Exclusive: Fincher Explains Reasons Why He Made Each of His Films

December 26, 2011

David Fincher

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 GameThe 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?'"

The Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonCurious 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!

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Interesting insights. To me, Fincher is just getting better and better, so it will be interesting to see what he chooses to do next. Even if I don't expect him to do a full on comedy, more stuff like Benjamin Button would be cool to see.

Andreas Climent on Dec 26, 2011


I really miss the old Fincher: the one that didn't make movies about a daughter a mother and three stupid thieves, the one that didn't make boring movies about killers that never were caught, the one that didn't make a rip off of Forrest Gump, the one that didn't film the "Pirates of Silicon Valley" of "our time" and the one that didn't film unnecessary remakes of unremarkable movies. (This is the part where the blinded fans cry out loud)

Terrible Reactor on Dec 26, 2011


Hm, which Fincher are you talking about? The one who made commercials and music videoes a few decades ago??

David Banner on Dec 27, 2011



C. Schjelderup on Jan 4, 2012


kinda agree with you here, his 90's films are far above his 00's

happy camper on Dec 27, 2011


"(This is the part where the blinded fans cry out loud)" - the written equivalent of putting your fingers in your ears and screaming loudly as to not have to hear an intelligent response to your point of view.

Michael on Jan 4, 2012



C. Schjelderup on Jan 4, 2012


'The Game' is one of Finchers movies that seems to get better each time I watch it? Strange "effect" it has had on me.

David Banner on Dec 27, 2011


hm. i just watched it the other night, for the second time, the fist being back in '97 when it came out. it had the opposite effect on me. knowing the truth about the ending didn't spoil the twists, but it did make certain things harder to suspend disbelief on - namely all the gunfire. no way was machine-gunning an apartment or a vehicle a controllable solution, and no way could it have been believably faked. these are things you can only accept when you believe them to be real, as Michael Douglas does.

Ionjohnny on Jan 4, 2012


I'm interested to hear why he chose 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for his next project, this was a good read though.

peloquin on Dec 27, 2011


He's got about 4 or 5 things on his plate right now, between that and Cleopatra, Dragon Tattoo sequels and all kinds of other stuff. I'm always intrigued to see what he does next!

Alex Billington on Dec 27, 2011


Fincher in my opinion is a completely overrated filmmaker, camera tricks and dark ambiance to distract from lack of text. Alien 3 was controlled by the studio, Seven is a great film, so is The Game, quite possibly his most underrated and best made and conceived one. Fight Club is all smoke and mirrors to cover up a ridiculously bad story for meatheads and 13 year old boys. Panic Room is devoid of intrigue or suspense for a film that is pretending to be invested fully in them. Zodiac has a premise so done before that it's boring and too long. Benjamin Button: Didn't even like it better when it was called Gump. The Social Network is where he comes back to decent filmmaking, elevated to above decent by one fantastic score. Will probably see TGWTDT but not too excited since I've already seen the original Swedish trilogy and know what to expect, dark ambiance, camera tricks, smoke, mirrors and a fantastic soundtrack.

Sozy D on Dec 27, 2011


 I guess the director's style of making a movie is part of the entertainment for me. In a time when shaky camera rule, I love watching a movie with established compositions.  Not saying you don't enjoy it either, i'm just saying that taking that out of the criticism of a movie is unfair. He should get some points for having style. At least he isn't 100% all style and no substance.

Pablo Herrera on Dec 27, 2011



Agent Kid Society on Dec 27, 2011


Thumb to "overrated" in the dictionary and there you'll find Christopher Nolan smiling at you.

Corpse Bride on Dec 28, 2011


That's as silly as saying David Fincher is overrated. Christopher Nolan's made some incredible movies, and even his lesser efforts (which is how I'd describe Inception) are still very good, well-directed films.

RyansTake on Jan 4, 2012


If you were talking about a screenwriter that made all these films and getting all the credit I would probably agree with you. As it is I just think that specifically his dark, noir overtones and slick, sharp directing don't appeal to you. That doesn't mean he's overrated. I wouldn't like to see him make every movie but I enjoy seeing his style every year or two. I also like that he is usually able to get his actors to give some of their best acting.

Anonymous on Dec 28, 2011


One word to you: lol

Hellabove on Jan 4, 2012


I think David Fincher is to directing as Meryl Streep is to acting. They're both brilliant, but will always have critics who feel there isn't enough 'feeling' in them. To me, that's only because both of them are so technically brilliant at what they do that some people feel as though it's almost too perfect, that sometimes, as the saying goes, the flaws are what make the diamond.  I say hogwash. Fincher is amazing, just like Streep is in pretty much everything she's ever done. Any director who can make The Game, Se7en, Zodiac (which I think was a lot better than you did, clearly) and The Social Network is clearly one of the best directors out there. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, IMO, is a very worthy successor. (I kind of feel the same way as you do about Fight Club, but just because a movie appeals to a certain demographic more than it does others, that doesn't make it a bad movie. And anything wrong with the film has nothing to do with its direction and everything to do with the story, as the direction is quite strong.)

RyansTake on Jan 4, 2012


Fincher is one of the best directors today and he is improving from one movie to another. Looking forward to his next films... and looking back with great pleasure at what he has accomplished until now.

Anonymous on Dec 27, 2011


I don't care what's on the poster -- do not write the title of Seven as Se7en unless you're willing to refer to the film in spoken conversation as "Sesevenen."

El Sabor Asiático on Dec 30, 2011


I'm a big fan of several of his films, but I really don't get the immense praise for "The Social Network."I found the movie to be rather dull and anything but groundbreaking. Certainly, that film can't hold a candle to "Se7en" or "Panic Room." And while "Fight Club" was certainly a thought-provoking movie with some stellar acting, it's always seemed rather over-hyped to me.

Rob O'Daniel on Dec 30, 2011


While it wouldn't have been my pic for Best Pic, The Social Network was a helluva lot better than the movie that beat it at the Oscars, The King's Speech. Personally, I'd have awarded Black Swan that year, but that's another story.  Suffice it to say, while I don't think The Social Network was the best movie I've ever seen, it managed to do something that few biopics ever do: not suck.  You may have found it dull, but if you did, I'd suspect you're not a huge fan of Aaron Sorkin, because a lot of the excitement in the movie was from Sorkin's dialog. He has such a distinct style, that I have to think he's the type of screenwriter that people will either love or hate. I happen to love it, but that's just me.  In any event, the acting was top notch, the movie was beautifully filmed and it was a complete picture, which, to me at least, are all trademarks of a well-directed film.

RyansTake on Jan 4, 2012


You can say all what you want, but Fincher delivers. 

ORLY on Dec 31, 2011


He's made some great ones. There are certainly some misses in there, but overall he is a powerful director 

BeauOnTheJob on Jan 4, 2012


Fincher lost his spark since he switched over to digital. Seven looks ten times better then  Dragon Tattoo and it was made nearly twenty years ago.

Deka on Jan 4, 2012


BTW, Mr. Billington, it's Janet Leigh, not Janet Lee.

Albert Sanchez Moreno on Jan 4, 2012


Thx for a nice article about one of my favorites.

C. Schjelderup on Jan 4, 2012


For everyone that bashes Fincher, let's hear who you think is an amazing director. Then we'll see who's panties get into bunches. Is here a line between snob and asshole?

Phantomrockcity on Jan 9, 2012

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