Thursday, February 28, 2008

Where The Wild Studio Heads Are

Those of us who've been waiting six years for Spike Jonze to release a follow-up to Adaptation. might possibly have to wait a little longer. At least three years ago I began reading on IMDB that he had begun working on a movie version of Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are with a script written by Dave Eggers. Sounded like a pretty intriguing idea. I then read this article in the New York Times where the book's author explains how he turned down offers for years and years until he met Jonze, back before Jonze had even made Being John Malkovich: "He was the strangest little bird I'd ever seen. He had fluttered into the world of the studios and, could he not be swatted dead, I knew he would manage. I had total faith in him." By some miracle of creation, of course, Jonze managed to make not only one completely uncommercial, off-the-wall movie, but two. Sendak and Jonze met up again later and the movie was on.

As I kept pace on the IMDB message boards, however, it seemed like the studio was getting cold feet and trying to smother Spike's, Dave's, and Maurice's vision. Originally Spike wanted a certain actor to play the part of Max, but the studio didn't like him, and they spent so much time fighting that eventually the kid was too old for the part anyway, and they had to find someone else. I think. The production has been shrouded in secrecy so I can't really be sure. At any rate, after the release date has been pushed back countless times, it now sounds like the studio is finally contemplating just taking the film out of Spike's hands and re-shooting the damn thing. This sounds like a bad idea.

I'm not even talking about the principle of it. I'm just thinking back over film history and trying to count the number of times a studio tampered with a maverick auteur's artistic (albeit commercially unfeasable) vision and managed to make a hit out of the movie. Yeah, I think I'm done counting, because they've never been able to do it. All those Orson Welles movies they took out of his hands and re-shot? Still flopped. Peckinpah's Major Dundee and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid? Still flopped. Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate? Still flopped. The lesson is, even if Spike hasn't made a hit movie, just release it anyway because at least you'll have an artistically daring flop rather than a butchered flop.

And what was Warner Brothers thinking anyway? What kind of movie did they expect Spike to make? Did they even see Adaptation.? He needs to find a studio that will support him 100%, even if that means working with a smaller budget. I mean, Wes Anderson doesn't have these problems, does he?


yoggoth said...

If you were a studio exec and someone told you about a Where the Wild Things Are movie you'd say, "Oh my god, get some rejected-by-Seinfeld jokes for the parents and CG this baby up, we've got a hit!"

Now Wes Anderson comes up to you with a script and you say, "Wow these movie stars are willing to work for peanuts, even this skinny jerk can break 40 mil with this cast!"

Little Earl said...

Spike, Dave, Maurice, etc. should not be surprised. Either they should have worked with a smaller studio or they should not have done the film at all. Or who knows, maybe WB will relent after fans like us make enough of a stink about it on the blogosphere!!

yoggoth said...

Do you think they had a choice of which studio to work with? Spike might have a contract.

I don't know if they should be surprised. While this has happened before, some surprisingly edgy movies also get released. Really, who cares if they should be surprised or not. If Sendak only agreed to sell his rights because Jones was involved the studio execs are being assholes and bad businessmen, if history is any indication.

Bad children's movies feed into the smarmy sense of entitlement that many people have nowadays. Bad things happen! Forest fires kill your mom! Actions have consequences and there are no action hero family members who are going to save you. If you want to spout faux meritocratic nonsense you deserve the consequences when they grow up to be exploitative tyrants. Will to power, you are not a unique snowflake, etc, etc...

But that's a rant for another day.

herr zrbo said...

Maybe we'll see a Seinfeld voiced Wild Thing present an award at next year's Oscars?

'Wild Things: The Movie' brought to you by Wal-Mart and Toys 'R Us!