NEW YORK – David Fincher's “Gone Girl” had a triumphant debut at the 2014 New York Film Festival Friday night and the acclaimed filmmaker and his cast spent a good 30 minutes after the official press screening taking questions from the media the movie so deliciously skewers. Entertainment reporters may not be at the level of a Nancy Grace, but they will still spin what they can from a pull quote, including anything that relates to the fact that none other than the new Batman, Ben Affleck, was on stage. And, yes, even his co-stars wouldn't let him forget it.
It first reared its head when Rosamund Pike, who plays Affleck's on-screen wife who goes missing in the film, spoke about the difficulties of shooting sequences out of order.
“To play the real Amy and to play another persona she's created was very daunting,” Pike said. “We did jump around a lot. A lot of it was dictated by the weight fluctuations that occurred. I had to be heavier and thinner in all the different locations.”
“I just went heavier,” Affleck said, chiming in.
“Well, Ben was becoming Batman before my eyes,” Pike snapped back. “By the time we were in the shower, I was with Batman.”
That earned a huge laugh from the assembled press. Affleck was gaining a ton of muscle (chronicled on this recent cover of Details magazine) for “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” while finishing “Gone Girl” and, yes, it's very apparent in the scene in question. Many would wonder why the actor decided to take the role of Nick Dunne just as much as Bruce Wayne, though. Coming off “Argo,” he is at the top of every studio's list of potential must-have directors. But Affleck knows he still has a lot to learn, joking at one point, “I want to be a director one day.” It was Fincher's involvement that ultimately made him commit to the project, however.
“I kind of at this point in my career as an actor have decided that it's all about the director, really,” Affleck said. “So when David called me I would have done the phone book with [him]. You can imagine my relief that when I did 'Gone Girl' it wasn't just an alphabetical list of names!”
Moreover, it turns out the 42-year-old filmmaker and actor has been inspired by Fincher for some time. “Before all the movies I've directed, all three of them, I've watched 'Se7en,'” Affleck revealed. “I feel it's the most perfectly, meticulously, Swiss watch-made [movie] and I thought, 'What kind of person makes a movie like this?' It was great to work with David and I learned a great deal from him. It was a true learning experience and I loved it. I would do it again and again and again a million times. It was a joy. And David, despite his reputation, is a very funny and nice guy. He's not just a demon. He's very kind and sweet.”
Watching Fincher benefited Affleck both as a filmmaker and an actor, but he was most impressed that the “Social Network” helmer was more of a “performance director” than he thought he would be.
“What's really interesting,” he said, “is there is this bifurcation with directors where you've sort of [got the] technical/shooter/music video/commercial guys and girl directors who sort of come from that world, speak that vocabulary, and then on the other side of that line you have your performance directors, your writer-y directors, your actor directors, and they tend to be two camps. David is the only guy I've met who genuinely straddles both camps. He's genuinely an actor's director, but he's also got one of the deepest and most proficient understandings of the technical aspects of film and video and filmmaking than anyone I've ever worked with. So he's got this engineer's mind and this taste of an artist. I didn't think there was that filmmaker out there so I was impressed about that duality. That's the last time I say anything nice about him.”
(Cue more laughs from the audience.)
One of the most intriguing parts of “Gone Girl” is the intentional shades of grey in each character, especially during the first half of the film. None of the main characters are angels, including Nick. Affleck says he's seen different reactions to his character and thinks whether you think he changes throughout the picture is based on your initial impression of him.
“I don't think you can play anyone you think is a dick because then you are not going to do a good job,” Affleck said. “My job was to empathize with him. What I found is that women and men have a very different reaction to this character. Most of the women journalists go, 'What was it like playing a dick?' And most of the men go, (with a sigh) 'Yeah.'”
Even with Fincher on board, Affleck was most intrigued by Gillian Flynn's original novel (Fincher made a point of noting during the conference he thought Affleck was offered the project by Fox to direct before he got his hands on it). While Flynn's story is essentially a thriller about a missing woman, it also has a lot to say about the media, the facades we put on in public and private as well as putting marriage under a very dark microscope. And Flynn, who adapted her own novel into the film's screenplay, didn't deviate from those themes.
“What was really interesting was that the book asked really hard questions about marriage and relationships,” Affleck said. “It didn't want to sort of gloss over the things we don't like to look at [when we] don't like to look at others and ourselves. Sometimes you find out hard things when you ask hard questions — that's why they are hard — and [Rosamund] had the courage to go toward that. We wanted to sort of give truth to Gillian's really dark look at marriage and David's subversive take on the dark look at marriage.”
Look for more on “Gone Girl” over the next week on HitFix and In Contention.