Written by Judy Sloane Wednesday, 14 October 2009 17:38
Voice stars Forest Whitaker, Catherine O'Hara and Lauren Ambrose take us into the magical world of Where the Wild Things Are.
Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are is shaping up to be one of the hottest films of the year, the director bringing his unique style and vision to Maurice Sendak's childrens' story about a little boy named Max (played by Max Records) who creates his own world populated by mythical beasts. And voice stars Forest Whitaker, Catherine O'Hara and Lauren Ambrose - who play monsters Ira, Judith and KW respectively - take us on a magical mystery tour into their wonderful world...
What was the best part about making the film?
FOREST WHITAKER It’s different for all of us because the rehearsal part that we got to go through was really fun because it was kind of crazy and we were reenacting the scenes, playing out the scenes, doing the rock (I think he means dirt) fights with bread. Hitting each other with Styrofoam and lying on top of each other. That was fun for me.
CATHERINE O'HARA We had Spike and Catherine (Keener) taking turns playing Max!
Did you actually wear the monster outfits?
WHITAKER I wore like a big belly. I had a belly this big kind of warm, and they put mikes on our heads and stuff.
LAUREN AMBROSE They filmed our expressions as well. I haven’t seen the version with the faces done but I guess they’re kind of reflective of our expressions.
What do you think about your characters and how did they change or develop? Lauren, do you see KW as a sweet earth mother?
AMBROSE I think KW is kind of an outsider, kind of shy and she and Carol, played by James Gandolfini, they have this crazy, tense relationship. It sort of evolved a little bit over time and shifted a little bit. It was all their imagination, which is so spectacular for me. It’s Spike who came up with a way to fill in this very spare template. That’s why people are so interested in seeing this movie because how are they going to flesh it out? How are these really cool people going… what are they going to do with their imagination to make a story about imagination.
O'HARA You say you were an outsider but I think Judith was an outsider too. I felt Judith was like a kid having a bad day too. She wants to be seen and wants to know who they are and wants to be liked and wants to fit in but keeps saying the wrong thing. They can say the wrong thing but that doesn’t fix the problem. Luckily, Judith has Ira who can kind of connect her. She probably wouldn’t have friends if it weren’t for Ira because Ira keeps damage control and is so sweet and loving and open. From Judith’s point of view, Ira’s so loving and open that she’s going to stay as close as she can to him. We’re all kind of different aspects of children and I kind of tapped into my days as a child, and sadly, my days as an adult too, where I want to be liked and I want to fit in and I just kind of get in my own way.
Forest, how do you feel?
WHITAKER Ira is trying to get a complete family unit. He’s trying to get order in his life. He puts holes in trees, which give him a purpose, and purpose is important. It’s a statement of what he can’t have but he’s doing his best to pull things together with his girl, his king and his community. To him, it’s all about trying to find some balance and order in his life.
Forest, were you the only one who got into a suit to get into character
WHITAKER I was the only one who wore a belly. I wanted to feel how my hands would go and I thought it would help me figure out how to speak and how to move and gesture. Catherine would rub my belly and touch me differently and our relationship shifted.
So they filmed you while you were improvising, and interacting with each other?
O'HARA We were doing all the scenes. Yeah
WHITAKER It was individual cameras on each person.
O'HARA There were about 20-something cameras on us. Digital.
WHITAKER Following us around. Even when we slept.
Did you find any new meanings in the movie when you were making the film?
AMBROSE I always think it’s silly for adults to talk about the meaning of children’s books because it’s not for us. Kids are operating off a different planet and a different world. Maurice really tapped into something deep and big and being a child, so I don’t know.
O'HARA We are all wild and we just kind of mold each other, which is really sad. When you’re that wild you need some order in the world in order to survive but the wildness is so open and pure and great too. The book is written so simply and the movie is as simply done as possible in this big fat world of movie-making. What they tried to capture is the wildness and things that go… I like it in the book when he says “and that night in Max’s room a forest grew.” There’s no explanation that he had to close his eyes and then he thought about this. It just happens and you go with it. You completely go with it. The way you think as a child. It’s just random and wild and open and free.
That doesn't usually happen in the movies!
O'HARA No. You have to have the dead parent in the beginning. The beginning of every kids movie you have the dead parent to explain why the child’s in this state. It’s all over-explained. The music tells you exactly how you’re supposed to feel.
Were you intimidated by James Gandolfini?
O'HARA He can’t help his intimidating presence. He tells stories of scaring people. But he’s such a good actor too.
AMBROSE I was in the sound thing having screaming matches with James Gandolfini. It’s kind of intense. At one point he told me I won.He’s a presence regardless of the character he’s playing.