Spike Jonze's film lands in theaters October 16 and the two actors at the heart of the real-world aspect of the Maurice Sendak story provide a rare view into a page-to-screen process unlike any other.
SheKnows: I asked Spike what he thought parents would take away from Where the Wild Things Are. Catherine, as a parent, I ask you the same question.
Catherine Keener: I would love the parents to be less afraid (laughs) -- because the kids aren't. That's how I feel, that the parents are coming in worried about frights and that kind of stuff. As far as I can tell, the kids who have seen it completely love that stuff and feel completely that's where that at, you know? I think that sometimes parents are projecting this kind of how we should deal with children in another way. When, it's just a natural stage of childhood. It's just kids trying to get some control and identify with the outside world apart from a parental constraint.
SheKnows: Max, should kids not see something that's dark? Not that Where the Wild Things Are is dark.
Max Records: No, not at all. Of course they should see it. It depends on the kid and it depends on the age. I know when I was seven or eight -- I could not have seen this movie. But, my brother, he's seven, and he totally can.
Catherine Keener: I have a kid, when he was seven, he had a song that he sang all the time, the song he knew ever word of was My Body is a Cage by Arcade Fire, it's so intense. He just felt his body was a cage and he needed to get out (laughs). I remember when I was a kid that song was "I can't live with out you…"
Catherine sings a little…
SheKnows: Yes, Harry Nilsson…
Catherine Keener: Exactly! It's like, who knows what it means? I couldn't live without something or someone (laughs). I was only a kid!
SheKnows: How do you think Where the Wild Things Are speaks to adults as an audience who is keenly aware of the Sendak classic.
Catherine Keener: There's more of a narrative when you're older. There's more of a way to articulate it, I think…to put it in some sort of form. But, when you're a kid, you're just all over the place. It's more real. It's wilder.
Max Records: The movie and the book is pretty much the visual way to show anger and sweetness together.
Catherine Keener: (To Max) Did you feel it was a movie about childhood?
Max Records: Yes. Kid gets pissed off. Kid runs away. Then there's a lot more pissed off and a lot happier.
SheKnows: Every scene is from Max's point of view. Was that an added pressure for you as a young actor? There's anchoring a film, and then there's the point of view. Was there a 'worst part of filming?' Was there any aspect of the Where the Wild Things Are process where it just got to you, Max?
Max Records: You don't want to know (laughs).
SheKnows: It was the scene where you get put in a Wild Thing stomach…wasn't it?
Max Records: They put some sort of gross stuff all over me!
We all laugh.
SheKnows: Catherine, you also really served as an action coach between the acting Wild Things and their live actor characters…
Catherine Keener: Spike had very specific ideas about the movie -- very specific. Our characters you had ideas in mind. Within those ideas or outside the ideas, I'm not sure, The Wild Things, came in as actors and had a lot of free reign. Those guys had this one big space and it was kind of experimental theater. There were just kind of creating these Wild Things.
SheKnows: It sounds very freeing for an actor…
Catherine Keener: There were creating these characters that Spike had very strong ideas about in terms of emotions and things like that. But, they had all of this open space to kind of move around and figure out what their body was and figure out their voices and figure out all this stuff. The whole shoot was like that. We didn't anticipate what was going to happen. We were just in the moment the whole time. Even though there were confines to it. It was an extraordinary experience.
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