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Forest Whitaker is Fighting for Where the Wild Things Are Too

by
March 26, 2008
Source: MTV

Where the Wild Things Are

After rumors burst out in February surrounding reshoots on Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are, Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker has made it his own mission to find out what the problem is and maybe even fight for the film he saw. Whitaker lends his voice in the film as the head creature named Ira. He spoke to MTV recently and told them that he had seen the original version that everyone is talking about and even took his 3 kids aged 9 to 16 to see it. "It was intense. They liked it, though. They enjoyed it."

You might be amazed to find out that even actors actually read the internet too. And Whitaker got concerned when he heard there were problems. He explains his involvement: "I play Ira, he puts the holes in the trees. I have a wife and kid, and we're the only family unit inside [the land of the Wild Things]. It's a good movie. I saw an early cut of it. I brought my kids to see it, and I was really impressed."

Thankfully by being involved in the film, Whitaker understands the general idea and what exactly Jonze was attempting to achieve. He defends Jonze choice to make it a more intense and mature movie:

"I'm going to call Spike and find out what's going on," he promised. "The thing is, it's one thing to read [scary stuff] in a book, but when you see an itty-bitty kid running alongside a 10-foot-giant on the side of a cliff, it gets intense. But that's the point, because we're representing the things inside of the kid. They represent his struggles, either him being too angry or being confused, or not feeling like he belongs. They're a gargantuan extension of the way he's feeling inside."

We already know that the film is a very unique blend of live-action, CGI, and enormous animatronic puppets, but what exactly is controversial, only a few know. While numerous people mentioned they were at the infamous screening in our comments section on the previous article, only Whitaker attempts to explain and rationalize some of the supposedly more controversial moments.

"[The dark scenes] are the point of the movie, and I hope that they maintain that point, because I think children can identify with a character who is upset," the father of four explained, citing one key scene of destruction as being particularly controversial. "[The main character Max] built this whole city, and nobody likes it, and he tears it all up. He's like, 'Well if you don't like it, I'm just going to tear it up!' because he wants so badly for someone to like it."

"This kid rolls by himself, no father figure; this is a single family home," he continued, with passion. "His mother ends up having a boyfriend that becomes like a monster to him…people have to build trust with the people their parent starts to date…These are real issues that the character deals with, and I hope that [the filmmakers] continue to explore them, because kids need to see that; they need to see that other kids are dealing with it."

If anything, Where the Wild Things Are sounds like it could do a lot more than just make money - it could help subconsciously teach our children important ideas. But therein lies the problem. No movie studio exec wants a film to educate children on serious issues, especially not when they're trying to push it as a family film and make as much money as possible. However, when you listen to that explanation from Whitaker, it all makes perfect sense. And it doesn't sound too scary, too intense, or too mature at all!

At least we've got another powerful voice fighting for the best side of this movie. I really hope this doesn't head down the same path as The Weinstein Company's Fanboys. Thankfully there really aren't fanboys for this movie, but there are people like us and like Forest who are fighting for what believe is true artistic integrity. Don't mess with Spike Jonze's work! Even Forest Whitaker can see the greatness and the benefits in the original film that Jonze created.

