Un­flinch­ing au­teur

Noted gloom mer­chant David Fincher adapt sa pop­corn-ready best­seller. The grim re­sult? ‘A very re­al­is­tic view of mar­riage,’ he tells Tara Brady

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM - Gone Girl is out now on gen­eral re­lease

David Fincher stops half­way into a bis­cuit. He looks deep in thought. “Enough bitch­ing from me,” he says. “I’ve bitched so much. I’m em­bar­rassed. Right now I’m go­ing to fo­cus on get­ting more of th­ese cook­ies.”

What’s he do­ing now? Is that a smile? I’ve en­coun­tered the

Seven di­rec­tor be­fore, but I’ve never seen him look quite so chip­per. Maybe it’s be­cause there’s no way that his in­com­ing adap­ta­tion of the best­selling pot-boiler Gone Girl, star­ring Ben Af­fleck and Rosamund Pike as war­ring mar­rieds, won’t do boffo box-of­fice.

Or maybe it’s be­cause it’s a mis­chievous, wil­fully provoca­tive pic­ture. Work­ing from a screen­play by the book’s au­thor, Gil­lian Flynn, Gone Girl ditches the he said/she said gen­der tussle of the book in favour of an al­to­gether grim­mer view of hu­man re­la­tions. By the reck­on­ing of Fincher’s film, mar­riage is a nerve-wreck­ing set of hostage ne­go­ti­a­tions and all women are bunny-boil­ing psy­chopaths. Re­ally?

Mar­riage de­cep­tions

“I think it has a very re­al­is­tic view of mar­riage,” he says, grin­ning. “Par­tic­u­larly if the par­tic­i­pants have duped them­selves into a pact that they are not ma­ture enough to en­ter into. For me it’s a study of nar­cis­sism. Not in terms of self-love. But as in: ‘This is the me that I want you to see. And I am go­ing to vig­or­ously pro­tect that ed­i­fice. And no one is go­ing to keep me from my hap­pi­ness.’ And, of course, no­body takes into ac­count that the other per­son might be do­ing the ex­act same thing.”

He sips his cof­fee and pauses for thought. “I’m not out to get this holy in­sti­tute of mar­riage. But I come from a coun­try that has a 52 per cent di­vorce rate.” The Colorado-born di­rec­tor of

Fight Club and Zo­diac is gen­er­ally per­ceived as a pur­veyor of gloom, a chap who makes films about psy­chopaths and dan­ger-

Could Humphrey Bog­art be a movie star now? Could Jack Nicholson? Would they make The Ex­or­cist now? No. Things hap­pen in The Ex­or­cist that you can’t even say in a Warn­ers board­room

ous delu­sions. His work is black in theme and as­pect. Cam­pus life has sel­dom seemed as joy­less and sun­less as it does in The So­cial Net­work.

Con­versely, there are few ob­scur­ing shad­ows. It is, rather, as if Fincher has learned to see and thrive, mole-like, with­out light – not­with­stand­ing the crisp images set against dark­ness that alert us to his in­volve­ment.

“Peo­ple ask me all the time: ‘Why are you so cyn­i­cal?’ And I al­ways think: ‘Why are you so Pollyanna?’”

In 1962, David An­drew Fincher was born to Claire, a men­tal­health nurse who worked with drug ad­dicts, and Howard Kelly Fincher, a bureau chief for Life mag­a­zine. Aged seven, he saw Butch Cas­sidy and the Sundance

Kid and promptly started shoot­ing his own short films on 8mm.

He worked for In­dus­trial Light and Magic and pro­duced sev­eral no­table com­mer­cials, in­clud­ing a spot for the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety fea­tur­ing a foe­tus smoking a cig­a­rette, be­fore join­ing Pro­pa­ganda Films, the some­time home of An­toine Fuqua, Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze and Mark Romanek.

Fincher, the di­rec­tor of Madonna’s Vogue and count­less other pro­mos, misses mu­sic videos, even now. “We would start on a Mon­day, sell the con­cept by Tues­day, pre-pro­duce Wed­nes­day through Fri­day. Shoot on Satur­day and Sun­day. Edit Mon­day to Fri­day. And the next Mon­day it was on TV. There was no ed­i­to­rial over­sight. I’m be­ing only a lit­tle face­tious. I got video ideas kicked back. A lot, as you can imag­ine, but the process was too fast for cen­sor­ship. I don’t think that time will be back. There’s way too much risk in of­fend­ing peo­ple now.”

