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Where The Wild Things Are, Except Jeff

October 25, 2009

WEATHER STATION 1 EXCLUSIVE, MINOR SPOILERS

As the hit Spike Jonze adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s beloved children’s tale Where The Wild Things Are sweeps into cinemas, one Wild Thing sits at home in his tiny basement apartment, wondering what might have been.

The names of the movie’s stars are already familiar: Carol, KW, Douglas, Ira, Judith, Alexander and The Bull. The millions of people who have paid to watch young Max on his wild rumpus with the Wild Things may not notice the absence of one familiar face. But the Wild Thing behind that face notices. His mood these days is not good, shifting from confusion to despair each time the film’s busy ad campaign catches his eye.

“I was part of something special, and then they took that away from me,” he says.

His name is Jeff. He lives in a small town outside Newark, New Jersey, although he doesn’t like to specify where. “A lot of people get worked up about that book,” he says. “It’s like The Catcher In The Rye for people who like to throw eggs at houses.”

Jeff

Jeff has lived with his strange appearance since birth. As a teenager, he shot up in height, and was politely asked to leave his high school in the eleventh grade after he destroyed the basketball gymnasium during a game of Horse. (“My horns are right at the 10-foot mark”) He worked for a time as a doorman at the short-lived Newark Playboy Mansion before he was hired by Sendak to model for the famous book.

He hoped the book would set him on a path to stardom, but it didn’t; he’s been living on royalties ever since, holed up in his apartment, waiting for his monthly royalty cheque and living on a diet of delivery Chinese, pizza and Pusser’s Navy Rum. For a long time, he hoped to get back in front of a camera, this time for the long-rumoured film adaptation of Sendak’s book.

Word came a couple of years back: the project was a go, with Jonze in the directing chair. The models from the original book were to play the leads. Jeff heard from Douglas, who had been working as a professional wrestler in Mexico’s Giant Chicken Wrestling Federation, and from KW, who had been Megan Fox’s stunt double in the first Transformers movie. They were in. They were about to live the Hollywood dream.

Jeff’s phone stayed quiet.

“For a while I was hoping for some surprise cameo kind of deal, like Shatner was supposed to have in the new Star Trek,” says Jeff, who admits sneaking out to see the movie (in disguise). “But then I saw the movie and I knew for sure I wasn’t in it.”

Sue N. Blawgurs, a spokeswoman for the marketing agency hired by the publicity firm working with the advertising company for the film, said Jeff was originally in the script, but had to be cut for budgetary reasons.

“We had eight Wild Things, but it became clear as the script was being whittled down that each had a clearly defined role and place in the film, except Jeff,” Blawgurs said.

“We went back to the source material, and by “we,” I mean someone who sent someone else a memo about this, who sent it to me, and by “source material,” I mean some weird little kids’ book with like eleven words in it. And it was determined that since Jeff appears only twice in the book, and one time when he’s partially cut off, it wasn’t necessary to create a larger role for him in the movie.”

Jeff says that’s a ridiculous explanation.

“Larger role? Like Alexander is so pivotal to the plot? Like Ira matters to the final outcome? Ira gets some great lines in the movie! Where did that come from? Read the book again — see Max sailing away? That’s me waving goodbye. Pivotal role, people! Pivotal!”

Sea Monster

Sea Monster

Also missing from the film is the Sea Monster, whom Blawgers says had a brief appearance in the original cut of the film. “Something had to give,” she says. “It was determined that the Christmas toy market is saturated with dragon-like characters, stuffed toys and video games. There was, however, a distinct lack of Mark Ruffalo action figures. The decision was a simple one.”

The Sea Monster, reached on the set of Grindhouse 2: The Lion, The Witch and the Spy Kids, issued a terse “No comment.”

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