Confused by Charlie Kaufman? Then Ask Charlie Kaufman!
Our good friends at Empire over in the UK published a really great feature a few weeks ago that we only recently had the chance to take a look at this weekend. It's called simply Charlie Kaufman On Charlie Kaufman and in it, they ask Kaufman himself to talk about his own movies (see, simple, eh?). He's notoriously tough to talk to - both because he doesn't do that many interviews and because he doesn't like to talk about the themes in his movies. Which is why this is such a great feature and why I'm excited to go through it. From Being John Malkovich to Adaptation to Synecdoche New York, Kaufman covers them all.
One of the first fascinating tidbits I found in this is about Being John Malkovich and, believe it or not, other names and actors that he had considered writing the script about instead of Malkovich, if he didn't agree.
"There's something about John Malkovich that's odd and unknowable. There's a look in his eye that makes me imagine there's someone else looking out from inside his head… And I've tried other names, because we didn't know if we can get him. We also thought of Christopher Walken, we thought about Willem Defoe. I don't know what that group is exactly, but they're serious actors, they're good actors, but they're slightly odd."
Speaking of Malkovich, that's when Adaptation was first conceived. Kaufman explains what happened.
"We were shooting Malkovich at the time and I remember talking to Spike [Jonze] and telling him that I had this idea that I was going to write myself into the script and that I didn't even think it was something I would ever really do, that it was viable. Spike just laughed like it was a really cool idea. That was encouragement for me to go and do it, and I did, and I didn't tell anyone else, because I was afraid to. But once I committed to doing it, the script started to write itself in a really easy way, in a fun way, which was a lesson for me: to trust an odd instinct. It's sometime a really good thing to just trust it and see what happens."
Also found in the feature are, obviously, some great quotes about Eternal Sunshine and the Spotless Mind and Synecdoche New York. Considering the recent controversy here on our site about Synecdoche being too much like Fellini's 8½ (read that article here), it's quite interesting to hear Kaufman talk about how he doesn't "feel vulnerable anymore" to criticism or how he doesn't "want to mislead people who are expecting it to be something it's not." Anyway, it's a very satisfying read and I compliment Empire for putting it together. Lastly, Kaufman does mention that "I'm working on something now." What's next, Mr. Kaufman?