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David Fincher’s filmography may be considered short and concise in comparison to those of other directors, but he’s certainly made each and every film count.

Fincher pours his erudite nature into his work, choosing to tell stories that feature characters who are the smartest in their respective worlds, whether it be the egocentric Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network (2010) or the vigilante hacker Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011). Fincher also places a lot of trust in the audience, and forces them to relish the complex processes and relationships that are developed over the course of his films. It’s not the destination that Fincher is interested in – it’s the journey. Fincher was born in Denver, Colorado to his mother Claire, a mental health nurse, and his father Howard, an author. When Fincher was 2, the family moved to California where they counted the film-maker and Star Wars creator George Lucas as one of their neighbours. He knew from a young age that he wanted to get into the film-making industry. Fincher has recalled the exact moment that he came to this realisation, “I was 8 years old…and I’d just seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He [my father] said ‘What did you think?’ because he loved the movie and I said ‘That was amazing!’” He then declared that he wanted to make movies, of which his father was supportive.

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Fincher began making films with an 8mm camera and enrolled in film-making classes as well as directing plays and designing sets and lighting. During the early years of Fincher’s career, he worked as a production head at Korty Films before eventually being employed by Industrial Light and Magic as an assistant camera man and matte photographer. A year after joining the company, he left to direct and advertisement for the American Cancer Society which caught the attention of L.A producers and he then moved onto directing music videos for the likes of Michael Jackson and Madonna. In the early 1990s, 20th Century Fox hired Fincher to direct Alien 3, his directorial feature debut. However, production was troubled as Fincher engaged in several disputes with the studio over script and budgeting issues. The film was a critical disappointment and the experience deterred Fincher from making another feature – until he read Andrew Kevin Walker’s screenplay for Seven. Although, he only agreed to direct it if New Line Cinema allowed the film to keep its original, and deeply dark, ending. Fincher enlisted Seven star Brad Pitt’s help in ensuring he maintained creative control by encouraging the actor to threaten to back out of the project. The tactic worked and Seven (1995) went on to gross over $320 million worldwide. This quest for excellence and dedication to a story has followed Fincher throughout his career. Like directors Stanley Kubrick and Charlie Chaplin, Fincher demands perfection and shoots tens and tens of takes of the same scene/shot. For example, the opening scene of The Social Network where Erica breaks up with Mark was shot a whopping 99 times. Rooney Mara and Jesse Eisenberg embraced the director’s technique, but other actors who have worked for Fincher haven’t always reacted so positively. Jake Gyllenhaal, star of Zodiac (2007), has said “Sometimes we’d do a lot of takes, and he’d turn and he would say ‘Delete the last 10 takes.’ And as an actor, that’s very hard to hear.”

David Fincher and Justin Timberlake at the Blu-ray and DVD launch party of “The Social Network”. Getty Image

Amidst his directorial duties in Tinseltown, Fincher has also leant his talents to television and is an executive producer, and occasional director, of the Netflix series House of Cards and Mindhunter. Both series have received a positive reception, with Fincher winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for the first episode of House of Cards. After a long absence from feature film making, Fincher is set to helm the sequel to the 2013 zombie action film World War Z. According to Paramount Studios chief Jim Gianopulos, Fincher and star Brad Pitt are in “advanced development” with the project. It’s an unusual choice for Fincher, but one that we can’t wait to see realised. Unmissable Picks:Seven (1995) • Fight Club (1999) • Zodiac (2007) • The Social Network (2010) • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) • Gone Girl (2014) By Evie Brudenall
Author: Estelle


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