Adam Spiegal aka Spike Jonze got his nickname from the owner of Bethesda community store, where he hung out in his later high school days. The name was given in reference to Spike Jones (25th Hour, Boyz in the Hood). This was before his directing and his cinema days, at a time where skateboard and BMX defined his life.
While his time at high school was mainly taken up by competitive skateboarding and BMX cycling, his career started to take form upon graduating. He moved to Los Angeles, finding work as a photographer and editorial assistant at Freestylin’ Magazine. In 1991, he co-founded his own magazine Dirt, focusing on the youth culture of that time and very much aiming at a teenage male readership. Though his creativity and his inventive nature shone through in these early years, and would continue to do so for those years to come, it is still hard to believe that this young man would turn into the multi-talented director behind features like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, short films, music videos and so much else.
The nineties brought an explosion of creative opportunity for Jonze. It was 1992 when he was asked to gather the skating footage which was to be used in Sonic Youth’s music video for 100%. This was the beginning of a decade very much dominated by the direction of music videos and advertisements – giving the young director a little exposure and giving the public a glimpse into his wide capabilities. Throughout this period, he worked with a wide range of bands, including R.E.M., the Chemical Brothers, the Beastie Boys and Bjork. He also branched out, directing for Coca-Cola, Nissan and Nike, while stepping in front of the camera a few times, taking minor roles in films like Mi Vida Loca (1993) and The Game (1997).
Just before the turn of the millennium, Jonze revealed his multitalented genius and the potential for great, great things. In 1999, he landed a role in the black comedy Three Kings, playing redneck soldier Conrad Vig. While his performance was praised all-round, it was somewhat overshadowed when he teamed up with writer, Charlie Kaufman, to complete his first full-length directorial debut, Being John Malkovich – the quirky existential masterpiece. On top of this, this was when he came out with Fatboy Slim’s acclaimed Praise You music video – which also gave birth to one of the director’s alter egos named Richard Koufey, leader of the Torrance Community Dance Group along with his short film/mockumentary about the whole experience titled Torrance Rises.
In 2000, he worked with Fatboy Slim for a second time and Christopher Walken to create the video for Weapon of Choice, which is perhaps one of the greatest music videos ever created. Since Malkovich, Spike Jonze continued working in collaboration with Kaufman, as the producer of Human Nature (2002) and Kaufman’s directorial effort, Synecdoche, New York (2008). Jonze stepped into the director’s chair again, a year after Human Nature, in 2002, with Adaptation. His last film was Where the Wild Thing Are based on the book of the same name, by Maurice Sendak.
Based on everything that Jonze has been up to since he made his way out Los Angeles as a teenage skateboarder, it’s pretty difficult to really say where he might be headed next. Another collaborative effort with Charlie Kaufman would be great, or maybe something else with French filmmaker Michel Gondry for experiment’s sake. But honestly, whatever is coming up should be exciting only because it is Spike Jonze. And as far as music videos and television adverts go, anything with the Jonze stamp on it functions as a breath of fresh air – a much needed relief from all that rubbish out there.