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  • Ian Kazimer
    No fanboys, my ass. I'm so stoked that Whitaker had something to say about this. I think it could be a really profound, powerful piece, and I'd love to see Spike's vision go through with minimal mauling.
  • Nick O.
    Well having Forest Whitaker defend the film certainly is a powerful voice. I haven't even seen it and I want it to stay the way it is, based on what I've read.
  • Nate
    I think kids are smarter than the parents give them for. The parents are just scared themselves to learn the lesson and seem to want to forever shelter their children from these lessons and experiences. Let them learn how they do, whether from reading or visually. It's all the same thing.
  • I love Forest Whitaker and it makes me even more excited to know he is backing Jonze's work. It would be a shame if this doesn't get released in its intended form.
  • Craig
    Unconscious means asleep or in a coma. You mean subconsciously. In any event, while I don't want them to make this too intense of a movie for relatively little kids (say 7 or so) I do realize it's about somewhat scary kid issues. The whole single parent thing is certainly not in the book, but...... it's a really short book, so to make a movie, even those of us who are nutty fans of the book have to realize that. I'll say this, I'm a huge Forest Whitaker fan, so his endorsement makes me feel better.
  • john
    I absolutely loved this book when I was a kid. So many potential good movies coming out.
  • Huck Paletos
    I don't really know the story but I'm right there with Nick O. Don't mess up Spikes vision of the thing. Let him work his magic.
  • pete
    I am a father of three, I love movies, I love fantasy, I love children's literature and picture books, and I'm a big kid at heart. My older two, ages 6 and 4 have had "Where the Wild Things Are" read to them by me dozens of times. Here's my issues with what we've heard of this film so far. It seems to be going over the head of that young audience, in it's taking of "creative license" (read: making up stuff). Understandably, you have a book that is primarily a picture book, and contains about 250 words, and to adapt that to a film, you have to use creative license. However, it's brevity and visual nature are a clue to the intended audience. My six year old can read this without any help from me whatsoever. I recognize that there are many children who deal with the intense and painful issues of rejection, single parent homes, etc., and am not opposed to films being made to deal with that. I also realize that children cannot be sheltered forever. However, sheltering them until they're six, seven or eight is certainly not forever. At it's heart the book is about a wild and self-willed little boy who imagines that things would be better if he were the authority and could be as wild and self-willed as he desired. He learns that idea is not all it's cracked up to be, and returns to a loving home (single parent or otherwise). The magic of this book is that it appeals across the board to everyone who reads it because we all identify with Max. To isolate his anger to some specific problems alienates the rest of the audience who are strangers to those problems. We all suffer from anger at not getting our way, and imagine things would be better if we were in charge and could do as we please. There is a whole lot that can be done with that theme without having to manufacture other themes that some of the book's intended audience (really young) would be incapable of processing. Simplicity is the beauty of the book! I like Spike Jonze as a director, but feel (based on the limited information that's come out so far) that they have really missed the mark. Visually, however the image have been spot-on!!
  • Squiggly_P
    Why bother hiring a top notch director when you refuse to just let them make their damn movie? Don't Hire Jones if you don't want a Jones movie... hire Uwe Boll... that guy will direct any pile of crap you want and it will probably churn out a decent couple hundred percent profit. Neutering the good directors will just help to ensure that those good directors think twice before they work with you again. Bad directors will just take whatever gigs they can get.
  • Craig
    @pete: great points, very well put. If Peter Jackson had decided to totally change the story of The Lord of the Rings and make Frodo a recovering drug addict hobbit just of our hobbit jail and Sam Gamgee a hobbit pimp with a heart of gold, every fan of those books would have cried foul, and anyone who denies that is no thinking clearly. Just because this is a children's book doesn't make it any less beloved. I think it might be a great movie either way, but if the movie Spike Jonez wants to make is not based on the story of the book, then fans of the book have every right to cry foul. I think pete's comments on this are excellent. Max's story is too universal to make it about a broken home single parent situation.
  • Elizabeth
    I respectfully disagree with Pete and Craig. It's insulting to children's intelligence to assume the themes are above their heads. Half the population is divorced. Kids have real feelings, and there will be plenty of kids who will relate wholeheartedly to the film. I understand the point Craig is trying to make, but I think he chose a bad text to compare WTWTA. The Lord of the Rings is an incredibly intricate and detailed novel. The man created an entire language related to his stories, for crying out loud! It WOULD be changing the heart of those novels if Jackson made Froto a recovering drug addict. WTWTA leaves plenty to the imagination. I don't think Jonze is changing the message at all. I think he's simply internalizing it, interpreting it, and making it work. Either way, I can't wait to see the movie and make comparisons to the book. :)
  • pete
    Elizabeth, I've softened my stance a bit since my previous post, in large part because of Maurice Sendak's endorsement of the film. He has stated in an interview that Spike Jonze has made the story his own, without doing disservice to the story Sendak was telling (my paraphrase). That goes a long way towards me being able to back off of saying that "they really missed the mark". Re: Craig and his Lord of the Rings analogy, I don't think that he chose a bad text in comparing LOTR (Both texts are beloved); I just think that he exaggerated for humorous, and illustrative purposes. Tolkien's text leaves far less room for interpretation, so by the very nature of the text it would be far harder to violate it's spirit. Obviously in such a short book like WTWTA, there's a lot more room for creative license. Even with Sendak's endorsement however, I still think that some of the magic of the text is that it speaks to UNIVERSAL themes. Yes, 50% of marriages end in divorce but when you factor in multiple divorcees the percentage falls in the 40% range. That leaves 60% of people who have NOT experienced those difficulties. 40% is not universal. In no way am I intending to minimize the devastation that divorce can cause. I am a former youth pastor and children's pastor, and spent over a decade working with young people. I have seen firsthand, how children are hurt by these things...deeply, and with long lasting effects. But I do not think it is insulting to children's intelligence to protect them. I often value the opinions and perspectives of children more than those of us "grown-ups". :) Again I love the book, and my kids and I have even had some really good talks after reading it concerning things like, anger, loneliness, selfishness, respecting mommy, and being thankful. I have definitely come around, and do want to see this film, but I will not take my children until I've previewed it, because it seems to have moved a few degrees off course.

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