Telluride: David Fincher Tribute

Last night the Telluride Film Festival held a tribute for director David Fincher. After an introduction by festival sponsor documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, and a package of clips spanning Fincher’s career from Music videos, commercials, to Se7en, The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room and Zodiac, Variety’s Todd McCarthy took the stage to do a 1:1 interview with the director. Here are some highlights from that conversation:

Fincher admitted that much of his early years discovering cinema consisted of Thrillers and scary movies. His favorites included Jaws, I Saw What You Did, and Rear Window.

When asked why he creates a lot of films under morbid ideas, Fincher said that he makes whatever scripts that interest him. Plus, “They haven’t offered a lot of romantic comedies,” he joked.

Fincher remembers the exact moment when he realized that he wanted to make movies for a living. He was eight years old, probably cutting school, when he came across a documentary on the making of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Fincher said that before that documentary, it had never occurred to him that movies weren’t made in real time, and he came away amazed at all the work that was involved behind the scenes. After watching the doc, he got into his father’ car and said “I want to make movies.”

McCarthy asked if Fincher would every make a western. “There’s animals in westerns right?” Fincher joked, before answering probably not.

Growing up in Marin County, George Lucas was his neighbor. American Graffiti was shot on the street near his house, and Fincher watched them film some scenes off to the side. Other films that came through his neighborhood included Godfather and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Most of Fincher’s friends had their heads shaved to be in Lucas’ THX-1138. His roommate, who was working at Lucasfilm painting matte paintings, recommended Fincher for a job. Fincher was hired to load cameras on what was then titled Star Wars: Revenge of the Jedi. He worked a bunch of other productions which included Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

“It was great film school,” said Fincher. “You could spend $30,000 on film school, then spend another $30,000 on your films. I wanted to work on Star Wars movies.”

But he eventually left to do television commercials. However, he quickly found out that no one would hire a young guy like him to direct commercials. Thankfully a thing called MTV came along, and music videos were a thing that he had made all through his high school years. He actually admitted that aside from a couple commercials, he didn’t make a narrative film until his first Hollywood feature.

On who he enjoyed working with over his music video career, Fincher said that “the most famous people are usually very good at what they are.” Fincher said that with the music videos he always tried to have fun while making them. “They’re like making toilet paper, here today gone tomorrow… so lets have fun making em.”

He recalls a piece of advice from Joel Schumacher, who early into his feature career told him that he was giving the movie studios too much power. Joel taught him that he should be ready, everyday, to walk off a project, to quit, in order to fight for the vision he believes in.

When he got the script for Se7en, he told Mike Deluca that he needed to work on it some more before going into production. Duluca told Fincher “If we give anyone the time to realize the kind of movie we want to make for $30 million, they won’t want to make it.” So with that Fincher rushed Se7en into production.

On the controversy behind Fight Club: “I always though of it as ridiculous,” Fincher said about the plot of the book. “So I never got what everyone was upset about. But I’m an Asshole,” Fincher concluded, who admitted that he was laughing out loud while he read the book the film was based on.

About making movies in San Francisco: “It’s too hard to make films in San Francisco. It’s like making films in Paris. Paris looks beautiful because film crews didn’t have the chance to mess it up.” He said that when he made Zodiac, San Francisco wanted him to film in the city, but as is very typical of the city, they weren’t willing to accommodate any changes (I think Fincher joked that a SF official said to him “You can’t turn that street light out”) which lead him back to filming in-front of green screens on a sound stage.

Fincher’s favorite San Francisco films include: Vertigo, Bullet and Dirty Hairy, even though Fincher admits that film could have taken place in any city.

When asked about how he usually makes films with multiple layers and long running times, Fincher admitted “I have a problem with keeping things simple.”

Talking about Robert Downey Jr.’s recent fame, Fincher said “I think it’s great that Marvel comes in and eats Hollywood’s lunch.” When a friend of his told him the news that Downey had been cast as Iron Man, Fincher said “That’s genius.”

On working with Robert, Fincher said “There are actors who are worth taking everyone’s time and energy from moving on.” And Robert is one of them. If he has an idea, you need to get in on film, no matter how many takes.

He first got to read the script for Benjamin Button eight years ago. The screenplay was incredible but it required the audience to have a love and knowledge of Jazz. The project didn’t get made for years, and then one day Fincher received a call from his friend Spike Jonze who had good news, he was going to direct Ben Button. “Great! Fuck You!” Fincher said in reply. Jonze apparently quit because he had a specific vision and the studio wanted to go to writer Eric Roth to redraft the script. So Fincher was asked to come in and do a pitch to Paramount, but he refused, even though he wanted the project. The studio went to another director, but that didn’t work out. Roth called Fincher and begged him to come into Paramount and do his “tap dance” for the studio. He came in and explained his vision. They wanted test footage, so Fincher produced footage of Ben Button using the aging effects. The studio decided that the film would cost too much money and it fell into development heck That is until Brad Grey took over Paramount and asked “do we have any Brad Pitt projects laying around?” Fincher described the film as about the “dents people make in your life.”

They then screened 20 minutes of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Most of the people I talked to following the screening were underwhelmed or disappointed. You can read my first impressions of the footage in my previous posting.

Zodiac Director’s Cut is 25 Minutes Longer?

