'Wild Things' more play than work for Max

October 15, 2009 

SAN FRANCISCO - "Where the Wild Things Are" director Spike Jonze spent months trying to find the right actor to play Max, the young hero in the film version of the classic children's book. He was only weeks away from the scheduled filming start when a friend suggested Max Records.

Coincidence of the name aside, Jonze knew Max was perfect to play Max because of the young actor's understanding of the role.

"It's not just a moralistic story of you do this, you get punished, you go home and all is good. It's more real. The kid gets pissed off. The mom gets pissed off. They both get pissed off. And then he escapes to this sort of layer of imagination where he isn't trapped," says 12-year-old Max during an interview at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

"Where the Wild Things Are" is only the third acting job for the mop-topped Oregon native who had small roles in "Directions" and "The Brothers Bloom." Besides being the star of this film, he found this job very different because it was often more like play than work.

It helped that Max wasn't tied to strict state laws about how much time a young actor must spend in a classroom. Max's parents took him out of school for the four-and-a-half months of filming in Australia and home-schooled him.

The only small negative of the shoot was the wolf suit Max wore through the majority of the movie. Not only was it hot, it was often very dirty.

Then there was the scene where Max gets swallowed by one of the wild creatures and ends up a slimy mess.

"The wolf suits they used for that sequence, three years after we stopped shooting, when I went to L.A., they were still gross. They were still slimy," Max says, crinkling his nose.

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at rbentley@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6355. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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