In 15 years and just six films, David Fincher has established himself as one of the most subversive and preternatural directors ever to step behind the camera. “Seven” redefined the serial-killer genre. “Fight Club” became a counterculture classic for the masses as soon as Brad Pitt asked Edward Norton to hit him as hard as he could. And last year, “Zodiac” showed off Fincher’s new bag of storytelling tricks to astounding accomplishment.
In the first part of our extensive conversation with the notoriously press-shy director, Fincher discussed “Zodiac” at length. Here, he weighs in on the slew of upcoming projects on his plate (including re-teaming with Brad Pitt); his return to sci-fi (he was fired from his debut flick, “Alien 3″) with “Rendezvous With Rama”; and how and why “Fight Club” might be coming to Broadway.
MTV: We were talking about your reluctance to do another so-called serial-killer movie with “Zodiac,” but now you’re reportedly attached to a graphic-novel adaptation called “Torso.”
David Fincher: That movie is so not a serial-killer movie. It’s about the deconstruction of the myth of [Untouchables leader] Eliot Ness. It has way more to do with “Citizen Kane” than it has to do with “Seven.” Ehren Kruger wrote a script that’s pretty great. We were speaking with Matt Damon about it.
MTV: How is “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” coming along?
Fincher: We have a two-plus-hour cut that we’re trying to get down and get as tight as it can be. We’re working on a lot of visual effects right now.
MTV: How would you describe the tone of the film?
Fincher: There are bittersweet moments in it, but it’s a movie about life. It’s about all the people this guy [Brad Pitt] meets over the course of his entire life and those that he says goodbye to, those that die, and the people he interfaces with forever. I don’t know what the tone of it is. It’s so hard to tell. We’ve been working on this for four years now.
MTV: The de-aging you’re doing in the movie sounds intriguing. Are you interested in doing a 3-D film?
Fincher: I am. I’m in talks right now to do a series of CG-animated 3-D films for [fantasy comics magazine] Heavy Metal.
MTV: What about the reported adaptation of the graphic novel “The Killer”?
Fincher: Brad’s company is producing it. We have a writer and a graphic novel, and I think we have a take. It’s that thing we always love from contract-killer movies: the existential assassin. People love the existential assassin, and we’re hoping to cash in on that. [He laughs.]
MTV: Do you know what you’ll direct next?
Fincher: No idea.
MTV: How about “Rendezvous With Rama”? That’s a legendary sci-fi property you’ve wanted to do for a while.
Fincher: I’m waiting to get a script. It’s my understanding that [producer] Lori [McReary] and Morgan [Freeman] have a script, and when they’re happy with it, they’ll send it to me. It’s a project I’ve always loved. It’s probably technologically within striking distance right now. That was always the thing: You couldn’t afford to build these things as sets. It’s just too huge.
MTV: Would you shoot it using a lot of green screen?
Fincher: I think it’s more along the lines of motion-capture. There’s probably a week or two onboard the ship that you’d have to do the weightlessness and the landing before they get to Rama. We’d probably do it with some kind of performance-capture.
MTV: You wouldn’t shoot on the so-called “vomit comet,” à la “Apollo 13″?
Fincher: I don’t do things that are actually dangerous. [He laughs.] I don’t like to put the crew in jeopardy, just the actors.
MTV: You nearly directed “Mission: Impossible III” but haven’t been associated with a franchise since.
Fincher: I think the problem with third movies is the people who are financing them are experts on how they should be made and what they should be. At that point, when you own a franchise like that, you want to get rid of any extraneous opinions. I’m not the kind of person who says, “Let’s see the last two, I see what you’re going for.” You’ll never hear me say, “Whatever is easiest for you.”
MTV: You’re not John Glen helming one of those by-the-numbers Bond films back in the day.
Fincher: No. I actually talked about doing a Bond movie post-Timothy Dalton, I think just when they were getting Pierce Brosnan. Believe me, they didn’t want to hear from me. The people that own that franchise have a pretty good idea of what they think it is. That was my problem with “Alien 3.”I wanted to do something that nobody else wanted to do. They kept hoping that I was going to change my mind, and I kept hoping they would appreciate where we were going, and it ended up being a bloodbath.
MTV: What was the “Alien 3″ you wanted to make?
Fincher: I’ve never seen the Quadrilogy and what they reconstituted. My notion was that the third movie would be Ripley’s acceptance of the notion of sacrifice. She’d had the Me Decade of the first movie. She’d come from the periphery of the story. Anybody could be the commander as long as they stuck to their guns and had a moral compass. And then the second movie she found a maternal instinct. And then I wanted the third one to be that she realizes that it’s not about her generation. It’s really about the future. The notion was to put the monster among the wretched. She was going to galvanize the wretched to self-sacrifice. Giving up their lives to save people who had banished them and should have been outside their scope of interest and that they would find some value in dying for the right reasons. I got fired from it.
MTV: You told us about a year ago you were interested in doing a musical.
Fincher: One of the things I want at the 10-year anniversary is to do “Fight Club” as a musical on Broadway. I love the idea of that.
MTV: Have you considered doing another project based on “Fight Club” author Chuck Palahnuik’s work?
Fincher: I was pretty interested in “Lullaby.” It almost has to be dumbed down a bit for it to work as a movie. I always love his writing. It cracks me up.
MTV: What projects don’t you get offered?
Fincher: I don’t get a lot of romantic comedies.
MTV: I see a lot of comedy in your films. “Fight Club” can be seen as a black comedy.
Fincher: I always saw it as a comedy. Then everybody would look at me like a leper.
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