THE FRAME GAME

David Fincher, whose film opens next week, tells he is un­trou­bled by his rep­u­ta­tion as an ob­ses­sive di­rec­tor

The Weekend Australian - Review - - FILM -

(2010) and (2011), Fincher’s knack for shin­ing a light into the darker re­cesses of hu­man­ity has seen him lauded as one of the greats of his gen­er­a­tion. Yet he is not a man with­out rep­u­ta­tion. Fincher, who fa­mously cut his teeth mak­ing mu­sic videos for stars such as Madonna and the Rolling Stones, is the di­rec­tor fans love, but whom some ac­tors dread. Renowned for ask­ing ac­tors to per­form mul­ti­ple takes — he has been known to de­mand the same scene up to 75 times — he has been de­scribed as an ob­ses­sive, a per­fec­tion­ist. Yet for all he may or may not be, Fincher is un­apolo­getic.

“I don’t re­ally care if peo­ple have pre­con­ceived ideas of me or my work. Peo­ple like to call me a cynic. What I am is a re­al­ist,” he says, smil­ing. “Peo­ple see what they want to see.”

It’s the no­tion of per­cep­tion, or rather mis­per­cep­tion, that feeds broadly into why Fincher is holed up to­day, gra­ciously and gen­er­ously an­swer­ing ques­tions in a ca­sual pressed white shirt and blue jeans, but look­ing, it must be said, as though he’d rather be any­where else.

The di­rec­tor’s lat­est film, Gone Girl, star­ring Ben Af­fleck and Rosamund Pike, is a mys­tery drama that hinges on a fun­da­men­tal, if sel­dom ac­knowl­edged, hu­man truth: that be­neath the edited pro­jec­tion of our­selves lies an uglier, some­times dan­ger­ous, re­al­ity.

“Hu­mans are al­ways wor­ried about what peo­ple think,” he says thought­fully. “We edit our be­hav­iour. We learn to charm. We learn it as stu­dents, as sib­lings, from our par­ents. We use it to at­tract a mate. And at some point down the road one party might say, ‘Look I can’t main­tain this any more, and you’re go­ing to have get used to that’ … I had not seen that no­tion ar­tic­u­lated be­fore. It was a new idea.”

Gone Girl, the di­rec­tor’s highly an­tic­i­pated adap­ta­tion of Gil­lian Flynn’s 2012 best­selling novel, charts the psy­chol­ogy of a long-term re­la­tion­ship through the tale of a miss­ing wife and her hus­band, who is sub­se­quently fin­gered as the prime sus­pect in her sus­pected mur­der.

As with any of Fincher’s fea­tures, Gone Girl takes on a life of its own. It is in many ways a quite dif­fer­ent beast to Flynn’s book — she also

Septem­ber 27-28, 2014 DI­REC­TOR has to have a so­ciopath’s con­fi­dence,” David Fincher says, his feet swing­ing up and then touch­ing down gen­tly on a glass cof­fee ta­ble in London’s swanky Soho Ho­tel. “It’s that idea that what you’re do­ing is the right way to do it, and will be for all time.”

He lets the thought hang for a mo­ment and stares out through a closed win­dow as the rain be­gins to fall on the street be­low.

“And then there’s another part of it, which is be­ing a trained poo­dle. You want to do a backflip and for ev­ery­one to ap­plaud.”

It’s an in­trigu­ing ad­mis­sion from the Amer­i­can di­rec­tor, 52, who has dur­ing the past two decades es­tab­lished him­self as one of the most cre­ative and pre­scient film­mak­ers in Hol­ly­wood. From his sem­i­nal 1995 film Se7en, star­ring Brad Pitt, Mor­gan Free­man and Kevin Spacey, to 1999’s Fight Club, and from thrillers Zo­diac (2007) and Panic Room (2002) to The Cu­ri­ous Case of Ben­jamin But­ton (2008), The So­cial Net­work The Girl with the Dragon Tat­too adapted the screen­play — and Fincher ad­mits he was con­scious of en­sur­ing the au­thor was com­fort­able with the di­rec­tion of the film.

“You’re talk­ing about Gil tak­ing 500 pages, and throw­ing 280 away,” he says. “That’s a big ask. So I wanted her to be happy. I felt this way about Aaron Sorkin ( The So­cial Net­work), I felt this way about An­drew Walker ( Se7en), I felt this way about Robert Gray­smith and James Van­der­bilt ( Zo­diac). I al­ways want the writer to be happy; I want them to be proud. I don’t want them to feel like they have to dis­own it.”