Zodiac Directors CutIn July, we told you that David Fincher would be releasing a Zodiac directors cut on DVD in 2008. The 2-Disc collectors edition would presumably feature a longer cut than the already lengthy 158 minute theatrical cut. Jeff Wells is now reporting that the director’s cut has been screened at close to 180-minutes, which is 22-25 minutes longer than the big screen version (depending on what number you believe). Wells says that one publicist was raving about the longer cut.

However, DVD Lounge is reporting that the Director Cut DVD will only be a mere five minutes longer than the theatrical cut. I’m not sure this could possibly be true, especially considering a longer cut of the film exists.

But how many people are going to plop down the cash and sit on the couch for a three hour cut of this film? Zodiac was one of my favorite films of 2007 so far, so I’m excited to see a longer cut.

Ratatouille

Rotten Tomatoes have published their Mid-Year Report, which features a list of the best and worst reviewed movies of the first six months of 2007. You can see the top ten of each below.

Knocked Up PosterSicko PosterOnce Poster

ZodiacHot Fuzz

Best Reviewed Movies

1. “Ratatouille”
2. “Away From Her”
3. “Once”
4. “Knocked Up”
5. “Hot Fuzz”
6. “Sicko”
7. “The Host”
8. “Zodiac”
9. “Waitress”
10. “The Lookout”

Worst Reviewed Movies

1. “Because I Said So”
2. “The Number 23”
3. “Premonition”
4. “The Reaping”
5. “Norbit”
6. “Perfect Stranger”
7. “Happily N’Ever After”
8. “Are We Done Yet? ”
9. “Code Name: The Cleaner”
10. “Hannibal Rising”

Becuase I Said SoThe Number 23 PosterHannibal Rising

Not many surprises to be found. Ratatouille has wrestled the best reviewed wide release of 2007 title away from Knocked Up, which is still holding strong at #4.One unusual observation is that the best movies list features a lot of comedy/romantic comedy films (Ratatouille, Once, Knocked Up, Hot Fuzz, Waitress). In the past usually dramatic indie flicks have dominated the list. I’m also glad to see Zodiac as I’ve fielded negative comments about the film from most people I have spoken with. David Fincher’s film is one of my favorites of the year thus far.

Because I Said So and The Number 23 are the film’s I’ve least enjoyed this year so far. So I feel a little vindicated seeing them rank at the top of the worst reviewed films list. I am actually surprised to see Hannibal Rising make the worst list at #10. I didn’t enjoy the film, but at the same time, I didn’t hate it either. I wonder if there is a huge backlash on the film purely based on it’s comparison against Silence of the Lambs?

Zodiac Directors CutZodiac will hit DVD store shelves on July 24th, but you might want to consider holding off on that purchase. Aside from the fact that the studio is releasing the film bare-bones (aka next to no extra features), there is now something new to consider. Apparently David Fincher’s Zodiac: 2-Disc Director’s Cut will be arriving in 2008.

And of course, this new release will be packed with special features missing from the single disc version, including an audio commentary by David Fincher, actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey, Jr., screenwriter James Vanderbilt, producer Brad Fischer and crime novelist James Ellroy, extensive behind-the-scenes featurettes detailing the production from start to finish, and an in-depth look at the actual Zodiac crimes, including all-new interviews with the original investigators and survivors. Looks like I’ll be holding off for the directors cut.

I wonder, how much longer could Fincher’s directors cut be? I was one of the few people that really fell in love with this film, but a lot of people have complained that the film is too long and that Fincher was given too much room to “do his own thing”. And I imagine that this won’t just be the same movie with all the deleted scenes now included as they usually bill a release of that kind as a “Extended Cut”. But they are calling this a “directors cut”, which must mean that the 158 minute theatrical cut was actually a shorter movie than Fincher envisioned, and was probably the result of studio tinkering.

And we also must remember that a director’s cut is not always longer than the theatrical version of a film. Oliver Stone released Alexander a couple years ago on DVD in a director’s cut which was 8 minutes shorter than the theatrical version (Stone had excised approximately 17 minutes from the old version and reinstated 9 minutes of new footage). Although, this is not usually the case.

Contributing Sources: FilmIck, DavisDVD.

Kevin Smith Outraged Over Grindhouse Failure

Kevin SmithClerks director Kevin Smith had a lot to say about America’s decision to see Wild Hogs over Zodiac on his new podcast (SModcast) a couple weeks back. Now the director is outraged over this weekend’s box office results.

“What’s Costner’s line in J.F.K. again? ‘God, I’m ashamed to be an American today…'” wrote Smith. “Perhaps that’s overstating it a bit, but for me? It applies in this situation.”

“I’d say the problem was America most definitely was at the movie theaters this week – which is why the stuff that grossed higher than Grindhouse… grossed higher than Grindhouse,” Smith wrote. “That’s the third fantastic film of the year which has failed to attract the audience it richly deserved in its opening week. Add Grindhouse to a list that includes Black Snake Moan and Zodiac.”

I agree with Smith’s comments (with exception of Black Snake Moan). I don’t understand the recent disconnect with good films and America’s movie-going decisions.

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

The Buzz: Zodiac is Absorbing, But Long

Zodiac Poster

Zodiac

Director: David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en)

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Robert Downey Jr., Brian Cox, John Carroll Lynch, Chloƫ Sevigny, and Ed Setrakian

Running Time: 156 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for some strong killings, language, drug material and brief sexual images

Buzz Rating:

8/10

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Black Snake Moan

Black Snake Moan has been moved back a week while Balls of Fury has been pushed back five months. Let’s take a look at why.
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