Today the Playlist had the opportunity to sit down with filmmaker David Fincher, the director of “Seven,” “Fight Club” and his upcoming effort, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” which lands in theaters on December 21.
Fincher recently cautioned to another journalist that he doesn’t answer questions in sound-bites, “they're sound-meals.” And the director, who talks at length in rolling, circuitous, but thoughtful and considered answers, wasn’t kidding.
Earlier in the day at the press conference, when asked about the potential sequels, Fincher said if he did shoot the sequel(s) – and don't mistake this for committing to anything – he would ideally shoot both at the same time given the fact that both books ("The Girl Who Played With Fire" and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest”) are essentially one elongated story that takes place over two novels.
“Classically, movie studios don’t make deals with directors, even if there’s a hope that there’s going to be three [films], because they want to make sure you behave,” he said wryly. “But yes, the second and third books are very much one story and it doesn’t seem prudent to me to go to Sweden for a year and then come back for a year, put out the second [film], go back to Sweden for a year, come back for a year…”
“Please don’t,” ‘Dragon Tattoo’ star Rooney Mara interjected only half jokingly (lead male Daniel Craig was present as well).
“I don’t think Rooney wants to be doing this four years from now, so no, I think that would be crazy, and especially given the sense that it’s really one story that’s bifurcated,” Fincher said.
In this writer's one-on-one interview with Fincher, before getting the chance to ask him about the potential sequels to Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” the next book of which would be “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” Fincher brought it up himself. When asked whether he had any franchise concerns when first considering the project, he veered off tangentially about the need for sequels.
“Do I want to see a sequel for this?” he asked rhetorically. “I would be happy for everyone involved as that would mean a lot of people went to see it and enjoyed it. Do I need to see a sequel? No, there’s a little bit of an emotional cliffhanger at the end, but the story is complete.”
Fincher continued, giving a small hint about screenwriter Steve Zaillian’s work on the next film. “Again, I haven’t given the second and third books the near enough scrutiny to be able to comment on [them]. I’ve seen Steven's script for the second one and it’s really good.”
Asked whether, in the event that he didn't direct the sequels, he would he feel any responsibility towards Rooney Mara – who by all accounts he protected and mentored during what he himself described as a “difficult” ‘Dragon Tattoo’ shoot – Fincher launched into a long and complex answer about his feelings on trying to make “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” while including some asides about those who may have doubted the casting choice of Mara (and Fincher’s comments suggest there were many). To not take him out of context, we felt like we should provide the full response and let him speak for himself verbatim, and you can make of that what you will.
“Look, I feel like the ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’ poster for a year and half. And only to the extent that I want to sort of take that on,” he said with a long pause. “You know, there were a lot of naysayers and a lot of people saying, ‘you’re a fucking idiot, and [Rooney Mara’s] a trust fund baby and there’s no reason for the…’ and you kind of sit there and go, ‘Really?’ Can everybody here who’s not a moviemaker just take one step back? There’s an aspect to it that you wanna say, ‘Let me do what I think is right and then judge it.’ I understand that you’re in the message board business and your job is to provoke response."
"The degree to which I want to take that [responsibility] on… I know that her first foray into being the center of a movie was an incredibly draining, unproductive and bad experience for her and I made a commitment to her when I asked her to do all these things. I said, ‘I’m not going to hang you out there. You are not going to be in a situation where you don’t know how much of you is going to be seen. You’re not going to be in a situation where I ask you to put holes in your body if it’s not going to benefit the character or the movie. You’re not a puppet in this. You’re a partner in this and I need you to take authorship and I need to give it over to you completely. I want to be confident that this is going to work out. I want to give you as much help as I can, but this is your thing. It’s our thing as it relates to what has to happen on [the screen], but she’s your thing and I felt that I found the right person."
"And all of the sturm und drang that trailed in the wake of that decision was completely tangential to what we actually are doing. But it is disconcerting and not helpful and ultimately I get it... we’re not talking about column inches, we’re talking about 60 hz, but it’s ultimately stupid and it’s one of the reasons I don’t go on IndieWIRE.”
We laughed, not fully understanding his reponse, but enjoying the dig regardless, and tried to get him to clarify if he meant that Rooney would be good to go without him if there was a sequel that he was not directing, to which the filmmaker responded: “She was always good to go.”
So you don’t need to be around for the next one then, we asked? He laughed and said. “I don’t need to be.”
More from this interview next week. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” hits theaters on December 21.