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Forest Whitaker on Where The Wild Things Are

Published October 15, 2009 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Warner Bros Pictures
Forest Whitaker plays one of the wild things in Where The Wild Things Are. He gives his voice to Ira, newly named in the film version of Maurice Sendak’s illustrated book. Speaking new dialogue for the film, Whitaker kept in mind the book’s themes as they played out on screen.

Forest Whitaker One of the Wild Things


“The book, as a kid I remember it operates on primal fears,” Whitaker said. “It’s like a kid goes upstairs, the kid’s by himself and there’s monsters that come out and this world comes alive. I think the movie, I haven’t seen the final version of it but I know when I was doing it, I was realizing it’s like this person trying to express himself and trying to find himself and all of his fears and anxieties. To me, all the other characters were different expressions of fears and feelings of isolation or feelings of anger or feelings of things. As you’re trying to find and form yourself, wanting to be individual but then ultimately realizing you want to be a family. You want to be part of a community. So it comes back to that at the end and they do too. They become closer I think.”

Whitaker definitely knows his literature. “Yeah, I read it. It was read to me as a kid so I read it, I’ve read it to my kids. They all read it, they really love the book.”

Where The Wild Things Are Where The Wild Things Are


Performing the voice meant more than just recording in a studio. Director Spike Jonze actually had the wild thing actors play around, throwing rolls at each other and running around a makeshift mountain.

“I think that Spike is so open and when he’s looking at you and talking to you, he’s also guiding you so he’s pushing you sometimes towards this thing. I don't know what he’s looking for but he’s like repeating it and saying again and changing it around trying to get something from you. So I think it’s actually, it was an exciting process because you know you’re continually moving and changing.”

Jonze offered Whitaker the part while he was working on something else, but scheduling worked itself out. “I didn’t know him because I was in Iceland and he saw me and called and talked to me about the part. Then he showed me some of the designs. He just brought me into where they were working on the sets and stuff, designs and stuff and just talked to me about playing the character. Then I ended up getting to do it.”

Where The Wild Things Are opens to theaters October 16th.

For the trailer, posters, stills and more movie info, go to the Where The Wild Things Are Movie Page.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Warner Bros Pictures
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