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Dave Eggers' Monster Project: Behind 'The Wild Things'

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  Do you think that the feelings of rage and powerlessness, earnest curiosity and mischief that are explored in Where The Wild Things Are and The Wild Things are universal or boys' feelings?
It's definitely a little bit more male, but I think it really depends. Max definitely likes to be king, likes to break things, chase the dog with a fork and has no fear. The well-behaved or sedate kind of boy in movies wasn't anybody that I was or anybody that I knew as a kid. We definitely broke everything we could get our hands on and set fires. I tried to make Max a kid who was good and did well in school and was well-liked, but he also had a lot of energy and a lot of anger and lot of animal in him, which is probably most boys.

How did you bring the Wild Things to life as characters with names and why, for example, if you were responsible for both, Katherine is Katherine in the book and KW in the movie?
Well, Katherine was my choice. KW was Spike's. In some cases I liked it one way and he liked it another, so there's a lot of little things like that in the book. I didn't think KW rolled off the tongue and I always like Victorian names for characters. I thought it was funny to call her Katherine, like Katharine Hepburn.

How do you go from looking at a picture to saying, "This is Carol, here are his issues?" What were you getting from the drawings that helped flesh out their traits?
Carol was the obvious leader and is the most prominent one in the book. He's the one everyone thinks of first and is Maurice's primary one that he draws, so that seemed to be the obvious choice for the father figure/best friend/would-be king. Pretty early on, we saw the goat was close to Max's size and could be something like a doppelganger and rival for Max. They were smaller and had the some fur color.

How did he become an Alexander?
He isn't a great world conqueror and he's probably of the age that Alexander was taking over half of the civilized world, but he's just a goat, so that's an interesting juxtaposition there. But it also has kind of a geeky connotation if he's Alexander and not Alex or Al. He goes by Alexander the whole time and that's the kind of goat he is. He might feel a little neglected and a little fussy about himself and confused about his identity a little bit.

And the relationship between Katherine and Carol?
That one was the relationship that changed the most and had some history. We had to avoid it being just a father-daughter relationship and it's definitely not a romantic relationship. Their relationship is the most complicated on the island and it's the fulcrum that affects the rest of the Wild Things. They're similar in a lot of ways so they fight a lot, but everyone just wants them to get along. It parallels parental relationships at home; a kid is affected by every rumble.

Why doesn't the Bull get a name?
He did have a name for a long time. His name was Daniel. When we decided that he wouldn't speak at all, we decided that he didn't have a name. The Wild Things never call him the Bull so they might all know his name.

Let's talk about Larry.
He's a raccoon and a weapon of war. I think of that generation of animal as a Larry, a Hugh, a Hal. Fifties male names. They have that kind of attitude.

But originally he was a tornado before a book ever existed.
Yeah, we had a tornado at one point. There were a number of scenes that we conceived that ultimately didn't make it in there. When I started the book, I thought I was going to put in the tornadoes and every scene that was dropped, but then went in a different direction and started writing some new stuff.

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