and the Chocolate Skateboards video ‘Hot Chocolate.’

Jonze has many alter egos, including Richard Koufey (alternately spelled Coufey or Couffe), the leader of the Torrance Community Dance Group, an urban troupe that performs in public spaces. The Koufey persona appeared when Jonze, in character, filmed himself dancing to Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’ as it played on a boombox in a public area. Jonze showed the video to Slim, who appears briefly in the video around the 3:57 mark. Jonze then assembled a group of dancers to perform to Slim’s ‘Praise You’ outside a Westwood, California movie theater and taped the performance. The resulting clip was a huge success, and ‘Koufey’ and his troupe were invited to New York City to perform the song for the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards. The video received awards for Best Direction, Breakthrough, and Best Choreography, which Jonze accepted, still in character. Jonze made a mockumentary about the experience called ‘Torrance Rises.’

Jonze directed ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ in 2009. It was arguably his most anticipated film to date, the product of an almost decade long collaboration with author Maurice Sendak. In 2010, he made a 28-minute short titled ‘Scenes from the Suburbs,’ inspired by the Arcade Fire album ‘The Suburbs.’ A dystopian vision of suburbia in the near-future, the short was co-written by Jonze, Win and Will Butler. Expanding on the themes of nostalgia, alienation, and childhood, the short premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Jonze is good friends with Björk and frequently works with her. He has directed three videos for her and she contributed the theme song for Jonze’s ‘Being John Malkovich.’ He is working on another project with the Beastie Boys for the release of their Santigold collaboration, ‘Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win.’ In a similar fashion to Jonze’s recent work with Arcade Fire, he has directed both ‘short and epic-length videos’ to partner with the single.

Jonze’s next theatrical project ‘Her’ was released in late 2013. It is a science fiction romance film starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, Rooney Mara, and Scarlett Johansson. The film follows a man who develops a relationship with a seemingly intuitive and humanistic female voice, named ‘Samantha,’ produced by an advanced computer operating system.

In 1999, Jonze married director Sofia Coppola, whom he had first met in 1992. In late 2003, the couple filed for divorce, citing ‘irreconcilable differences.’ The character of John, a career-driven photographer played by Giovanni Ribisi in Coppola’s ‘Lost in Translation’ (2003), was rumored to be based on Jonze, though Coppola has repeatedly denied this.

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