Fincher says Flynn in­trin­si­cally un­der­stood the fun­da­men­tals of film adap­ta­tion.

“Just throw­ing pages away is not the key to be­ing a good screen­writer. It’s think­ing how to use mo­ments of de­scribed thought in the book and adapt­ing it to drama­ti­s­able be­hav­iour,” he says. “The book is a ‘ he said/she said’. But you can’t have two sub­jec­tive points of view in a movie. The au­di­ence has to have an ac­cess point.”

Af­fleck, the two-time Os­car win­ner (best orig­i­nal screen­play for Good Will Hunt­ing in 1997; and as pro­ducer on best pic­ture win­ner Argo in 2012), is one of Hol­ly­wood’s most bank­able stars. His pulling power has few equals. Surely, how­ever, there was some­thing else — some un­seen in­tu­ition — in Af­fleck that at­tracted Fincher?

The di­rec­tor smiles. “Just be­cause it’s great cast­ing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.”

Af­fleck plays Nick Dunne, a jour­nal­ist who falls in love with city girl Amy. They marry and when Nick loses his job, the cou­ple moves from Amy’s home city of New York to her hus­band’s small home town in Mis­souri, to be nearer his fam­ily. It’s there the pair’s mar­riage be­gins to slide. When Amy in­ex­pli­ca­bly goes miss­ing one morn­ing, the tide of pub­lic opin­ion, aided by the 24-hour news cy­cle, turns vi­o­lently against him.

“Ben was per­fect for the role,” Fincher says. “And he, more than any­one else, knows what it’s like to be in the wood­chip­per of the pub­lic eye. I think for me, I was most in­ter­ested by how crazy smart he is, and how will­ing he was — if you gave him the frame and then talked about how you were go­ing to use it — to sub­ject him­self to a kind of hu­mil­i­a­tion that only he un­der­stood.”

For weeks now in the US, the as yet un­re­leased film, pro­duced by Reese Wither­spoon’s company Pa­cific Stan­dards, has been court­ing Os­car spec­u­la­tion. Fincher, nom­i­nated for best di­rec­tor on Ben­jamin But­ton and The So­cial Net­work, is yet to get his hands on an Academy Award. He was a firm favourite for The So­cial Net­work in 2011, but was pipped at the post by Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech.

Yet that hasn’t af­fected his fan­base, which has been grow­ing steadily since Se7en burst on to the scene in 1995, and he seems to en­joy — or at least not to ob­ject to — his role as Hol­ly­wood’s bad-boy au­teur. The di­rec­tor ad­mits that he may not be the eas­i­est film­maker to work with. And his leg­endary pro­cliv­ity for mul­ti­ple takes has caused ten­sion in the past.

Robert Downey Jr, who starred in Zo­diac, said work­ing with Fincher was like be­ing in a gu­lag. Jake Gyl­len­haal, on the same film, ex­pressed psy­cho­log­i­cal ex­as­per­a­tion with the di­rec­tor’s con­stant reshoot­ing and delet­ing of scenes. “He paints with peo­ple,” Gyl­len­haal said at the time. “It’s tough to be a colour.”

Fincher shrugs. “Gen­er­ally, I don’t think it’s ac­cept­able for any­one to say ‘Well, we tried ...’,” he says. “My feel­ing is this: I’ll give an ac­tor 75 bites at the (cherry). It’s im­por­tant for ac­tors to get beyond mus­cle mem­ory. When you’ve thrown the jacket on the couch for the hun­dredth time, it’s like you live there now. You’re not act­ing any more. That’s what I want. That’s what the au­di­ence de­serves when they pay 15 bucks to sit in the dark for an hour and a half.”

Fincher is ar­guably one of the most tech­ni­cally adept work­ing direc­tors in Hol­ly­wood, a legacy of his life­long in­ter­est in the minu­tiae of the moviemak­ing business.

“I have al­ways been re­ally com­mit­ted to the idea of be­ing on set and watch­ing how shit went down,” he says. “Over the years, I saw a lot of direc­tors get rope-a-doped; spun by ‘ex­perts’ hired by the stu­dios. I vowed never to let that hap­pen. I want to know what ev­ery moth­erf..ker in the room does.”

DAVID Fincher be­gan mak­ing

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