A notoriously shy prankster with a penchant for skateboarding and tall tales, Spike Jonze might not have been the most obvious candidate for "most promising director" or "best first feature" status. With the release of Being John Malkovich in the fall of 1999, however, those were exactly the kinds of superlatives being lauded upon the impetuous wunderkind.
Purportedly an heir to the Spiegel catalog empire, Jonze was born Adam Spiegel in 1969 in St. Louis, MO. Nicknamed "Spike" at a young age -- he was fond of buzz haircuts -- he would adopt the "Jonze" later in life as an homage to the comic bandleader of the 1940s. After his parents divorced, Jonze spent most of his formative years with his mother in Maryland, where he cultivated interests in skateboarding, freestyle biking, and photography. He opted out of college to take a position at one of his favorite magazines, Freestyle, and before long, he was creating his own monthly, Dirt. The nationally distributed publication promptly failed, and Jonze returned to his bread and butter: shooting photo spreads and videos of skaters.