Directors People

Spike Jonze

spike jonze

Spike Jonze is an American musician, filmmaker, photographer and actor.  He was born as Adam H. Spiegel on October 22, 1969 in New York City.  His great-great-grandfather was Joseph Spiegel.  Big J founded the marketing retailer Spiegel and its catalog.  Spike lived with his mother and two siblings after his parents divorced.  They moved to Bethesda, Maryland.  Adam was given his nickname Spike Jonze by a Bethesda Store owner.  The moniker was a play on the 1940’s sardonic bandleader Spike Jones.

He attended Walt Whitman Highschool and worked at a Rockville, MD BMX store.  Spike met the future Jackass co-creator Jeff Tremaine through their mutual interest in BMX.  Jonze photographed bikers and befriended the owners of Freestylin’ Magazine.  They loved his work and offered him a job.  The forthcoming director moved to California to work in photography.  The skateboarding scene coalesced with his art and Spike soon became a specialist and contributor to Transworld Skateboarding.  The exposure resulted in a more lucrative position at World Industries.

Spike’s first skate video was Rubbish Heap and released in 1989.  He completed a promotional video for Blind Skateboards that featured Mark Gonzales in 1991.  It was well received in the genre’s community.  Mark delivered a copy to Kim Gordon after a Sonic Youth show.  She hired Jonze to direct the music video for their single 100% (1992).  It featured professional skateboarder and actor Jason Lee.  The momentum landed him behind the camera of The Breeders song Cannonball and Weezer’s Buddy Holly.

jonze holding something
Spike Jonze holding something – Photo Credit: the1secondfilm

Commercial Work

He worked with Björk and R.E.M. and directed a Nike commercial.  In 1997 he shot videos for Daft Punk (Da Funk), The Chemical Brothers (Elektrobank) and The Notorious B.I.G. (Sky’s the Limit).  Being John Malkovich was Spike Jonze’s directorial debut and featured Cameron Diaz and John Cusack.  It landed in theaters in 1999.  Charlie Kaufman penned the screenplay and Roger Ebert named it the best film of the year.  The production received three Academy Award nominations including Best Director.  It lost to American Beauty (1999).

Time passed.  Spike directed a Nike commercial and a Tenacious D music video.  He co-created Jackass with Johnny Knoxville and Tremaine in 2000.  He won the 2002 Grammy for Best Music Video for his construction of Weapon of Choice by Fatboy Slim.  It starred Christopher Walken.  His second feature was the dark comedy-drama Adaptation. (2002).  Nicolas Cage, Tilda Swinton, Chris Cooper and Meryl Streep were brought together against another Kaufman screenplay.  The plot was loosely based on The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean and nominated for four Oscars.  Chris Cooper won Best Supporting Actor.

Jonze produced Jackass: The Movie (2002) and continued to shoot commercials.  His work for IKEA won him the Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.  He collaborated with Ludacris and filmed the 2008 video for Kanye West’s Flashing LightsSynecdoche, New York debuted later that year.  The movie marked Charlie Kaufman’s first time behind the camera and was produced by Spike.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman was cast in the lead role.  The movie had a limited release and was a commercial disappointment.  It has since been nominated for the Palme d’Or and is considered one of the greatest films ever created.

spike jonze 1
Spike Jonze – Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Late Career

Dave Eggers and Spike co-wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (2009).  Maurice helped throughout the process and developed a friendship with the director.  James Gandolfini, Chris Cooper, Mark Ruffalo and Catherine Kenner were among the high-profile cast.  The film was well received by the critics and had a nebulous target audience.  Many deemed it unsuitable for young children.  The confusion yielded a disappointing box office result.  The one hundred-million-dollar production budget broke even.

Her was shown to audiences in December 2013.  Spike Jonze’s fourth feature was his first self-composed original screenplay.  The Joaquin Phoenix, Olivia Wilde, Rooney Mara, Scarlett Johansson and Amy Adams acted movie was a universal success.  It was nominated for five Academy Awards.  Spike took home the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay that enshrined him in cinema history.  In 2017 he orchestrated Frank Ocean’s summer festival tour.  Two years later he was behind the camera of the Aziz Ansari comedy special Right Now (2019).  The Beastie Boys Documentary Beastie Boys Story was completed in 2020 and released on Apple TV.

Spike Jonze married director Sofia Coppola in 1999.  The two met on the set of one of his music videos in 1992.  The couple divorced in 2003.  One of the characters in Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003) is assumed to be based on her relationship with Jonze.  Spike dated Drew Barrymore in 2007 and Rinko Kikuchi in 2010.  He separated with the later in 2011 and continues to write, direct and produce today.

spike jonze and cast of her
Spike with the cast of Her – Photo Credit: aphrodite-in-nyc from new york city

Spike Jonze Filmography

Being John Malkovich 1999
Adaptation. 2002
Where the Wild Things Are 2009
Her 2013
Beastie Boys Story 2020

“The past is just a story we tell ourselves.”

-Spike Jonze
spike jonze
Mr. Jonze – Photo Credit: Greg2600

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