The history of Where the Wild Things Are is strangely tied up with the children’s-book adaptation Jonze didn’t make, Harold and the Purple Crayon. When Jonze was first taking studio meetings in the mid-’90s about possible films (early on, he turned down the second Ace Ventura movie), at one such meeting he spotted a copy of Maurice Sendak’s book lying on a table. Where the Wild Things Are was a story his mother had read to him as a child. “I can still totally hear the inflection of all the lines through her—I hear her delivery of them,” he says. “I do remember it being hypnotic. Just totally engrossing. Not even wanting to be Max, but just in being Max.” The book was there because Sendak had a production deal with that studio; Harold and the Purple Crayon was one of the projects he was producing. That was how Jonze got to know Sendak, and Sendak Jonze. The author, who is known for being prickly and protective when it comes to his work, liked what he found. As Sendak would later describe: “He was the strangest little bird I’d ever seen. He had fluttered into the world of the studios, and could he not be swatted dead, I knew he would manage. I had total faith in him.
From GQ correspondent Chris Heath’s 2009 profile of Spike Jonze, timed to the release of his movie version of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are