10 things we learned about spike jonze from his epic nine club interview

Like the time Joaquin Phoenix turned up to a skate session with burritos.

by Oliver Lunn
08 January 2018, 8:15am

Earlier this week, photographer slash filmmaker slash skate icon Spike Jonze sat down with the boys from skateboarding podcast, The Nine Club Show, for a rare three-hour-long interview in which he shares a ton of interesting stories about his rise in the 90s. From Kim Gordon kick-starting his career and the anxiety he experienced as a first-time actor on Three Kings, to how Joaquin Phoenix once turned up to a skate session with loads of burritos, here’s what we learnt.

1. Mark Gonzales is one of his biggest influences in his life
Early on in the interview – which you should totally watch when you have two-and-a-half hours to spare – Spike tips his hat to pro-skater Mark Gonzales, aka The Gonz. “I think he’s up there with the people that have influenced me the most, in terms of the way he thinks and the way he lives his life. He thinks really abstractly.” Spike points to Video Days, his skate video for Blind in which Gonz chose a John Coltrane jazz tune for his part. “That’s the way Mark skates, he skates like jazz, improvisational but masterful.” He adds: “With [that video] I was trying to capture what it felt like to be around Mark.”

2. The Gonz also introduced him to Harold and Maude , now one of his favourite movies
Back when Spike was making Video Days, he regularly stayed with Gonz and pro-skater Jason Lee (now a famous actor). They’d watch movies together. “One of the movies [Mark] showed us was Harold and Maude… it’s funny because it’s one of my favourite movies now but Mark showed it to us when we were around 19, 20, at his house one night, and at the end the character drives a car off the cliff.” That crash, he goes on to say, was the inspiration for the crash at the end of Video Days.

3. He asked Owen Wilson to be in a skate video after meeting the actor with Wes Anderson
“Everyone’s biting my shit,” says Owen Wilson, in his hilarious cameo in Girl Skateboards’ Yeah Right! Spike said it was pro-skater Mike Carroll’s suggestion to film Wilson. “I’d met [Wilson] and Wes Anderson when they did Bottle Rocket,” Spike explains, “and so I kind of knew them a little bit and I just asked [Wilson] if he’d do it … He’s the best guy, he’s like Keenan [Milton]; you can’t not be happy when you’re around him.”

4. He made a youth culture mag called Homeboy
“The first time I shot Mark Gonzales was for this magazine we had called Homeboy,” Spike says. He describes it as, “sort of skate, BMX, music, almost like a large format newsprint colour magazine. We only did seven issues and then the publisher stopped printing it.” In his early days as a skate photographer, this is what helped him get his photos into Transworld skate magazine. Good luck finding a copy now.

5. Kim Gordon helped kick-start his career
Kim Gordon contacted Spike about shooting a Sonic Youth video after she saw Video Days. The craziest thing about the story is how she got the skate video. “Mark had gone to a Sonic Youth show at the Palladium, and afterwards as he was leaving, he saw Sonic Youth in the back parking lot and drove over; he was like, ‘Hey guys, we just made this video’. ‘Okay, later!’ And then they watched it on the tour bus and they were into it.” Soon after, he got the call from Gordon and then went onto make the band’s iconic video for 100>#/i### . Who knows, without The Gonz, Spike’s music video career -- and even his movie career -- might look totally different today.

6. He had anxiety during the filming of his acting debut in Three Kings
Spike’s feature acting debut was alongside George Clooney in the $40 million movie Three Kings. “There were definitely times on set I was nervous about it,” he says. “I was anxious, like this doesn’t feel right. You feel self-conscious, you feel like an asshole in front of the camera with a bunch of people.” He also adds: “Christian Bale supposedly auditioned for that role, before he was famous, and [David O Russell, the director] went to the studio and was like, ‘No, I think I wanna cast Spike’. ‘You wanna cast your friend who’s never acted before in this $40 million movie?!’ ‘Yeah.’”

7. He took a three-day skate trip during the editing of Where the Wild Things Are
When Spike moved to London for five months to edit Where the Wild Things Are, the workload got to him. “Towards the end I was so stir crazy and we were in this post-production facility in London looking at 1500 shots going through them frame by frame … I was going crazy and then these guys were on the Four Star trip [Eric Koston, Mark Gonzales, Brian Anderson]. I skated with them in London and it was so fun. Then they went to Germany and I was like, ‘I want to go to Germany’, so I got on a plane and took a three-day weekend.”

8. Joaquin Phoenix turned up to a skate session with burritos
During the prep for Her, Spike was also working on the next Girl Skateboards video, Pretty Sweet. “Joaquin grew up skating, so we were prepping Her at the time and doing rehearsals at my office, and I was like, ‘Oh, we’re going out to film, you wanna come by?’ And he loves skating and so he came by while we were shooting.” One of the Nine Club interviewers remembers skating around with Phoenix at that time: “He was like, When do you guys break for lunch? And we were like, ‘We don’t, we just keep going and get the shit’, and the next day he showed up with a huge box of burritos for everybody.” Spike responds: “He was worried about you guys. He was like, ‘They don’t eat, and they’re killing themselves!’”

9. He doesn’t re-watch his movies
“I never go back and watch them, because I dunno, it’s kinda like I watch them so much as we’re editing – the last time I see any of them is at the mixing stage.” He explains that for most of his movies he spends a year editing, seeing around 25 different versions of the same movie. Then, “at the last [test] screening I feel like, Okay, we’re ready to lock picture, I feel like I got it as close as I’m gonna get it to what was in my heart before we started … and so I never watch them again, like, I had a relationship with them already.”

10. He’s not into social media
Spike doesn’t do social media. He once had Instagram but soon withdrew from it. “I like being private,” he explains, “I like talking with my friends, sharing photos with my friends, and so it didn’t make any sense to me. I guess I’m also old. Like social media, I just don’t understand – I don’t understand why you’d wanna show something to someone you don’t know.”

Spike Jonze
Three Kings
the nine club show