Jonze was born in Rockville, Maryland, and raised in Bethesda, Maryland. His father was Arthur Spiegel III, a distant relation of the Spiegel catalog family, who founded APM Management Consultants. His mother, Sandra Granzow, is a writer (Our Dream: A World Free of Poverty, Oxford University Press and the World Bank), communications consultant in developing countries, and artist (MFA candidate, School of Visual Arts, 2007). His brother Sam (aka Squeak E. Clean) is a producer and DJ. Jonze attended Walt Whitman High School.
Jonze fronted Club Homeboy, an international BMX club, with Mark “Lew” Lewman and Andy Jenkins, both co-editors of Freestylin’ Magazine in the mid to late 1980s. The three also created the youth culture magazine Homeboy and Dirt, described as “Sassy Magazine for boys”. Jonze was interviewed in “Joe Kid on a Stingray,” the 2006 documentary on the history of BMX.
In 2006, he was nominated by the Directors Guild of America for “Outstanding Achievement in Commercials in 2005.” He was nominated for a body of work that included “Hello Tomorrow” for Adidas, “Penguin” for Miller Beer, and “Pardon Our Dust” for The Gap. He was a producer and co-creator of MTV television series Jackass and Jackass: The Movie, also directing some of the segments. Jonze has acted in some videos and films; his most prominent role was in Three Kings as the sweet, dimwitted, casually racist Conrad, in which he was directed by friend David O. Russell.
Jonze was also a co-founder and editor of Dirt magazine along with Mark Lewman and Andy Jenkins, as well as an editor for Grand Royal Magazine and senior photographer for Transworld Skateboarding. In the past, Jonze shot skateboard videos, most notably Blind skateboard company’s Video Days in 1991. He also co-directed the Girl Skateboards film Yeah Right! and the Chocolate Skateboards video Hot Chocolate. In the closing credits montage of Yeah Right! Spike is shown doing a nollie heelflip in loafers. He is also co-owner of Girl Skateboards.
Jonze has many alter egos, which have included Richard Koufey (alternately spelled Coufey or Couffe), the leader of the Torrance Community Dance Group, an urban troupe that performs in public spaces. The Koufey persona appeared when Jonze, in character, filmed himself dancing to Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” as it played on a boombox in a public area. Spike showed the video to Slim, who loved it. Jonze then assembled a group of dancers to perform to Slim’s “Praise You,” which was taped outside a Westwood, California movie theater. The resulting clip was a huge success, and ‘Koufey’ and his troupe were invited to New York City to perform the song for the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards. The video received awards for Best Direction, Breakthrough, and Best Choreography, which Jonze accepted, still in character. Jonze made a mockumentary about the experience called Torrance Rises.
He also has a speaking part along with Dave Eggers in a Beck song entitled The Horrible Fanfare / Landslide / Exoskeleton from his 2006 album, The Information. He appears in the “Exoskeleton” bit.
Currently, Jonze is directing Where the Wild Things Are, which is now in its post-production stages.
Spike Jonze was an avid BMX freestyle rider in his youth. As part of the famous Rockville BMX crew he was known for making fast friends with touring BMX teams that came to town, befriending riders and often touring with them for short periods afterwards. He eventually landed a sponsored ride with Haro Bikes and received limited fame as a BMX personality appearing in many BMX publications such as Freestylin’. He was featured in an early-1990s “Spike-Needs-A-Girlfriend” contest in Christina Kelly’s ‘What Now’ column in Sassy Magazine. His requirements for a girlfriend were: “short hair, clear skin, and good teeth.”
Jonze worked at the Sunshine House surf shop in Ocean City, Maryland for a couple of years. The shop has since closed, but a collage of photos from the era, which include images of Jonze, are on display at Chauncey’s Surf Shop which is also in Ocean City.
On June 26, 1999, Jonze married director Sofia Coppola, whom he had known for nearly ten years. On December 5, 2003, the couple filed for divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences.” The character of John, a career-driven photographer (Giovanni Ribisi) in Coppola’s Lost In Translation (2003), was rumored to be based on Jonze, though Coppola has vehemently denied this. Jonze has since dated Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O, and most recently actress Drew Barrymore.