Happy birthday to John Malkovich, an actor who has been in the industry since the 80s, has acted in more than 70 films so far and won numerous awards in the process. Quite an established name in the business, ever thought what it must be like to be Malkovich? Well, someone did, and then they made a film on him. While he is known for films like Empire of the Sun, Con Air, Of Mice and Men, Shadow of the Vampire, Burn After Reading, RED, etc, his most iconic film has to be Being John Malkovich in 1999.
Directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman, Being John Malkovich was the first feature film for both of them, and what a fine film they debuted with. The fantasy film follows a puppeteer who finds a portal that leads into Malkovich's mind. While that is just the premise, you will never be able to guess where the movie heads. It stars John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener and of course, Malkovich. Today, on Malkovich's 63rd birthday, we take a look at some interesting facts about the remarkable film.
Charlie Kaufman wrote the script five years before its release. He merged two simple ideas – one was a man falling for a woman who wasn’t his wife; and the other was someone finding a portal into John Malkovich’s head. Studios were intrigued but didn't know what to do with it for the longest time.
This is a question even I had, why Malkovich though? If you are delving into an actor's mind, why not a bigger name, perhaps? Not only did the studio ask, "why not Tom Cruise" but even Malkovich himself first asked – why not Tom Cruise?
In Kaufman's head, the film wouldn't have worked with anyone else. He also picked Malkovich because he liked the sound of the name when you repeat it – Malkovich. Malkovich. Haha, Malkovich. This is fun. Malkovich!
When Malkovich read it, he was dumbfounded, but also loved it. He wanted to increase the level of satire and do it right, making no compromises. He said, "Turn it up. Who better to make fun of yourself – your impotence, your vanity, your ridiculousness – and say it's okay? I am ridiculous – I mean, I am a celebrity. It's sort of like human sacrifice. To offer yourself up as a subject of ridicule and scorn to make a point about the society we live in, which has this celebrity obsession."
John Cusack, who had done a fair amount of films by then, was tired of doing similar roles over and over. He asked his agent for "the craziest, most un-producable script you can find" and boom, Kaufman answered his prayers. Cusack then bagged the role in no time.
Keener than none
Catherine Keener didn't see herself playing the female lead's character. She didn't really like the character and thought she wasn`t ideal for the part. She ended up being nominated with an Oscar for 'Best Supporting Actress'.
The director and writer decided not to explain the movie at all. But Malkovich summed it perfectly: "I think it's about acting – opening the door into the mind of someone else, and how, escaping your own mind for 15 minutes, you see the beauty and fascination and eroticism even in the most boring things. I think it's about the need to escape yourself for 15 minutes that everyone feels. But what it's really about is something more sinister. It's the idea that we now lead virtual lives. We live our joys and sorrows and foibles through the lives of public people. It's about the end of art. Because art has to take its cue from life.''