Bad begin­nings

In 1992, Alien 3 ought to have marked Fincher’s grad­u­a­tion into fea­ture films. But the stu­dio dis­man­tled and re­worked the film with­out his con­sent and he was quick to dis­own the pic­ture. In­re­cent weeks he­has made sim­i­larly sniffy noises about The

Game, his 1997 thriller fea­tur­ing Michael Dou­glas and Sean Penn. He shakes his head and ex­hales.

“Lis­ten. I un­der­stand the role that I’ve been cast in. I un­der­stand how re-con­tex­tu­al­is­ing some of the things I say can pro­vide peo­ple with a sword-wield­ing knight er­rant to the cor­po­rate world of Hol­ly­wood. Bu­tit would be en­tirely disin­gen­u­ous for me to play along.”

So, con­trary to re­cent re­ports, he’s not mor­ti­fied by The Game’s very ex­is­tence? “I’m not em­bar­rassed of The Game. But it prob­a­bly wasn’t ready. And I’ve since learned that you can’t work back­ward from an out­come. Ever. You have to work for­ward from character and bring him through the things that are in his way and then get some­where that has an air of in­evitabil­ity. The Game doesn’t have that. It’s not Michael’s fault. It’s not Sean’s fault. It’s mine.”

By some strange twist of fate, Fincher’s best-re­viewed films –

Zo­diac and Fight Club – were box-of­fice fail­ures. “There’s no way not to be hurt when they stay awayin droves. Zo­diac was a pretty good movie. And you get the call from the stu­dio and they go: ‘What can we say? Peo­ple hate it. They’re just not com­ing.’ Ul­ti­mately isn’t it about the jour­ney not the des­ti­na­tion? As glib and rainbow as that sounds.”

He in­sists that he’s not some spend­thrift au­teur. The bot­tom line mat­ters to him, even if it

hasn’t al­ways been kind.

“I’m sure a lot of stu­dio peo­ple are warned: David Fincher will at­tempt to talk you into some­thing that will never find au­di­ence, some­thing that in­ter­ests only him. I want peo­ple to make money on my movies. I like share­hold­ers. As proud as I am of Zo­diac as a film, it’s em­bar­rass­ing that I went in there and said that I re­ally think this story is worth $60 mil­lion. I’m not the guy sit­ting at home laugh­ing. Peo­ple trusted me. I take that re­spon­si­bil­ity se­ri­ously.” Crit­icproof He doesn’t read about his films. Ever. Not the brick­bats. Not the rave no­tices. Why? “For some­one who is opin­ion­ated and out­spo­ken – and I am – I’m also in­cred­i­bly thin skinned.” Yet many of the post-clas­si­cal Hol­ly­wood films that he cites as ma­jor in­flu­ences – Days of Heaven, Jaws, The Grad­u­ate, Mad Max 2, Pa­per Moon – were pro­moted or in­deed shaped by prom­i­nent crit­ics such as Pauline Kael.

“Yes. But the cin­ema of mi­dand late-1960s on to 1980 re­sulted from a confluence of re­ally in- ter­est­ing writ­ers – a lot of them com­ing in from the black­list – that were shaped by lit­er­a­ture and who wrote character-cen­tric films. Look now. Could Humphrey Bog­art ever be a movie star now? Could Jack Nicholson? Would they make The Ex­or­cist now? No. Things hap­pen in The

Ex­or­cist that you can’t even say in a Warn­ers board­room.”

So what keeps him beat­ing on against the tide?

“Stop me if you’ve heard this one be­fore.” He smiles. “Movies have dif­fer­ent lives. There’s the movie that we were on the set mak­ing. There’s the movie that we pre­viewed for the unini­ti­ated. There’s the movie we showed to au­di­ences who have seen the teaser and trailer, but not the tele­vi­sion spots. There’s the movie that the movie will be­come when it’s just a plas­tic disc in the bar­gain bin a few years from now.”

He shrugs: “Hey. Even Ti­tanic wound up in the bar­gain bin.”

Man in a box

Ben Af­fleck in David Fincher’s Gone Girl. ‘I’m not out to get this holy in­sti­tute of mar­riage. But I come from a coun­try that has

a 52 per cent di­vorce rate’

Fight Club (1999)

The So­cial Net­work (2010)

Alien 3 (1992)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.