The tales of difficult directors run deep through Hollywood, but I hadn’t really read much about David Fincher until now. Apparently he’s pretty demanding on set, though from what it sounds like in his latest interview with Playboy, it’s not in a creepy, Hitchcockian kind of way — it’s more sadistic than that.
“Robert Downey Jr. compared the Zodiac set to ‘a gulag,’ and to salute Fincher’s notorious proclivity for demanding as many as 60 takes from his actors, he left urine-filled mason jars around the set.”
The interview also reveals plenty of things that bug Fincher, including being accused of starting the torture porn genre, superhero stuff (he finds it dull) and that not listening to his wife about making 1997’s The Game.
(Maybe I Jumped the Gun on That Not-Hitchcock Business…) On Daniel Craig Calling Fincher’s Mentoring Rooney Mara “Fucking Weird”:
“The thing got cloud-seeded by way of one magazine story. Had that one journalist from Vogue delved as deeply into why people were behaving the way they were as he did into what shoes they were wearing, we might have gotten some insight. But it was more interesting for him to do a Tippi Hedren-Alfred Hitchcock sort of thing. From the beginning I said to the Sony publicity people that the purpose of plucking someone like Rooney from obscurity is that they walk on-screen and you immediately believe who the fuck they are, rather than, “You were on Gossip Girl, right?” Rooney will tell you that I let her do anything she wanted. But it seemed counter to what we were trying to do to see her on the cover of Seventeen or being trotted out on every television show to go, “Here she is, cute as a fucking button and not at all this goth Swedish punker.” I said, “I think this is absurd,” but it didn’t move the needle in any way. The Sony publicity people were frustrated with my getting in the way of the exploitation of the character Lisbeth Salander.
On His “Tough” Reputation:“If you didn’t get hugged enough as a kid, you won’t find what you’re looking for from me. That’s not my gig and I’m not attuned to it.
And Specific Complaints About Doing 11 Takes vs. 5:“Part of the promise when I work with actors is that we may be on take 11 and I’ll say, ‘We certainly have a version that we can put in the movie that will make us all happy. But I want to do seven more and continue to push this idea. Let’s see where it goes.’ Now, I may go back to them after those seven takes and say, ‘It was a complete fucking waste of effort, but I had to try because I feel there’s something to be mined from this.’ That’s a lot of extra work for an actor, and sometimes it pushes them out of their comfort zone. In some cases they’re not getting paid as much as they would on another movie. I go out on a limb, and people work harder for me than they do for other people. But I want them to be happy with the fact that we were able to do something singular, something unlike anything else in their or my filmography.
On Making Changes to Gillian Flynn’s twisty Gone Girl (Which Trent Reznor calls “A nasty film”):“…my thought when I first read it was, ‘Fuck, how do you throw away two thirds of this and still end up with the same journey? How do you still play with the Scott Peterson aspect [the notorious case in which Peterson murdered his pregnant wife]—which we all know is the jumping-off point—but make it about something bigger and more universal?’”
Whether His Ex-Wife’s Divorce from Gary Oldman Affected Fincher’s Gone Girl Thought Process:“Gary and I certainly have a shared history. I know him very well. In fact, I wanted to cast him in Alien 3, but we couldn’t work it out—though, in hindsight, if we had, we probably would never have spoken to each other after that. Gary’s not cruel. He’s an incredibly thoughtful guy. I see him from time to time, but I haven’t seen him in a while. I heard about the Playboy interview, but I haven’t read it yet.”
Why He Wishes He’d Listened to (His Wife) Producer Ceán Chaffin About The Game:“She was extremely vociferous, for instance, when she said, ‘Don’t make The Game.’ …in hindsight, my wife was right. We didn’t figure out the third act, and it was my fault, because I thought if you could just keep your foot on the throttle it would be liberating and funny.”
What Disturbs a Dark Guy Like Fincher?” I heard about a German man who put an ad on an internet site saying he wanted to devour somebody. Someone actually answered the ad. The guy videotaped himself anesthetizing the willing victim, segmenting his body and consuming him. Before the victim died, they ate his genitals together. I don’t know if it was some bizarre psychosexual fulfillment, but it’s one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever heard.”
Being Blamed for Starting Torture Porn:“It was offensive to me on a certain level that when Saw and those other movies came out, people said, “Well, torture porn really started with Seven.” Fuck you. There’s enough pervy shit going on in Seven that I don’t have to get on my high horse to defend its artistic sensibilities. It was lurid. It was supposed to be lurid. But the thing I appreciated about it and what I thought Andrew Kevin Walker’s script did so well was that it got your mind in overdrive. It worked on your imagination. We were extremely conscious of the fact that we were talking about torture, but we never actually showed it…They never even saw it [Gwyneth Paltrow’s head].”
What’s Fincher Doing Next?“Gillian Flynn and I are doing Utopia [about fans of a cult graphic novel] for HBO, and that’s all I’m focusing on next year.
The full interview is an excellent read, with Fincher also discussing his childhood and influences, Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck, directing Madonna videos, and House of Cards.