Spike Jonze

Spike Jonze has directed several popular music videos and films, earning an Academy Award nomination for ‘Being John Malkovich’ and an Oscar win for ‘Her.’


Spike Jonze was born on October 22, 1969, in Rockville, Maryland. His breakthrough video for the Beastie Boys song "Sabotage" won four MTV Video Music Awards, and he went on to direct several music videos and commercials throughout the 1990s. Jonze's first full-length directorial effort, Being John Malkovich (1999) earned him an Academy Award nomination. He went on to produce Human Nature in 2000 and Her in 2013, with the latter film earning him the 2014 Oscar for best original screenplay.

Early Life

Director, actor, screenwriter and producer Spike Jonze was born Adam Spiegel on October 22, 1969, in Rockville, Maryland. Related (on his father's side) to the prosperous Spiegel family and an heir to its catalog fortune, Jonze grew up in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Bethesda, Maryland, with his mother and older sister (his parents divorced when he was still young). By the time he entered high school, he had adopted the name "Spike Jonze" and was participating in competitive skateboarding and BMX bicycling.

Music Videos

Immediately after his graduation from high school, the 17-year-old Jonze moved to Los Angeles and began working as an editorial assistant at Freestylin', a biker magazine. In 1991, he helped found Dirt, a short-lived spin-off of the popular teen magazine Sassy, aimed at teenage male readers. His first music-video gig came in 1992, when he was hired to shoot video footage of skateboarding for Sonic Youth's "100%."

Jonze's breakthrough video, for the song "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys, was an inspired take-off on 1970s cop shows; the video earned four MTV Video Music Awards, including one for Jonze (best director). That same year, Jonze cemented his reputation for innovation and creativity with his eye-catching video for Weezer's "Buddy Holly," in which the alternative band performed their hit single in the middle of what appeared to be an episode of the 1970s sitcom Happy Days.

Throughout the 1990s, Jonze directed music videos for many other prominent artists—including R.E.M., the Breeders, Puff Daddy, the Chemical Brothers and Björk—as well as a number of memorable television commercials for companies like Nike, Sprite, Nissan and Coca-Cola. His interest and talent also extended to the other side of the camera: He was dragged behind a van in a TV spot for Levi's 501, and played bit parts in the films Mi Vida Loca (1993) and The Game (1997).

Along with directing the 1999 video for "Praise You," the hit single by British DJ Fatboy Slim, Jonze starred in the video as spastic community dance-troupe leader Richard Koufey. That summer he showed up to the MTV VMAs as Koufey (whom Jonze still maintains is another person), and took home three awards. Additionally, Jonze directed a number of short features during this time.

Film Acting and Directing Success

After a deal to direct the $25 million film adaptation of the children's book Harold and the Purple Crayon fell through in 1997, Jonze signed a development and production deal with Propaganda Films. In 1999, the multi-talented Jonze delivered star-making performances both as an actor and a director. In the black comedy Three Kings, co-starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube, Jonze received critical praise for his performance as the redneck Gulf War soldier Conrad Vig. 

Jonze's first full-length directorial effort, Being John Malkovich (1999), generated even more positive buzz. The unashamedly eccentric, undeniably smart existential comedy stars John Cusack, Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener as New Yorkers who gain access into the mind of the titular thespian John Malkovich, who plays himself. For his efforts, Jonze earned several honors, including an Academy Award nomination for best director. He went on to produce Human Nature in 2000, reteaming with Malkovich screenwriter Charlie Kaufman for the project.

The filmmaker has since added a number of music videos, shorts, documentaries and films to his credits, most notably the big-screen projects Adaptation (2002), starring Nicolas Cage, Tilda Swinton and Meryl Streep; Where the Wild Things Are (2009), based on Maurice Sendak's famed 1963 children's book; and the 21st century romantic comedy Her (2013), starring Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara. For his work on Her, Jonze took home the 2014 Golden Globe Award for best screenplay and the 2014 Oscar for best original screenplay—marking Jonze's first Oscar win. Her also received an Oscar nomination in the best picture category, losing to 12 Years a Slave.

Personal Life

In the summer of 1999, Jonze married fellow actor and director Sofia Coppola at the Napa Valley vineyard owned by her father, the famed director Francis Ford Coppola. The couple filed for divorce in 2003. Jonze has since been linked to actress Michelle Williams, among other women in the film industry.

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