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John Malkovich Initially Thought ‘Being John Malkovich’ Should’ve Been ‘Being Tom Cruise’

Malkovich, who stars in the new Netlix series "Space Force," reveals he was at first baffled by Kaufman's inventive screenplay.

Being John Malkovich

USA Films

It’s hard to imagine an American movie as weird as “Being John Malkovich” ever being made again. Looking back on director Spike Jonze’s quirky tale about the consequences of the discovery of a portal inside the title actor’s head, it’s just as outlandish now as it was in 1999. But back during the movie’s making — which dates to the early 1990s when Charlie Kaufman’s wild script first started to float around Hollywood — its legacy wasn’t so certain, including for its star, John Malkovich, who revealed in a recent interview with The Independent that he was baffled at first by the dark comedy.

“Why not ‘Being Tom Cruise’ I asked?” Malkovich said. “Charlie told me quite clearly that he had no desire to change it and that [Spike Jonze] was going to direct, so I said OK. To be honest, I never actually thought that it would get made.” The movie indeed might never have been made had Kaufman not sent the screenplay to Francis Ford Coppola, who passed it on to Spike Jonze, who was married to his daughter Sofia at the time.

“I remember those years when it remained un-produced,” said Malkovich. “Whenever I got to Hollywood for some press thing or whatever, invariably I’d be in some hotel lobby or in some restaurant or at some vintage lamp store, and somebody would come up to me and say, ‘Hey, why aren’t you making Being John Malkovich?’ Eventually we did it, and honestly I was just happy to be a part of it.”

Back in 2013 while doing press rounds for his Academy Award-winning “Her,” Jonze revealed Malkovich’s initial wariness toward the project: “He said: either the movie’s a bomb and it’s got not only my name above the title but my name in the title, so I’m fucked that way; or it does well and I’m just forever associated with this character.”

Malkovich currently stars in the new comedy series “Space Force,” which just dropped on Netflix, opposite Steve Carell. Jonze most recently directed the documentary “Beastie Boys Story.” Kaufman’s next movie as writer and director, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” is also headed to Netflix some time this year. The film is an adaptation of Iain Reid’s trippy 2016 horror novel about a couple’s psychological breakdown while barreling through the middle of wintry nowhere on a road trip. The novel’s many loops and turns are firmly in the realm of “Being John Malkovich,” as well as Kaufman’s second movie, “Synecdoche, New York.”

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