Howard Berger Turned Down ‘Wild Things’

Howard Berger has said that the classic children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, was one of the things that inspired him to work in makeup effects. His mother read the book to him every night when he was young, and he still has a life-size “wild thing” in his office. But when Warner Bros. approached him in 2006 about designing creatures for their film adaptation, he turned it down, saying “The direction that they were taking in the movie was certainly not the direction that I would have taken. I didn’t want to get myself in it. I had a sinking feeling about it.” The film opened last weekend, grossing $32.7m in its first three days (domestically). Watch a clip.

42 Responses

  1. Fire Fairy says:

    How very interesting! Turning down the very story that inspired your career. I wonder why he turned it down. Then again, the way they ended up doing the creatures is completely the opposite of Berger's style. I also wonder why he had a sinking feeling? This is very intruiging.

  2. Shatsa says:

    That will be nice

  3. Me Sa U Sa says:

    Cool! =D I have been wanting to see that.

  4. Mark Hunt aka jesusiskingofkings says:

    I remember reading the book in elementary school, and I remember watching the old animated cartoon of it, and I also remember learning about when I would watch Reading Rainbow with Libar Burton. (He was Gordy Laforge in Startreck the Next Generation.

    Now, it’s very interesting to see that this man who loved the books would turn down an opportunity like this. I guess theirs a reason for it or he would not have done that. Of coarse then he would not be doing Voyage of the Dawn Treader also.

    Well that’s good work glumpuddle.

  5. Lucy the Valiant says:

    who is he?

  6. Lucy&Reepicheep says:

    Question How does this relate to Narnia? And Where the wild things are seems like a dumb movie.

  7. NarniaLuver4Ever says:

    My guess would be he turned it down because their interpretation was different than his would have been. I heard (I haven't seen it yet)that it was much darker than the book had portrayed and it was a bit more mature and complex. Berger probably fell in love with the whimsical simplicity of the book and did not want to take part in something that was so different from what he loved as a child.

  8. NarniaLuver4Ever says:

    Howard Berger was the KNB EFX Group Supervisor on both LWW and PC. He is also currently working on VDT doing the same thing. Word on the Street is not strictly Narnia news, but also what people involved in Narnia are doing. And as far as Where The Wild Things Are goes, everyone's entitled to their own opinion, but it is a classic and most people grew up on that book so I can't understand why you would think it's dumb.

  9. NarniaNut says:

    Wow,I remember watching Reading Rainbow(a very long time ago 🙂 ),and I've just started watching The Next Generation a few weeks ago and I never would have guessed LaForge is that guy on the show!!!Thanks for the information;I can't wait to tell everyone!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  10. Sammie says:

    Nothing more to add to the explanation (NarniaLuver4Ever, what's "KNB"? Is that the company?), but Berger's talked about his work on "Narnia" a couple times.

    (What cracks me up in the second interview is that Berger's interviewed about his work with all the Narnian creatures, but every picture is of Barnes – although there's not one mention of him in the interview.)

  11. Peepicheep says:


  12. campgirl says:

    I am SO glad that he turned it down! Me and my family went to see it Friday for my birthday and it was AWFUL! You know how some movies are really sad and some are really happy? Well, this one was really MAD. The characters were mad practically the whole movie. And the little boy has a bad attitude and is very disrespectful to his mom. It's nothing like the book. It's horrible. You'll be disappointed if you go see it. I wouldn't recommend it for anyone.
    I'm so proud of Howard for turning it down!! My respect for him just went WAY up! *thumbs up!* Great job! 🙂

  13. 220chrisTian says:

    "Well that’s good work glumPuddle." Ditto! Btw, I've never read the book. What's so great about it?

