What would you make if a studio gave you a blank check?
The story of David Fincher is the story of hard work and dedication. It's the story of the pursuit of perfection. Fincher is known for his distinct visual style and determination to get things right. There have been legends of multiple takes, clashing with studios, and chastising actors to get what he wants out of a scene.
But out of this have come some indelible classic films. The Social Network might be a movie that defined the decade after it was released. And it's hard to pick a list of the best modern films without naming a few of his titles, like Fight Club, Seven, and The Game.
Fincher spent so much time battling in Hollywood that it's almost surreal to think how he landed at Netflix. Once an upstart streamer, now it's one of the most competitive names in the business. Netflix is redefining the way we consume media. They have hit movies and TV shows that capture hearts and minds.
And now, thanks to basically a blank check at the studio, they have David Fincher.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Fincher talked about what brought him to Netflix, why he made Mank, and where he was going next.
Let's look at some of the best quotes from it.
Netflix Gave David Fincher a Blank Check—What's He Going to Do With It?
Let's start with the discussions on Mank. As many of you already know, the script was written by Fincher's late father, who took up screenwriting as a challenge after he retired. He was an obsessive writer, and Fincher actually used his father's process as an inspiration for a character in another one of his moves.
As Fincher said, "He became obsessed with this thing, and literally stopped eating and sleeping for about six, seven days as he figured it out. A lot of Robert Graysmith in Zodiac is based on his particular personality traits. He was prone to disappearing down rabbit holes."
I love knowing that those personality traits made it into an entirely different film.
When it came to connecting with the characters in Mank, Fincher seems to think he and his father could see a personal bond between what they were going through and what both of them felt in their life.
Fincher said, "I feel like Mankiewicz felt like he was slumming—he’s this jaded New York writer who doesn’t have a lot of reverence for this newly minted art form in Hollywood. Unlike Mank, my dad had enormous respect for the craft of screenwriting. But as a magazine writer, I’d think my dad could relate to him in that way. And y’know, as a music-video director, I could relate, too."
One of the most interesting things I took away from the interview was how Fincher sees himself. When questioned about personal branding, this is what he had to say.
"Look, I go to see Steven Soderbergh movies because I know it’s going to be a story that’s deftly told," he said. "I go to Sam Mendes movies because I know there’s going to be an attention to detail. But I’m talking about the fantasy of the auteur theory, which is that you can etch something in granite, wheel it into a pre-production meeting, say, 'This is what the movie is. I’ll be in my trailer.' And that can be imparted to 85 people who can then execute your 'vision.' It’s not how the process works. It’s not how I think. It’s more like, 'How do I tell this story as well as I can tell it?' If you do that more than three times, you’re doing good."
At one point, they go back to a funny anecdote between Fincher and Paul Thomas Anderon. Where PTA said he saw Fight Club and hated it so much he wished cancer upon Fincher. But that weird tirade was ages ago and fincher has forgotten it.
"Yeah. Look, I’ve been through cancer with somebody that I love, and I can understand if somebody thought . . . I didn’t think that we were making fun of cancer survivors or victims,” explained Fincher. “I thought what Chuck [Palahniuk, on whose book the film was based] was doing was talking about a therapeutic environment that could be infiltrated or abused. We were talking about empathy vampirism. Cancer’s rough. It’s a fucking horrible thing. As far as Paul’s quote, I get it. If you’re in a rough emotional state and you’ve just been through something major. . . . My dad died, and it certainly made me feel different about death and suffering [pauses]. And my dad probably liked ‘Fight Club’ even less than Paul did.”
So what is Fincher looking forward to doing next?
He has an overall deal with Netflix and a lot of room to choose what he wants.
When asked about movies changing because of streaming, Fincher delivered an answer that made me hold my breath.
"Look, I believe that the tragedy of cinema today is that we’re only 100 years in and we think we know exactly what it is," he said. "We really don’t. What we’ve done is merely refined is an experience to a story, which is The Hero with a Thousand Faces over and over again. We beat this drum and we beat it fairly regularly, because it’s a scam that pays out. But if I was to believe that we have reached the limits of what cinema can do, make us feel, talk about, I would be inordinately depressed. I’m not. I’m emboldened and I feel that [...] I don’t need any more published screeds of me talking about how unfair it is that Marvel wants to make a profit. I don’t have an issue with that. I’ve never had an issue with that. There’s this notion that the movies are dying. They’re not. There’s still minerals to mine, there are still jewels to be found, and there are still different ways to be shocked, entertained, uplifted, terrified. They’re just changing. You change with them. I think anyone who, like me, is curious about how to impart their story, there’s going to be plenty more opportunities, at least in the short term. And depending on how long this pandemic goes on, there may be need for a lot more."
That makes me hopeful for the future and where Fincher's work has a place in it. We will have to see what story he wants to tell, but I think it is invaluable Netflix has embraced his desire to tell different stories.
Check out the rest of the interview and let us know what you think in the comments!