David Fincher's directing method is a hot topic among actors and filmmakers, but is there a purpose behind it?
It is no secret that David Fincher is a director who likes to do multiple takes of the same scene over and over again. While some actors see this method of directing as abusive and nihilistic, others understand the method as a way to bring out the actor’s best performance.
The latter was true for Andrew Garfield, who worked with Fincher on the Oscar-winning film, The Social Network. In an interview with Collider for the press tour for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Garfield reflected on his breakthrough role as Eduardo Saverin and the day he filmed approximately 40 takes of the “Lawyer Up” scene.
When Garfield was asked about the most memorable day on The Social Network set, he said, “[Fincher] was the perfect sports dad. He was instilling in me with, 'Keep doing it,' and, 'You can keep doing it, believe that you can keep doing… I know I’m going to ask you to do this a lot, and your voice is going to be tired, and your heart is going to be tired, and your body’s going to be exhausted, and I know you’re going to hate me, and that’s okay because we are going to get it absolutely perfect.'"
Others might see the pressure from Fincher as obsessive and demanding, but Garfield found it to be motivational.
Garfield continued, “And then at the end... I was sat on the floor after take 35, 40 of my closeup of that scene, which you can imagine would have been a lot of screaming and agony. And I’m sat on the floor, just wiped, exhausted, think we’re probably going to go again another 10 times. [Fincher] just walks up to me, up that corridor from this monitor, and he puts his hand out to me and pulls me up and shakes my hand, and he says, 'Moving on.' And that was that.”
There is a type of magic that comes out of doing multiple takes of a scene. A director can almost force an actor to forget that they are acting by drawing out the real frustration and exhaustion that they are truly feeling by take 25. The performance becomes indistinguishable from real pain, and that is what makes the characters in Fincher’s films feel grounded in our reality.
Garfield added to this point by saying, “[Fincher’s] looking for the moment where you forget you’re there, you forget what’s happening, and there’s a purity and a vulnerability and an openness, and the audience responds to that in a deeply unconscious way.”
His performance in The Social Network is still one of Garfield’s most acclaimed roles in his career so far. Garfield has two highly anticipated films debuting this fall, and maybe we will see some of that passion that Fincher instilled in him that memorable day on The Social Network set.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye hits theaters this Friday, Sept. 17, and Tick, Tick Boom streamings Nov. 19 on Netflix.
Is there a more supportive film-dad than Fincher out there? Let us know what you think in the comments below!