Spike Jonze (born Adam Spiegel; October 22, 1969) is an American director, producer and actor, whose work includes music videos, commercials, film and television. He is best known for his collaborations with writer Charlie Kaufman, which include the 1999 film Being John Malkovich (that gave him an Academy Award for Best Director nomination) and the 2002 film Adaptation, and as the co-writer/director of the 2009 film Where the Wild Things Are. He is well known also for his music video collaborations with Weezer, Beastie Boys, and Björk. He was also a co-creator and executive producer of MTV’s Jackass. He is currently the creative director of VBS.tv. 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.
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.
Jonze was also a co-founder and editor of Dirt magazine along with Mark Lewman and Andy Jenkins, as well as an editor for Grand Royal Magazine and senior photographer for Transworld Skateboarding. 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! and the Chocolate Skateboards video Hot Chocolate. In the closing credits montage of Yeah Right! Spike is shown doing a nollie heelflip in loafers. He is also co-owner of Girl Skateboards.
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 boom box in a public area. Spike showed the video to Slim, who loved it. 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.
He also has a speaking part along with Dave Eggers in the Beck song “The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton” from his 2006 album, The Information. He appears in the “Exoskeleton” part.
Since 2007, he has been the creative director at VBS.tv, an online television network supplied by Vice and funded by MTV.
Spike Jonze was part of the Detour-Moleskine project in New York in 2007. The project invites authors to compile and illustrate Moleskine notebooks with experienced knowledge, to provide an intimate insight into the artists’ creative process.
Most recently, Jonze directed Where the Wild Things Are, which opened in the United States on October 16, 2009. It was arguably his most anticipated film to date, the product of an almost decade long collaboration with author Maurice Sendak. The film received generally favorable reviews, and appeared on many critics’ end-of-the-year top ten lists.
In July 2009, Jonze acquired the rights to make a film adaptation of the Shane Jones novel, Light Boxes. However, Jonze, in an interview with Times Online, said that Ray Tintori was no longer a director for that project as expected. In an interview with Interview Magazine in June 2010, Jones said the film option had been dropped.
In 2010, he made a 28 minute short titled Scenes from the Suburbs, inspired by the Arcade Fire album The Suburbs. Scenes from his short were used in the music video to the title song from the album, “The Suburbs”. A dystopian vision of suburbia in the near-future, the short was co-written by Jonze, Win Butler and Will Butler. Expanding on the themes of nostalgia, alienation and childhood, the short premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and saw its online premiere at MUBI on June 27, 2011.
Jonze is good friends with Björk and frequently works with her. He has directed three videos for her and she contributed with the theme song for Jonze’s Being John Malkovich film.
Jonze is currently 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.
In 2011, Jonze directed the music video for “Otis” the second single from the album Watch The Throne by Jay-Z and Kanye West.
First Published: Mar 2, 2012 – Last Updated: Jan 27, 2013