"Human Nature" has already completed the festival circuit
and will start a theatrical release pattern on roughly 230
screens. This film has a modest budget considering the
caliber of cast members: Tim Robbins ("The Shawshank
Redemption", "The Player", and "Bull Durham"), Patricia
Arquette ("Little Nicky" and "True Romance"), and Rosie
Perez ("Riding in Cars with Boys" and "Do the Right Thing").
Any of these individuals could have bumped up the budget
quite a bit, but they did not because of their respect for
the filmmakers involved (Gondry, Kaufman, and Jonze). In
fact, Patricia Arquette came on board before there was any
financing in place. As with "Being John Malkovich", the
script for "Human Nature" circulated for a while before it
went into production; when Robbins read the script, he
approached them. Although two of the leading cast members
approached them, Rhys Ifans ("Shipping News" and "Notting
Hill") and Miranda Otto ("What Lies Beneath" and "Love
Serenade") both auditioned to get the parts that they both
played brilliantly. Ifans had to transform from dignified to
degenerate within seconds. Otto successfully captured an
American accent and an American version of a French accent
so convincingly that one would never guess that she is
Australian. Most of the people involved with the production
behind the camera are people who have worked with director
Michel Gondry on various commercials and music videos. Spike
Jonze stayed in the background to let Gondry "do his thing"
since he views Gondry as a peer and has great respect for
Gondry's work as a music video director. Jonze introduced
writer Charlie Kaufman ("Being John Malkovich") to Gondry
and then the project started to fly.
After graduating from NYU film school, but prior to
working on features, the first being "Being John Malkovich",
Kaufman worked on a few television sitcoms, including "Ned
and Stacey" and "Get a Life". When asked what advice he
would give to first time or young filmmakers, he
I don't know. I don't really have any advice. I guess the
only thing that made a difference in my professional life
was getting an agent. It is really the only thing that I can
say with any certainty that I could not get into the
business for years, and then I got an agent and I was able
to get my script sold. So other than that, I think you have
to do what you believe in and be true to yourself.
Describe you experiences collaborating with Spike
Jonze, since this is your second time together?
I liked both of these guys (Spike Jonze, director of "Being
John Malkovich" and Michel Gondry, director of "Human
Nature"). I liked their work and I wanted to... I feel that,
in retrospect, that probably working with less experienced
feature directors is helpful in allowing me more voice in
the process. If there were somebody who had made 50 films, I
would probably wouldn't have been listened to as much. You
know, and that worked out for me. Plus, they are really
talented guys, so it was good.
How involved were you in the production?
Well, I was involved, I was never kicked off the set or
anything... I was a producer on "Human Nature", so I was one
of the bosses actually. And, both Spike and Michel value my
opinion, so I was there on the set and I was there for
pre-production, and I was there for both movies. I was also
involved in post-production, editing, and casting... So I
was there for all of it... And I am doing another project
with Spike ("Adaptation"). And I am going to be doing
another movie with Michel.
Were you involved at all with the financial aspects
too, or just creative?
More the creative; we worked with Good Machine [and they
did more of the financial management type of producer
work]... I am not all that interested in that either
Would you tell me a little bit more about the
inspiration for the different characters? Do they evolve as
your write, or do you come up with their personalities
beforehand and then put them in a story?
I think that they... they evolve as I write; although I had
an idea that I wanted to write something about a naturalist
and a feral man and a woman covered with hair, and I didn't
know what the story was and I didn't know what the
characters were, but those were the ideas, the concepts, and
the characters just kind of formed and the story just kind
of came. But I didn't set out with any kind of real idea of
what I was going to do. I don't like to work that way I
prefer to sort of... explore things.
So you don't do an outline, you just write
Yeah. Well, I do go back and I change a lot and structure
things. And if I come up with something on page forty that
needs to be addressed on page two, then page two changes. So
you know, I sort of go back and forth that way.
