Ernesto Ruscio/Getty ImagesWriter-director Spike Jonze’s latest movie is “Her

Spike Jonze gets a little help from his friends on 'Her'

Spike Jonze relied on trusted pals as he wrote his first solo screenplay for the new film “Her,” which he also directed.

“I'm so lucky. I'm very dependent on my friends to read my stuff,” says the acclaimed filmmaker, whose extraordinary projects include music videos, shorts and the features “Being John Malkovich,” “Adaptation” and “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Among those who helped him with “Her,” which opens Christmas Day, are screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, artist Miranda July, filmmaker Bennett Miller (who directed him in a small role in “Moneyball”) and Dave Eggers, co-writer of “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Jonze says he learned a lot working with Eggers: “Dave was really good about saying, 'Let's move on. We're going to come back to it. We're not going to film it like that.'” He, on the other hand, would get anxious if they weren't sure exactly how a scene should look or were uncertain about some dialogue: “I would spend five hours banging my head against the wall,” he says.

“Her,” which takes place in the near future, is about a professional letter writer (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with his computer operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Avoiding slapstick or plot twists, it simply explores themes of emotional connection. It's also clever and open-hearted.

Perhaps its “real” feeling is due to the fact that Jonze, who describes himself as an undisciplined writer who “can't do a lot of things at once,” had to set time to stay focused on the project, which ultimately took three years to complete.

When he finished, he sent it to Phoenix. “I kept thinking about him, but I didn't know if he'd be right. I hadn't seen him play that kind of joyfulness or playfulness,” he says. But he knew his instinct was correct after spending just a few minutes with the actor.

From there, Jonze concentrated on creating the movie's unique world. He says, “We were trying to make our future, what we want to look at and what we want to touch _ the sets, colors, costumes, the software and the interfaces, whatever felt right. It was fun to think about.”

Mostly, Jonze sees his film as hopeful. “Don't you think that every year, or at least every decade, we become more open minded and more tolerant to other ways of being?” he asks. “I'd like to think so. It's in millimeters, but it's the right direction.”

IF YOU GO

Her

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara

Written and directed by Spike Jonze

Rated R

Running time 2 hours

artsHerJoaquin PhoenixMoviesSpike Jonze

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Confusion swirls over uneven eviction protections as rent collection begins

Housing advocates warn some type of rental assistance or forgiveness will be necessary

New shelter-in-place extension restricts most housing and commercial construction

Order also limits size of funerals, requires social distancing at essential businesses

California schools unlikely to reopen this year, state superintendent warns

San Francisco schools prepare to implement distance learning for students

SF sees ‘stark and immediate’ revenue losses over coronavirus pandemic

Report projects $1.7B city budget deficit over next two fiscal years

Help the San Francisco Examiner, SF Weekly continue our mission of providing free, local news

This week, I was faced with the heartbreaking task of reducing the hours — and therefore the pay — of the very journalists who report, write, edit and photograph that news.

Most Read