  14. Mapthestars says:

    hello. I disagree about the movie being awful. I'm not knocking your opinion, you're free to like or dislike the film, only I feel you shouldn't say it was nothing like the book. if you remember Max was sent to his room without supper for behaving badly. so it's not like the child was an angel in the book and the filmmakers made him a brat. also, the author was producer on the film, so any changes in the script had to pass by him first. also there was the emotional undertone of redemption through the whole film, and love and respect for parents. this was building up for the climax at the end when he comes back home. they needed all the angst in the film to show how much Max need his mom. anyways, my thoughts on Howard however, I think it was up alley and should've done it. and I don't understand his comment about "The direction that they were taking in the movie was certainly not the direction that I would have taken." because why should he care. technically all he would do is make the costumes/suits for the monsters, and they looked just like the books illustrations. there was no need for him to care about the look Spike or the DP wanted for the film, that's not his place and or role in the filmmaking process, he needs to learn to hold his tongue. that's my thoughts on it.

  15. Fire Fairy says:

    Reading Rainbow…wow. It's been ages since I've seen that! I loved that show as a kid! 220chrisTian, Where the Wild Things Are is considered a classic children's storybook. I didn't really get the point of it as a kid, but I think it's very cute and has some underlying themes in it that many children wouldn't understand. It's a very good read. I recommend you check it out.

  16. Fire Fairy says:

    I haven't seen the film yet, but I want to. Mapthestars, I completely agree with your take on the movie (from the clips and trailers I've seen, that is), but I have to say I feel that Howard Berger had every right to turn it down. I understand where you're coming from, where he should be willing to do as the filmmakers and directors tell him, but I personally view him as an artist, and, as an form of an artist myself (I'm a writer), I can understand why he wouldn't want to do something that wasn't going the direction he would take it. Where the Wild Things Are was not his style, and as any artist would know, to try and do something that goes against your personal style usually ends up a disastor. I mean, yeah, you should always try new things, but if Howard Berger's heart wasn't into it, if he had accepted, it would have ended up being absolutely awful. He wouldn't have been 100% commited, and therefore he wouldn't have been able to give 100%.

  17. buuu eso no es de narnia es otra pelicula de que no sea de narnia que importa bye

  18. Narnia Lover says:

    Cool! I think I'm going to see "Wild things" when it comes out!

  19. fnafa4ever says:

    Stinks to be Berger! That movie was amazing.

  20. glumPuddle says:

    "Wild Things" is a beautiful and uncompromising film. One of the most sophisticated films I've seen this year. Definitely not for kids. It's a movie for adults about childhood.

    Gotta respect this film, because most audiences aren't going to understand it. It's a legit piece of artistic expression that doesn't care if people don't get it.

    Wonderful film. I may go back for a second viewing.

  21. glumPuddle says:

    No offense, but it sounds to me like you didn't understand the underlying themes of the film. It's a movie about the emotions of being a kid. There are a lot of things going on in Max's life that he is not able to control, and he goes to a place where the inhabitants call him king and actually give him power over his life. The wild things themselves are all reflections of Max himself. By the end of the film, Max is finally able to look in the mirror and see what he looks like, and as a result he changes.

    It's a movie about how kids deal with these new emotions, and how they come to terms with concepts like death.

    Definitely not a movie for kids. Most of it will totally go over most kids' heads. It's an emotionally complex and sophisticated piece of artistic expression. It's a movie for adults ABOUT childhood.

  22. Mapthestars says:

    to fire fairy: I'm sorry I wasn't clear. I wasn't bashing Howard for declining the job. I just feel that now, after the movie has come out, there was no need for him to say why he declined doing the movie. I don't mind him saying he didn't want to do it, and if he said something along the lines of "I didn't think the style of the film would have matched my style" is alright. however, saying he felt the studio and director are not doing the book justice, or how he felt it should be done, is not his place. especially just after the film has been released. I understand that both statements practically mean the same thing, however his quote sounded more like an attack on Spike. also, by the way, I too am a artist, painter, filmmaker, pianist, guitar player and drummer so I do understand declining a job. but his remark comes at, in my opinion, a disrespectful time.

  23. Mark Friedrich says:

    I haven't seen the movie and or the book.

  24. Fire Fairy says:

    That's okay, Mapthestars. I completely respect your opinion. Especially as an artist :-). However, I actually found that if you follow the link in the article, where it says "turned it down", you'll find the original article. The date on the article says August of 2008. So I think it's safe to say he said this before the movie was finished. I don't think he was out of place. 😉

  25. Fire Fairy says:

    I've been wanting to see it myself.

