Exclusive: Fincher Explains Reasons Why He Made Each of His Films
by Alex Billington
December 26, 2011
Time for a Fincher recap. In my recent interview with David Fincher, the first question I asked was: "what are the defining factors that help you decide what project you're going to take?" It was a primer for figuring out what made him so interested in a Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake, but before we even got to that, he took about 10 minutes to explain his interest in most of the films he has made, starting with Alien 3 and mentioning Zodiac and The Game. I pulled quotes for each film as well as updates from other films that he didn't mention for a complete look at why Fincher directed the 9 movies he has over his career. Read on!
While I'm sure he could go on about each one, I've only got what he told me in my interview (these quotes are exclusive here, not in the full Dragon Tattoo interview), so some are shorter than others, but it was still awesome to hear him explain, one-by-one, what interested him in each film he's made. Let's get right into it!
Alien 3 (1992): "It depends, it's different. I wanted to do an Alien movie. I wanted to do one since I was 16. I felt like I had a relationship to the Dan O'Bannon side of it as well as the Walter Hill side of it, as well as the H.R. Giger side of it. I felt like I kinda knew what I would do with that. The fact that I wasn't allowed to was my own fault. But, you know, that was a world that I loved that I couldn't get enough of. So that was an easy thing to want to get involved with, and probably too easy because it was totally fucked up for so many other different reasons."
Se7en (1995): "Seven was just a gripping yarn and I just felt like I hadn't seen this movie and I hadn't seen a movie that was kind of professing to be the procedural that became this other thing. I thought it was a structural… you know, it was as impressive to me that Kevin Spacey would show up spattered with blood at the two hour point of that movie as it is that Janet Leigh gets slashed to death in the shower in Psycho. It was such a different way to spin that top. So that was amazing."
The Game (1997): "The Game was a movie that I liked the idea of this gigantic Twilight Zone episode that became The Stunt Man. That you could sit down and look at the bill and go, 'Oh, really? So you had divers when I was in the cab. That's nice to hear now. But at the time I really thought I was drowning.' So you know, there's different reasons for [choosing] everything."
Fight Club (1999): Fincher did not bring up this one, so here's a quote from Digital Bits. "Josh Donen, who is one of my agents [told me] 'I've got this book and you've got to read it'… So I tell him I can't read it, and he reads me the Raymond K. Hessel scene, where Tyler puts the gun to the guy's head and tells him, 'I know who you are. I know where you live. I'm keeping your license, and I'm going to check on you, Mr. Raymond K. Hessel'… [So he then sent the book over and] I read it that night and I flipped out. I was laughing so hard that I just said to myself, 'I've got to be involved in this. If anyone should make this movie, I should at least give it my best shot'… I'm not interested in watering any of this shit down."
Panic Room (2002): Fincher did not bring up this one, so here are quotes from DVD Talk & Empire. "After Fight Club (which had nearly four hundred scenes and almost two hundred locations), the idea of doing an entire story inside one house appealed to me." "It was sort of, 'I've read this script and you won't want to do it, because it all takes place in one house' and — of course — as soon as somebody says you won’t want to do it because of some limitation I'm like, 'Why? That could be kinda cool; maybe someone could really do something with that!'"
Zodiac (2007): "Sometimes if you want to have a shocking murder take place, like in Zodiac, the fact that it happens at three o'clock in the afternoon on a bright, sunny September afternoon, that can be… that's what was shocking about the murder. That's what was shocking about what took place Lake Berryessa, is that it happened in broad daylight. And here were these people screaming for their lives and you go, 'How is that possible?' … The thing that was kind of blatant, and raw, and scary about it was here they are and they're going, 'What is that man all dressed in black for? What is he doing?'"
Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): Fincher did not bring up this one, so here's quotes from MTV & TrustMovies. "Instead of the ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances, I thought of [Benjamin] as an extraordinary man in very ordinary circumstances… The reason it's relatable is how it's dramatized. Everybody remembers their first kiss and hangover and person they fell in love with." "[I liked] how it took cliches, dramatics staples, and made them new: the passing of time and other seemingly trivial things… Having made so many thrillers and dealing with the suspension of disbelief, it was good to work on a movie that was more organic — having to search and find [my] way through it."
The Social Network (2010): "You don't get scripts like that every day. You don't get a studio coming to you saying, 'We just fucking love this script. Let's make it into a movie.' So often people are mitigating against the disaster or trying to cover the downside and saying, 'Well, OK, look, the script is great, but…' ['Can you make something out of it?'] Yeah. I mean, 'Who can you get who will make us feel good about the investment?' And when you come back and you say, 'How about Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield and Armie Hammer, and Justin Timberlake?' They go, 'That sounds great!' You can't turn that stuff down."
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011): "Do I need to make another serial killer movie the rest of my life? No. But I hadn't seen these two people [Mikael & Lisbeth]… I've seen people take odd people from different sides of the street to team up to solve a murder mystery. I hadn't seen this one. I thought she, in conjunction with him, was a team that was unlike anything that I was prepared for… The thing to me, ultimately, that was [the most] fascinating in the story was him [Mikael] and her [Lisbeth]." (For more on Dragon Tattoo's story and themes specifically, read our full interview here.)
"You don't want to do the same shit over and over," Fincher said at a Q&A for Benjamin Button in 2009 (via TrustMovies). "If you can dream something, then you can film it." He has such a unique variety of films.
As I was scouring the internet looking for extra quotes to fill in where he didn't mention one of his movies, I realized that he hasn't really spoken that much publicly about why he chooses his films. That's why this was such an interesting topic to discuss with him and one that I'm still fascinated by even as I was pulling and re-reading all of these quotes above. Fincher is one of those filmmakers I will always follow, just the way he directs and the way his movies look, and fond memories of seeing his earlier films for my first time. That's why I loved hearing about the real reasons why he was attracted to each of the projects he has directed over the years. You can also read my full interview with Fincher here. We'll be watching for what he makes next!