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Why Spike Jonze Chose novice art director Sonny Gerasimonwicz

Juxtapoz // Thursday, 01 Oct 2009


From the LA Times:

When Spike Jonze set out to create live-action versions of the classic creatures from "Where the Wild Things Are" for his movie adaptation of the beloved children's book, the writer-director had a very clear image in mind -- of what he didn't want.

In 2004, around the time he also started co-writing its script with novelist Dave Eggers, Jonze rejected a number of submissions from a Hollywood special-effects company for being, well, "too creature-y." Jonze thought they simply failed to capture a bestial je ne sais quoi found in Maurice Sendak's 1963 picture book about Max, a little boy in a wolf costume who misbehaves and imagines himself transported to a faraway land where he becomes the king of all Wild Things.

"I wanted the monsters to retain the strange design that Maurice had created," he said. "Weird, cuddly, charming. Looking at each other out of the corner of their eye. They'd be almost, like, conspiring. You don't know if Max has total control over them."

To ensure his monsters would have the proper "soul," though, Jonze decided he needed an illustrator from outside the movie biz to draw mock-ups first. Over dinner, Jonze's friend Karen O, lead singer of the alt-rock trio the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Julian Gross of the noise rock band Liars steered the director toward their pal Sonny Gerasimowicz.

He wasn't a professional creature creator or artist. A former graffiti writer turned ad agency creative, Gerasimowicz was a kind of closet artiste with only one illustration for a magazine article to suggest his skill. Offered the chance to work with the zeitgeist-riding auteur, Gerasimowicz didn't present him a polished portfolio. He showed Jonze rough pencil drawings of the Wild Things. And the lo-fi renderings struck just the right nerve. "I sent him sketches that were, like, things I drew while I was on the telephone. Like on scraps of paper," Gerasimowicz recalled.

"When it comes down to something as delicate as tone, it became clear we had to find someone who had the right aesthetic," Jonze said. "It's finding people that have the right judgment, even if they've never done the specifics."

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If you happen to be in the Los Angeles area, make sure to check out Gerasimowicz’s show, currently on display at Space 1520.



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