This is what I learned while watching the new Criterion Collection Director-Approved special edition of Being John Malkovich:
Malkovich was given the script by his agent, and then pitched the idea of directing the film but not starring in it. However, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze were so locked into the idea of Malkovich for their film, they wouldn't consider changing the story to focus on another actor.
Kaufman wrote the script to get him noticed in Hollywood and to lead to other jobs, but never thought Being John Malkovich would be made into a film.
Actress Catherine Keener was overjoyed she landed a role, though she wasn't sure she was right for any of the main characters. It was Keener who pitched the idea to Jonze to cast Cameron Diaz as a frumpy, rather plain-looking housewife with a large collection of pets.
The studio execs were not happy with Jonze making Diaz unattractive and nearly unrecognizable with a frizzy wig, fake nose, and some bad makeup.
As is usually the case with the Criterion Collection sets, this special edition of Being John Malkovich is full of these kind of interesting and informative behind-the-scenes stories that expand your knowledge of the work.
The film is a brilliant, mind-bending dark comedy that tackles celebrity, Freud, love, and marionettes. John Cusack, Diaz, Keener, and Malkovich lead the cast, but it's Kaufman's script -- about a puppeteer who discovers a portal into Malkovich's mind -- that's the star of the movie.
The two-disc set features a nearly hour-long commentary by filmmaker and Jonze friend Michel Gondry, a behind-the-scenes documentary, an interview with Malkovich by John Hodgman, a 2012 interview with Jonze, and other special features. As is always the case with Criterion sets, its Blu-ray and DVD versions of Being John Malkovich are the new standards for the movie. ($39.95 Blu-ray, $29.95 DVD)
Also worth checking out this week is the The Secret World of Arrietty, a Japanese import that came and went in U.S. theaters. Based on the novel The Borrowers, The Secret World of Arrietty is from the same Japanese group, Studio Ghibli, behind the Oscar-winning Spirited Away. The story is sweet and the hand-drawn animation -- especially the gorgeous background artwork -- is eye candy on Blu-ray. ($39.99 Blu-ray, $29.99 DVD).