Spike Jonze on the Fashion of ‘Her,’ Nic Cage, and Pixar

Spike JonzeGetty Images

Spike Jonze, the director of the critically acclaimed Her, turned to the pit of tech obsession that is Reddit on Friday. He was thorough and thoughtful in his answers, the best of which you can read here.

On the inspiration for Her: 
“The idea I guess I originally had almost 10 years ago, from when I had an IM chat with an artificial program online, and it was really limited obviously, it was Alicebot or one of those things (I can’t remember what the name was exactly). And from that I had the initial idea of a man having a relationship with an artificial intelligence program. But then it was probably wasn’t until 5 years later that I started thinking about it more as a way to write about relationships, and trying to understand them.”

His favorite animated films: 
“The first one I thought of was WALL-E. Who Framed Roger Rabbit, probably most of Pixar’s stuff, Pixar’s an amazing company, where creative really comes first. It’s really unique to see a company that big whose decisions are driven so creatively.”

The inspiration for the “Praise You” music video: 
“The love of dance. And wanting to share it with as many people in front of the movie theater as possible.”

On the character of Samantha in Her
“I think the way we approached in writing it and working on it with Joaquin and Scarlett was to not differentiate her feelings from our feelings. We tried to approach her as her own fully sentient and conscious being with her own sets of needs and insecurities and doubts as you were saying. The obvious difference is that she doesn’t have a physical form. And we explore the complications of that. And also, I was exploring the idea of how you don’t really know what exactly she is, and can Joaquin / Theodore give himself over to that. And how that’s similar to how we don’t fully ever know how anyone exactly sees the world from their own subjective view, and the people we’re closest to have their own experience of the world that we’ll never truly know. And thank you for your thoughtful question.”

The person whose head he would like to inhabit: 
“I am curious what it would be like inside George W. Bush’s head. I find him kind of sweet and sad. Have you seen his paintings? 15 minutes would probably be enough though.”

On directing Nicolas Cage in Adaptation: 
“You know what was wild about working with Nic on that movie, was that he just gave himself over completely. I asked him when we I asked him when we were in rehearsal how he liked to work and how he liked to be directed and he said, completely genuinely, “I want to work however you work.”‘

On the fashion of Her: 
“The mustache and the name Theodore and the pants came from the idea that oftentimes fashion and naming children and style goes in cycles, and having elements from the 1920’s come back in style seemed like an interesting way to create the future. And Theodore and his mustache came from Theodore Roosevelt. Sarah Vowell loves Theodore Roosevelt and talks about him a lot.”

On the Seth Rogan parody of Her: 
“I just saw it! Someone just sent it to me, actually Judd just sent it to me. Did I just namedrop Judd? Yes. It’s awesome. Seth Rogen is one funny man. Thank you Seth for honoring us with your absurdity!”

On the future of Her:
“…But you know, the ideas behind the design were that we were trying to create a world where everything felt warm, and comfortable, easy, accessible, but even in a world where you seemingly have everything you’d want, there’s still loneliness and longing and the need to connect. That seems like a particularly contemporary form of melancholy. So early on in design, KK Barrett (our production designer) and I decided that we weren’t going to worry about being futurists in any way in terms of technology and design, and let ourselves create a future design aesthetic that excited us and pleased us.”

On working with Arcade Fire on Her
“I gotta say as a fan of Arcade Fire, it was pretty special to be working with them in their studio in Montreal, the way they wrote the music was very communal and we would all sit around and watch scenes and whoever had an idea would pick up an instrument and start playing it.”

On fonts: 
“Helvetica’s the best! What other typeface can compete?”

On casting Joaquin Phoenix: 
“Joaquin was my first choice, and at first I wasn’t sure if he was right for this character but I knew he’d be amazingly compelling to watch onscreen. I love him as an actor, he’s so alive, and I knew that in a movie where you’re watching one person onscreen essentially he would be really compelling. But I wasn’t sure if he’d be right for this character. But I saw this interview of him on Letterman where he went on to apologize for being such a lunatic the year before when he “quit acting to be a rapper”, and in the interview Letterman was giving him a real hard time, and he was embarrassed and laughing and apologizing and Letterman kept saying “So you used this footage from my show and you said it was a documentary, so you didn’t have to pay for it, but it wasn’t a documentary, turns out it was a scripted movie, so I guess you guys owe me a million dollars?” And Joaquin was laughing, and they kept pushing him, and eventually Joaquin said ‘Can’t we just talk about this after the show?'”

Read the rest of the AMA on Reddit.