"It was great. It's an adult movie, it's f—ing hard-R, and they were getting out of my way and let me do what I wanted to do," is what director David Fincher has to say of the experience of working on his new thriller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. FincherFanatic finally had the chance to meet Fincher face to face, and caught up with him during the final days of editing.
First things first, David Fincher isn't one for vanity press. He didn't enter the movie business to become a celebrity. And that may be a reason why it is still rare and hard to get an interview with the man – particularly on camera – perhaps moreso if you are writing a blog about him. "You know, I don't even like looking at my driver's license," Fincher says. "If I had wanted to be a celebrity, I wouldn't have picked this lonely job, that requires you to stay in a room in the dark, watching TV all the time." The very reason he started out directing music videos and commercials was because there was no screen credit, just a convenient opportunity to learn the craft and get paid for it. In internet times, to see these works from the past rear their heads is not much to Fincher's liking. Which is why our conversation begins with his blunt question: Why would anyone in their right mind write a blog about him?
Fincher doesn't like to read about himself, nor does he like to be recognized. A two-fold discomfort: For one, Fincher doesn't want to be made aware of expectations towards his work. And understandably so: "There are so many things I wouldn't have done, if I had listened to that," he says. And as for being recognized, he adds: "You know, I used to live next door to George Lucas. When I was ten years old, he was the guy who had done THX 1138. By the time I was twelve, he was the guy who did American Graffiti. By the time I was fifteen, he had done Star Wars. By the time Star Wars came out, this guy couldn't go anywhere in town. He couldn't walk into some place and not be the focus of it. One of the things I like about being a director is, when your plane is late, you are doing homework. Because you are sitting there in the lounge, listening to people talk. That's your job. When you become the focus, when people feel like 'I can't act like myself, because that's the guy who did whatever', all of a sudden you lose an advantage."
It's an intriguing motive for Fincher's publicity aversion. Yet each Oscar nomination and the anticipated roll-out of Sony's marketing campaign for Dragon Tattoo are not going to make that any easier – let alone Fincher's likely next, Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; a 100+ million dollar CG family adventure.
Fincher feels awkward at the thought, that he himself could have become an icon for a young generation of filmmakers. "Now, I understand Spielberg, Hitchcock, even to a certain extent George Lucas," he says – and thinks. But whether he likes it or not, 'Fincher' has long become a brand name. Still the director upholds his protest: "I don't want to be a Winchell's Donut. Even if my last name is 'Winchell'. I want to be able to make something like Zodiac. I mean, shouldn't your movies, if they are truly personal, change the way you change? Every seven years all of the cells in our bodies change, everything is in this process of evolution; so the notion that the director is a brand–?"
Well. Coincidentally, the theatrical trailer for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo reads, 'a David Fincher film', and 'directed by David Fincher'. Fincher's disapproval isn't very well hidden: "None of the trailers that I ever cut had my f—ing name on them. As I never tire of telling the marketing department, 'Remember, Se7en was from the director of Se7en, too, but it didn't say it on the poster.' So I work hard to fight against whatever my brand is. I would like my brand to stand for 'works really hard', 'tries to make it as good as he possibly can'. If the brand is, 'it's gonna be dark and grainy,' I have no interest in that. It's just too reductive. It's just too stupid."