Where the Wild Things Are

We publish an unseen interview between Spike Jonze and Maurice Sendak as the film gears up for its UK release.

Photography by Leigh Johnson.

Last night, Dazed was at the red carpet premiere for Where The Wild Things Are, the subject of our recent cover feature – an interview between director Spike Jonze and the original author of the 1963 children’s book, Maurice Sendak. Jonze introduced the screening at the Leicester Square cinema, and also brought out the 12-year-old star of the film, Max Records. So, with a slightly fuzzy head from the ‘post-premiere rumpus’ at the Old Sorting Office, transformed for the occasion into a giant magical forest, we thought it would be a good day to bring you some unseen pics from our shoot, and a rough cut from the interview that didn’t fit into the magazine.

Spike Jonze: I think when people give you a reaction that is personal to them and you can tell it affected them in some way that they really thought about, and that touched them in some deeper way, I love that…

Maurice Sendak: Well, when it’s more than just, “I had fun reading your book,” or “What a funny story that was,” yes… I never intended it to be just a cute or funny story. I’m a tiresomely serious man, as well you know. Everything has to mean something. I remember the book I did called ‘Outside, Over There’, which I’m very fond of – a little girl wrote from Canada “You have disappointed me very much, I always liked your books but I hate this one, and I hope you die cordially.”

Spike Jonze: Bullshit! She didn’t write that.

Maurice Sendak: And then there was a note attached by her mother, saying “I wondered whether I should send this letter because it’s very harsh, it’s very rude, but she is so upset and she wanted so much to let you know that you upset her, that I felt it only right.” And she said, “By the way, I thought you should know, I’ve just had another child and she just can’t bear it that I have another child.” The book is about a girl that has to look after her baby sister – and that’s a nightmare for a lot a children – and she was furious. Children don’t know how to be polite – “I hope you die,” is what she said. (laughs)

Spike Jonze: That’s great!

Maurice Sendak: It was great because it was so real.

Spike Jonze: So real. She had to take out her confusion and frustration on someone, so it had to be you.

Maurice Sendak: And who’s better than me? She also said: “You scare me. Why do the babies have hoods over their heads? My mummy explained that sometimes the tailor makes a mistake and made the hoods too big, so if the hoods fit better you would see their faces and they wouldn’t be so scary. So that part I don’t blame you for.”

Spike Jonze: Ha ha! That’s great.

Maurice Sendak: I mean, when you get reactions like that, you know you’ve touched a button. But is it good? Did she need to be frightened? I needed to exorcise this little anxiety of mine –that was my need. And I wasn’t thinking of her needs… but she always made me cry.

Spike Jonze: How come?

Maurice Sendak: Because of how easy it is to hurt somebody, or push the wrong button... I entered where I had not been invited. I just blundered in and what was making her unhappy was simply that another child taking up room in the house, and was going to take her mother’s attention from her. It was just unbearable.

Spike Jonze: And does that worry you at all? That you make something that might make someone upset as a kid?

Maurice Sendak: Yes but you don’t really know. I’ve never received a letter anytime from anybody that’s said, “Frank jumped out the window shortly after reading your book – you scared the hell out of him. How do you feel about that?” (pause) Not bad! I didn’t much like him. (laughs) No, nobody’s ever said such a thing.

Spike Jonze: It’s weird I have no idea, like the movie’s about to come out, and I don’t really know what we made – I tried to make a film that felt like what it feels like to be a person that age, to be nine and trying to decipher this world you suddenly find yourself in the middle of… with all these strange people, behaving in strange ways. What does it all mean? And so that was my goal, and I feel like I did that – but I have no idea…

Maurice Sendak: You’ve no idea what you’re touching.

Spike Jonze: Right.

Maurice Sendak: Or where you’re touching it. You know, it’s something to be concerned about.  But I think if in your heart and in your creative energy brain, you are seeking out a real puzzle and you’re not looking to frighten anybody, you’re not looking to upset anybody… you’re just looking to discuss a subject which you yourself went through when you were nine. You just can’t remember the difficulties of one’s own childhood – so, [upsetting people] can happen. It’s unfortunate, but its better then lying, I think. Anything is better than lying.

Where The Wild Things Are is out on December 11
The full Dazed interview with Spike Jonze and Maurice Sendak is still on sale in Dazed December Issue.

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