David Fincher In Budget Battle Over 'House Of Cards', As Host Company Netflix Mulls Evolution To Cable?

Even someone who has only passively followed David Fincher's career is likely to know that the producer/director isn't much concerned about spending more money when the quality of a project is at stake. (Or his vision for the quality of a project, at least. Talk amongst yourselves about whether Panic Room might have been better as a faster, cheaper movie.)

In other words, Fincher has battled studios and financiers over budget in the past, and so it isn't really a surprise to hear that he is butting heads with Media Rights Capitol over the money committed to House of Cards, which will star and be produced by Kevin Spacey. Netflix committed $100m to a 26-episode order for the show, the better to help transition towards being an original content provider. In fact, this story may end up being less about what happens to House of Cards and more about Netflix navigating the road towards cable channel status.

THR reports that while Fincher is scheduled to direct the first two episodes of House of Cards, sources say he has threatened to bail if MRC doesn't work with his budget demands. Frankly, while such an argument is in somewhat in keeping with some of what we know about Fincher's working personality, this seems like a case of sources escalating or exaggerating an argument.

An MRC rep says that while production on the show was pushed from March to April, that was due to Kevin Spacey's schedule, and "everything's fine and moving ahead."

Slightly more interesting is another producer's quote: "It's like, Netflix — welcome to the content business. You buy retail, you're going to pay retail." More like premium retail; there's a bit of difference between Fincher and a lot of other producer/director names out there.

And while THR notes that it is really MRC that is on the hook for any budget overages incurred on House of Cards, there might be something to look at in the intersection between Fincher, MRC and Netflix, given that Netflix is in a period of serious transition right now.

Because the other big Netflix news item today is that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is in talks with "some of the largest U.S. cable companies" to potentially carry Netflix's streaming service, at least on an experimental basis. If a deal like that is to go through, having a jewel like Fincher's House of Cards could be a big deal. Comcast is setting up its own streaming service, Streampix, and Amazon, Google and Apple all act as competitors, so Netflix needs all the weapons it can bring to bear. Fincher could be quite a weapon, so Netflix, and MRC, have every reason to hope this show goes well. In other words, expect a budget battle to swing Fincher's way.