Earlier this week, HitFix ran an early reaction to David Fincher’s “The Social Network,” and right after I saw that film, I was invited to send a few question to him via e-mail. He was already out of the country preparing to start work on “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” and we were told that he would get answers back to us as quickly as possible.
Today’s the day.
I tried to avoid a few major spoilers, and I had to ask him about one performance in particular. We’ll lead with that question, actually, because it deals with both his new film and his next one, and it addresses one of the biggest questions of the last month.
I wrote: Rooney Mara’s role in the film is pivotal, although brief. What experience on this film led to you bringing her back in for “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”? The moment where I felt like I saw a flash of Lisbeth was her final encounter with Mark when she destroys him quietly. Did you have her in mind immediately, or was it a gradual realization?
Fincher’s reply: “We read her and, not surprisingly, loved all of the things about her that we’d initially loved for Erica. She’s smart and capable and works really hard. She is ridiculously photogenic in a very interesting way — she can be plain, or she can be exquisite in a matter of moments — and she’s a great listener. Lisbeth is a very tough role to cast — the audience needs to project into a mystery, so we needed a mystery for them to fill.”
High praise, indeed, from this director. The film has faced a bit of pre-release controversy, which I wanted him to address. I wrote: Mark Zuckerberg and the other people portrayed in the film have already started to assert that the film isn’t “true,” but on an emotional and dramatic level, the film has an authenticity that can’t be denied. How do you respond to Zuckerberg’s claims, and ultimately, how important is an absolute adherence to every detail? You’re making a film, not a court transcript.
Fincher’s reply: “You can adhere to every detail — you cannot adhere to every single point of view, which is ultimately why people will disown it. Our work was to be true to the time, the kind of people we were talking about, and the situation they ultimately found themselves in. I think we were true to that.”
I love the collision between Aaron Sorkin’s sensibility and Fincher’s chilly intellect, and I asked: Aaron Sorkin’s script is dense and wordy and features people sitting around dorm rooms or typing on computers or giving depositions. It’s not the most immediately visual read. You’ve always been such a strong visual stylist, so my question is what did you respond to first, and how do approach the staging of a script like this to make it as dynamic as the final film turned out?
Fincher’s reply: “I thought it was a great story. I felt like I knew all of the people involved very personally. I felt for each of them. I know what it feels like to be left in the dust. I know what it’s like to tell someone an idea and feel like somehow it ended up being ‘borrowed’. I know what it’s like to have to leave a friend or collaborator behind because you fundamentally disagree with where the collaboration is heading. I loved the ‘fraternity of the outsider’ and I ulitmately loved the idea of ‘graffiti artist’ as CEO.”
Finally, there was one performance in the film that really surprised me, so I asked:
Your leads in the film are already being given bumps into even bigger roles, and Garfield was tapped for “Spider-Man” based on his work here, according to Sony. One of your cast members, though, was already a superstar walking onto the set, but as a musician. Whose idea was Justin Timberlake, and how was your experience working with him? He’s been good on film before, but never this good. Did he model his performance after footage/research on the real Sean Parker, or did you push your actors to approach these as performances instead of impressions?
Fincher’s reply: “Justin Timberlake was one of those ‘do we dare?’ kind of conversations — he could easily have upset the apple cart in any number of ways… we put him through Hell shooting screentest after screentest to make sure we could walk the razor’s edge of ‘extremely famous person as spoke of an ensemble.’ But he’s just so mercurial and fun to watch that it because an easy choice. I needed someone who knew what it meant to seat two people at the same table and collect an annuity — and that’s a lot to ask from a twenty-something. Justin is a record producer. He knew exactly what I was talking about.”
I hope I get an opportunity this year to sit down with Fincher for a longer conversation about this and the new “Se7en” Blu-ray and more… I think it’s a conversation that’s long overdue. For now, though, I appreciate him taking the time to do this Q&A with us, and again… “The Social Network” is pretty great, and you’ll have a chance to see for yourself when the film opens Oct. 1.
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