This was published at The Edge SUSU on November 1st 2014.
“It’s very you” says critic Boyd Hilton, “Jesus!” comes the response from renown director David Fincher. The subject in question? An early commercial of Fincher’s for The American Cancer Society featuring a foetus smoking a cigarette. The director is aware of his reputation for darker material but he’s still taken aback by this. As Hilton himself pointed out, Fincher is one of those directors whose trademark disturbing output audiences can consistently look forward to.
The audience in the room of the BAFTA event hangs on his every word as he delivers various anecdotes, personal philosophies and doses of trivia. He talks through each of his projects (minus Alien³) with affection; on The Social Network: “I knew what it was like to go ‘this is not cute. This is my fucking dream!'” on House of Cards: “television has become the place for characters to grow,” on Se7en: “we were led by our loins… Just do it.”
Reluctant to speak about his notorious emphasis on doing a lot of takes, he nonetheless explains his reasons. “(It) doesn’t make any sense to me: if I fly you in from Iceland (then) I want to get beyond muscle memory.” Elaborating that he doesn’t understand why anyone would pool together so many resources and people for one shoot “with the idea to get them out as soon as possible,” he asserts that an actor’s best performance will come 15 takes in, when they’ve finally got past just hitting their marks and delivering the lines as they rehearsed. “I love working with actors! I could not fucking do what they do,” unlike certain other directors, Fincher is insistent that he doesn’t regard actors as mere pawns in his overall vision. “I want actors to be selfish in authorship… and generous.”
Finally, after progressing through his career, we arrive at Gone Girl. When complimented by Hilton on the film’s central presentation of the media and perception, Fincher replies “The thing that was profound was the notion that we construct a projection of ourselves” for others to see, “oblivious to the fact that the other person is doing this too.”
The director has plenty of praise for the source material’s writer and the film’s screenwriter Gillian Flynn “she has a real gift: she prefers to be a 13 year old girl eating popcorn when she writes”, aligning herself with the audience. He’s also quick to commend her ability to “slaughter darlings” when it came to adapting her book. On casting Ben Affleck he remarks “Ben had a distinct relationship with what it was like to be in the woodchipper of public opinion,” which was just what he needed for protagonist Nick.
Gone Girl was released in the UK on the 3rd October.