Ready for an upgrade?
Writer/director Spike Jonze's sci-fi love story is set in the not-too-distant—but never specified—future and stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore, a lonely Los Angeleno who writes personal, "handwritten" letters for other people.
Still smarting from the collapse of his marriage, Theodore one day brings home an intuitive, state-of-the-art operating system and meets "Samantha" (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).
It's love at first byte as Samantha's sultry purr and sensitive personality help heal Theo's heart. Soon Samantha herself wants to explore her growing needs and desires—sort of like a self-aware Siri.
Ready to plug and play with Her? First, interface with these five fun facts:
Booting Up: Jonze co-wrote his screen adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, but Her marks his first solo credit as a feature scriptwriter. He hatched the story a decade ago, after his own experience of instant messaging with an artificial intelligence. Though Jonze quickly realized he was talking to a program and not a real person, he found the initial exchange exciting and ran with the idea. A week after completing his script in 2011, Jonze approached Phoenix, whom he'd met 10 years earlier when the actor auditioned for Adaptation.
Samantha as Samantha: British actress Samantha Morton was originally cast as "Samantha" and performed the voice-only role in real time on set (inside a small soundproof box) whenever logistically possible. However, during post-production, Jonze recast the part with Johansson. Because she never appears onscreen, Johansson was ruled ineligible for a Golden Globe nomination. But the Oscars don't have that same stipulation, so ScarJo will be "for your consideration."
Rounding Out the Virtual World: Other "hers" in the cast include Rooney Mara as Theodore's ex-wife, Amy Adams as his best friend and Olivia Wilde as a beautiful blind date gone bad. Also look for, er, listen for Kristen Wiig as Theo's phone-sex partner with a bizarre cat fetish. In another bit of stunt casting, Jonze himself voices a funny, foul-mouthed videogame character called "alien child," though he's credited as Adam Spiegel, his birth name.
Nip/Tuck: Jonze's initial edit of Her ran 150 minutes long, so he turned to friend Steven Soderbergh for assistance. Within 24 hours, Soderbergh—who edits most of his own work under the pseudonym Mary Ann Bernard, his mother's maiden name—got the film down to a sleek 90 minutes. Though Jonze didn't use Soderbergh's exact version (Her now runs about two hours), he made many of his suggested cuts. One deep-sixed subplot featured actor Chris Cooper, who won an Oscar for his role in Jonze's Adaptation.
Auto Delete: To depict an evolved Los Angeles, the filmmakers decided to incorporate modern architecture—and take away the cars. (Apparently, there's no traffic in the near future, yay.) For downtown exteriors, Her filmed in Shanghai's Pudong District, which has new skyscrapers and elevated walkways that keep pedestrians high above the unseen vehicles. Jonze wanted to shoot the entire movie in China, but for budgetary reasons, the production spent only two weeks in Shanghai and the rest of the time in L.A.