[What killed this piece? The fact that the US-remake Dragon Tattoo trailer leaked that very weekend in the States. But I had a glorious 24 hours where I was one of the first people who saw the trailer! Note: Fincher superfans in Sweden all resembled Meatloaf in Fight Club, which was odd.]
David Fincher took a break from day 133 of shooting on his American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to make an appearance at the Stockholm Film Insitute’s “Actors Studio” at the Cinemateket on Friday, May 27th, where he talked about his directing career to an audience of scruffy Swedes with movie dreams. Showing flashes of self-deprecation and his famous steely reputation, he was funny and frank, whether talking about the failure of his debut feature, or his advice to today’s aspiring filmmakers (“write a script and make a film, this is an interesting enough generation with no excuses”), along with tantalizing hints about his upcoming version of Stieg Larsson’s best-seller.
The session ended with the red band teaser trailer for Dragon Tattoo on the big screen, the sounds of Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song,” with vocals by Karen O, booming, quick cuts of Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara as the leads - shots that were pointedly recognizable from the original, revealing nothing, and the tagline was wicked, classic Fincher: “The feel bad movie of Christmas.”
On Aliens 3: “I was lucky enough - my first movie stunk. For my second movie, I siezed control. You have to find the thing you will kill to make and make it a certain way. I’m here to make a movie. I’m not here to make friends. But you can’t say that the first time, because it’s kind of douchey.”
On Seven: “The violence of Seven is psychological, which is part of what I thought was powerful about the script. It was far more horrible because it exists in this Pandora’s Box of the imagination. You remember it differently from what you see.”
On Fight Club: “When I first read Chuck Palahniuk’s book, I couldn’t stop laughing. It was so sick and funny at the same time. I embraced it immediately.” While the failure of the film in the theaters was a matter of timing (too close to the Columbine shootings), “it sold 13 or 14 million DVDs. It paid for itself five times over on DVD.”
On The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: “Another movie about death. I loved the metaphor. If you could go in the other direction - beauty, vitality, youth - when you know what to do with it, chronological events conspire to bring you regret, to bring you loss.”
On Dragon Tattoo: “We found a place [on location] three weeks ago that was like ‘Yes, this is why we’re shooting in Stockholm. The cobblestone streets… [The Swedish original] is a really handsome thriller with a towering performance by the girl. Hard to follow.”
On directing: “It’s a circus, it takes 90 people at least. You have to understand what people are going to be best responsible for managing this entity, otherwise you’ll just be pissed off and irritated, which I am all the time anyways. I’m just now getting what storytelling is, the thing that you’re going there to catch, lightning in a bottle. It’s great to have a technical background and to know the physics so you can get to the thing that’s really important - the moment that people surprise you. I tell people, I’m selling immortality. If we do this and do it well, it will last forever.”
From a 2008 interview I did with Jeff Nichols, the director of Shotgun Stories* (go see it on the biggest, prettiest screen you can find - 35 mm of gorgeously shot film) and the upcoming Take Shelter:
One thing I was curious about, Michael Shannon and his weird head?
It’s enormous, isn’t it? I had never met him in person before, but you couldn’t miss him coming down the escalator at the airport. But there’s something interesting that happens when you put him on film. It kind of evens itself out.
He’s a fantastic actor with an interesting face that’s handsome from some corners and Willem Dafoe from others.
My fiancée’s maid of honor actually thinks he’s totally hot and I’m just baffled by it.
* In some ways, Shotgun Stories is reminiscent of a David Gordon Green film if David Gordon Green kept going with atmospheric southern art films and didn’t make the leap into the mainstream that brought us Eastbound and Down, Your Highness, The Pineapple Express, and the wonderful-looking (sarcasm) The Sitter. The evolution of David Gordon Green, however, is another post entirely!