John Malkovich Compares 'Being John Malkovich' to a Blowjob

Actor also reveals the one hair-related thing he and director Spike Jonze disagreed on in acclaimed film

John Malkovich explains why 'Being John Malkovich' is like a blowjob. Credit: USA Films/Everett

At the 2013 Toronto Film Festival, director Spike Jonze spoke of John Malkovich's initial reluctance at starring in Jonze's lofty debut, Being John Malkovich. "He said: either the movie's a bomb and it's got ... my name in the title, so I'm fucked that way; or it does well and I'm just forever associated with this character," Jonze said, via the Guardian.

Malkovich took time out from discussing his upcoming album in a soon-to-be-published interview with Rolling Stone to look back at his ambivalent association with the influential 1999 film.

"I would say the film's biggest legacy was that it was an introduction to the world of two extremely gifted filmmakers: [screenwriter] Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze, whom I hold in great esteem," Malkovich tells Rolling Stone. "In my mind, they're visionaries who have gone on to do some of the most excellent work in American movies for a long time.

"But [the legacy] for me, not so much," the actor adds. "I mean, in modern culture... [Long pause] It's kind of like if you get a blowjob from the wrong person, then your life becomes a blowjob. So Being John Malkovich always has to be referred to in some allegedly clever or ironic or snarky way."

Malkovich was originally set to direct the film years before its release with a different actor in the title role, but he eventually ceded directorial duties to Jonze. To this day, he remains surprised that the film was even made.

"I never thought anybody would be goofy enough to actually film [the script]," says Malkovich. "But I hadn't met Spike. And when they asked me to do it, I was slightly worried. Not at all about the tone or content, but the feeling of, if you do a film where your name is not above the title but in the title, then you may have some serious narcissistic tendencies which would require looking at." 

Malkovich considered using another actor for the role — "Why not Being Tom Cruise?" Kaufman said Malkovich asked him — but says the screenwriter was insistent on casting the veteran actor. "The point was we had to get [Charlie] to agree that it would be, if not a good idea, an okay idea to make it about another actor or public figure. But Charlie really was not interested in that at all," Malkovich says. "We were walking down the street in New York after I met him the first time. It was not long before we started shooting and he sidled over to me and said, 'I just want you to know I'm a big fan.' And I said, 'Well, thank you, Charlie, but I read the script, so you don't really have to do that.' And he kind of snorted."

Jonze, Kaufman and Malkovich shared a nearly identical collaborative vision for the film, with one minor exception. "Spike and I debated one thing, which is when my character becomes a puppeteer in the Catskills," Malkovich recalls. "I wanted to wear pais curls, and Spike didn't want me to. And that was about the extent of my creative input. I was a little bit involved in casting Charlie Sheen as my best friend, which [pauses] there was some reticence about that, but it seemed to me a good idea."