Do you write a complete draft and then make changes or
do you make changes along the way?
Sometimes I will go over the same ten pages over and over
again because I have no idea what to do next. So I just
start polishing and polishing because I have to do
something. So there is no rhyme nor reason to it; it is what
it is, you know- whatever works at the time.
You must be very pleased the reception that "Being
John Malkovich" received, despite the fact that the film was
not mainstream. Especially since it is difficult to predict
how an audience will react to any given film. Were you
surprised by how well "Being John Malkovich" did? Do you
have any theories as to why?
Well, it ("Being John Malkovich") exceeded all of our
expectations, in that regard. I don't think we knew. I think
we... you know... The script had been around for a while and
it had received a lot of positive attention.
[It had been shopping around since 1995 and was not
made into a feature until 1999, going into production in
1998.] So there were a few years of it looking like it
wasn't going to get made.
Did you shop it around to a lot of different
I didn't do anything with it. I had an agent and they sent
it out or not. It got a lot of sort of- people wanted meet
with me and talk with me about other things, but no one
wanted to make this film. So then we made the movie and we
started to do screenings of it for our friends and for
people, so we started to get a sense that there was going to
be a positive reaction. So it was sort of like it came
creeping up: the reactions were really positive, then we
started to get really good reviews. So I guess the point I
am making is that by the time the audience reacted the way
it did, we figured that the movie was going to be well
received... we just got a feeling from talking to people
afterwards. There were a couple of preview review type of
So it wasn't a gut level feeling, you did do some
Yeah, we had no way of really knowing.
So what do you think will make "Human Nature" a
I don't know. I don't know if it will. I have no- I don't
know. I get a sense that people like it pretty well from
what we've heard so far, but I don't know if it is going to
have the same kind of audience as "Malkovich". I know that
it is going to be compared to "Malkovich", which is sort of
unfortunate because it is a different movie and a different
director, but that seems to be what has been happening.
But that is kind of how marketing works.
Yeah, I know, but it is frustrating. But I don't know if
it is going to be successful. It did well at Sundance.
Describe your experience working with Michel
Um, it was good. He is a meticulous guy... He is a very
talented guy [who has worked on a number of commercials
for Levi's and music videos for pop artists who include:
Bjork, Lenny Kravitz, Sheryl Crow, and Beck], an
ingenious kind of guy. He is very interested in character
development and trying to understand that about the movie,
which I was appreciative of... keeping close to the script,
being respectful. So it was a good experience. I would do it
Did Gondry's music video experience influence your
decision to work with him?
No. I knew Michel- I got introduced to Michel by Spike, and
like you [KA], I didn't know much about MTV like
Spike did when I was introduced to him because I am not in
that world either. But I knew Michel's work because of Spike
and ... I was doing another project with him, and he was
waiting for me to finish writing that script, and he wanted
to direct something, and he read the script and he asked if
he could direct it. I said okay and that is sort of how it
I really liked the fairy tale quality (fantastic
visuals) was that in the script or was that more the
production design and direction?
That's Michel. That's what Michel's work is like... (bright
colors, multi-layered visuals). He does a lot of work with
rear projection that also gives the movie a sense of
artificiality... There was a combination of sets with rear
screen behind them and then actual locations, so it goes
back and forth. There are miniatures. You know, Lila
(character portrayed by Patricia Arquette) singing that
song, she is not actually walking, the background is moving,
she is just walking in place and the background is
moving...There are double exposures when Puff (character
portrayed by Rhys Ifans) and Lila are having sex and there
are words that appear on the screen. And when they are
swimming in the river, they were just in a stationary pool,
not moving at all, and the background was moving... and the
stuff behind them was a miniature... They also did a
miniature of Lila's cabin.
What are some of your hopes for this film?
I hope it does well (laughs)... After it's done, there is
nothing I can really do. You just sort of move on, talk to
the press and stuff, but... It would be nice if people like
it and don't demand their money back. (smiling)