I had no idea what to expect when I attended Film Independent’s screening of David Fincher’s latest, Gone Girl, followed by a conversation with the director himself. Boy, oh boy, I am so glad that I took the opportunity to sit in on his chat with Film Curator Elvis Mitchell. For an often talked about personality who rarely emerges from behind the scenes of the cinematic world, I found Fincher to be funny, passionate, articulate and with a wicked sense of humor. This all makes sense when one considers the finer moments of his films like Fight Club or Se7en, and with a lot of heat and attention on him after not only the success of Gone Girl, but the controversy too, it was exciting to hear the directors take on the material, his thoughts on horror and cinematic thrillers and why he wanted to bring Gillian Flynn’s best seller to the big screen.
Kind of, maybe, sort-of SPOILER ALERT! I don’t know what people consider a spoiler when it comes to “Gone Girl” but I do know that when I saw the movie, I did not want to know ANYTHING about it. While most of what I’ve included here is about Hitchcock and horror, please be advised of the general tone of the conversation.
Because some of Fincher’s most successful films have been book-to-movie adaptations, Film Independent curator and moderator for the evening Elvis Mitchell began his chat by asking what Fincher looks for in his source material. Fincher replied, “I guess you’re looking for something, for something interesting that you can grab hold of and, for me, the plot was good and interesting and elaborate, but I think the thing that I was most interested in was the idea of narcissism as a way to hold two people together and the notion that we sort of project the best version of ourselves not only to seduce somebody that not only we imagine would be perfect for us, but would also be perfect for our narcissistic projection and that three years down the line the other person in the contract says I can’t get it up for this anymore; I can’t be your soul mate. I was never that person and I’m done. And I love the wrath that that inspired.”
Fincher continued to elaborate on the darkness that finds its way into his movies. The director explained, “I like going to movies and cheering for the hero and I like earnest virginal heroes with a thousand faces. I love those movies, but I also like movies where the audience kind of goes like this [Fincher shrinks down in his seat] while they’re watching. I like that. To me, that’s as valid as cheering at the end for the exploding Death Star. I think it’s when you put the audience in a place where they, you know, they like that person, they don’t want to see this be that excruciating and I think it’s fun.”
When Mitchell asked Fincher the first time he remembered experiencing that feeling in the theater, he revealed, “I don’t know if it’s the first movie but I remember when I first moved to Los Angeles in 1984, I was recently signed at CAA and the only thing I realized I could actually get out of this relationship was they gave you tickets to The King of Comedy, the premiere in Westwood. And I remember sitting in the back of the theater and seeing the backs of 700 peoples’ heads and there’s that scene where Robert De Niro brings his girlfriend to Jerry Lewis’s house for the weekend and the audience was – you’re kind of watching it hoping it’s a dream and you’re sitting there watching it saying this can’t, this can’t actually be happening, and I watched 700 heads disappear in front of me and I thought, ‘That’s fantastic!’ I was so alive in that and I thought that was a very valid moviegoing experience.”
The director continued, “Also Rear Window. I’ve talked about this before, but I was like nine or ten years old and I remember seeing Rear Window and watching this movie, I had no idea what this movie was about because the movie hadn’t been on TV; it was the first reissue and I’m watching this movie and they get to the point where Raymond Burr is taking his suitcase out of his apartment in the middle of the night, and I turned to my dad and I was like, ‘He killed her. He cut her up and put her in a suitcase,’ and my dad was like, ‘Shh!’ I remember thinking, ‘That’s insane! Why am I thinking this?’ I don’t know these people and I don’t know what’s going on but I’m being led to this conclusion and it’s been imparted to me through data, through behavior, and I’m sitting there thinking the same horrible thought everyone else in the theater is thinking except I’m nine, so I’m going, ‘Why am I thinking this? I shouldn’t be thinking about men killing their wives!’ But I love them. I love those moments in movies where you kind of go, ‘Oh no.’”
Gone Girl, starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and Tyler Perry, written for the screen by Gillian Flynn based on her book, and directed by David Fincher, is in theaters now.