  26. Fire Fairy says:

    I don't know much spanish, but it seems to me he's asking what this has to do with Narnia. Can someone who knows spanish explain it to him? About Howard Berger and all?

  27. Me Sa U Sa says:

    First his translation: buuu it is not of narnia is another movie that is not of narnia imported bye

    Now My Awnser:
    Bueno, Warner Brothers preguntó si podría hacer esta película. Warner Brothers hizo el so. de películas de Narnia… creo que es un poco sospechar de lo que está ocurriendo con la Warner Brothers

  28. Me Sa U Sa says:

    ¿Cómo te va? Lo siento acerca de cuántas personas usted selección. Si desea que se traduzco todos sus comentarios para ellos, si lo desea.

    Un amigo

  29. Mapthestars says:

    ah, didn't see the date of the article. being that it was just posted on narniaweb I thought it must've been a recent article. but I guess not lol.

  30. NarniaPinoy says:

    Whatever glumPuddle, anyway I saw the 2009 Christmas commercial of coke, I just spotted Georgie Henley, I think?

  31. K says:

    Whoa! CHRISTMAS commercials are already out? Its not even Halloween!

  32. campgirl says:

    Ok, I think I understand where y'all are coming from, but I still feel the same about the film. I didn't mean that Max was a angel in the books. I just didn't think that he was as much of a brat in the books as he was in the film. I meant that the film wasn't like I, personally, had imagined the book. Hmm, Interesting way to think of the monsters glumPuddle.

    Howard had EVERY right to turn it down. If he had taken it and the film had turned out differently than he had wanted/expected than he would have a film that he didn't, um, approve of with HIS name on it. If I was in his place I wouldn't want MY name on the film. And I don't think that he was trying to be disrespectful or rude to Spike or any of the other film-makers.

    Frankly, I hated the movie. But that is only my OPINION. And I'm NOT trying to make anyone change their mind about the film and I understand what y'all's points are. That's just the way I feel about it. I'm not trying to hurt anyone's feelings or anything. Please don't take me the wrong way.

  33. The Great and Fearless Pug says:

    I bet he turned it down because the movie that was being made didn't seem like it went with the book he knew so well. That's also what's going on a little with VoDT. Everyone's worried that it won't work with the book and will turn out to be something totally different. (Hopefully it doesn't happen)

  34. Mark Hunt aka jesusiskingofkings says:

    Both Reading Rainbow and Star Treck the next Generation have been out since the 1980's. I did not know they were still airing Reading Rainbow these days. Well this is really of topic.

    I have not seen "Where the Wild Things are" And the last time I even read the book was probably when I was in the 2nd grade. That would have been That was like 19993. So I recognize the characters by sight, but not by names and anything else.

  35. Mark Hunt aka jesusiskingofkings says:

    I hsve not seen the movie, but I do remember the theme of the books,and the them that I remember is the same theme that you just discribed. I can or canot comment on the film itself, since I have not watched it yet. But, I agree with you that most children do go through those same emotions and feelings.

  36. glumPuddle says:

    I'm not questioning Berger's right to turn down the film, or your right to dislike it. Just pointing out that it sounds like the reason you didn't like it is that you didn't understand it.

    Of course Max and the wild things have bad attitudes. That’s the whole point of the movie. By the end, Max is finally able to see himself, and then changes as a result. That’s when he makes the decision to go back home. He is coming to terms with all these emotions he is experiencing for the first time, but certainly not the last time.

    The wild thing that protects Max at the end is, as Max sees it, a reflection of his mother. Very powerful imagery of Max being inside her stomach (as if he was inside the womb).

  37. Aliea says:

    Georgie in a coke-a-cola comershal? wow, she's branching out…

  38. Mark Friedrich says:

    Are some people commenting on their own comments?

  39. Peepicheep says:

    Very inserting! thank you for sharing!

  40. Bookwyrm says:

    Howard Berger did the makeup effects for LWW and PC. Fake noses, centaur ears, that sort of thing. Extremely talented guy.

  41. NarniaLuver4Ever says:

    Sammie: I have no clue what KNB stands for, I just copied and pasted that from the crew listing on here! haha

  42. Good for you howard I would have done the same thing. … Mabey