In the early days of production for “Being John Malkovich,” Jonze faced backlash for his creative choices. The financiers didn’t like “how dark the basement was,” he explained to Criterion. “They’d try to get us to put more fill lights into the film because it didn’t look like a comedy.” They were also upset because “they didn’t recognize Cameron Diaz,” who was a major draw for the movie. “We started getting a lot of pressure from the studios and from the financier,” Jonze admitted.
Luckily, they were saved when the production company behind “Malkovich” was purchased by Universal Pictures. “Suddenly nobody cared about this little mini micro-budget movie,” Jonze recalled. This allowed the director and the rest of the cast and crew to have full creative freedom, even after the cameras stopped rolling. “Not only did nobody bother us for the rest of photography, nobody bothered us for another year.”
The attitude toward “Being John Malkovich” finally changed during the festival circuit. “I remember it going to the Venice film festival, which was the first exposure it had,” Kaufman recalled (via The Guardian). “I just got a phone call saying that it was this big thing, and then all these articles got written about it. It was exciting.”
From there, “Being John Malkovich” took off. Kaufman established his style as a surreal and compelling storyteller and Jonze displayed his ability to meld the uneasy and the ridiculous. In the decades since its release, “Malkovich” has cemented its status as a modern classic. Kaufman and Jonze would collaborate again with “Adaptation” in the years following “Malkovich,” but have not combined their creative forces since. Here’s hoping that this pair will rekindle their artistic partnership soon.