‘I don’t know how much movies should entertain. I’m interested in movies that scar’
THAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF
His films are the stuff of nightmares. He puts Hollywood’s A list through hell. So why does everyone want to work with DAVID FINCHER? Words: Miles Fielder
hink of all the wackos and freaks and psychos and
schizoids in Hollywood. Got your craziest crazy in
mind‘.’ Well. none of them compare to one individual in particular. This man cut off Gwyneth Paltrow‘s head and put it in a box for her ﬁancee to find. For his very first act of wanton madness. this man scalped Sigourney Weaver and then boiled her alive in molten lead. Later he transformed Michael Douglas into a paranoid mess and ptrshed him off the top of a skyscraper. For fun. Later still he got Brad Pitt and lidward Norton to beat each other to a pulp. To ‘get in touch with
themselves'. And most recently he locked Jodie Foster and her
daughter in a steel vault and set a gang of thieves upon them. David Fincher ought to be put away for his crimes committed to celluloid. That's right. David Fincher the 40-year—
old filmmaker from Denver. Colorado who has directed some of
the most successful leftfield movies to come out of Hollywood in the past decade. They are: Alien 3. .S'e7en. The Game. Fig/II ( lab and his latest warped nightmare. I’anie Room.
‘I don‘t know how much movies should entertainf is liincher‘s credo. ‘To me I‘m always interested in movies that scar. The thing I
gone swimming in the ocean again.’
Although entertaining. Panic Room is an exercise in sadism and claustrophobia. something anher is very good at. In the ﬁlm. Foster‘s recently divorced mother retreats with her daughter into a hidden room in their New York brownstone when the mansion is invaded by three men. ‘This eccentric millionaire had built this panic room so that if anybody came to steal his money. he could protect himself. Foster has said. ‘This room is pretty special. It has eight video monitors with cameras all over the house. It has slashes of things you might need: ﬁre blanket. a ﬁre starter. It has water. so if you needed to stay fora month. you could.‘
L'nfortunately for Foster's Meg Altman and her young daughter Sarah. what the thieves want is in the panic room. It's a truly nightmare scenario. one that li‘ostcr has compared to the battle between the id and the ego. as represented by her and the thieves.
Nightmare scenarios or not. Hollywixrd’s top acting talent wants to work with liincher‘. ‘lt's always good to work with the l'inch.~ says Pitt who was keen to work with him again on l'iglrl ('111/2. despite lirrding Gwyneth's head in a box four years before in .S'e7en. In her first interview with the British press in years. l‘os‘ter (whose experiences with UK backs are the stuff of a l'incher movie) told 'Iime ()ui. ‘l5irrclrer‘ is a great thinker.‘ Like many of Hollywood's players. she thinks l‘incher makes movies that are about something. And they’re edgy: they don‘t play safe.
'lle's somebody who‘s relentless.~ she told an American interviewer. ‘He pays attention and he sees things no one else sees. He doesn't defer to anyone else on the movie set. It‘s not like he doesn't collaborate but it's all about his signature.’
All of which comes as a bit of a surprise when you
12 THE LIST 7?, Ar! t) May 7M)?
love about Jaws is the fact that I‘ve never
consider liincher. like many of the llashier. more superﬁcial Hollywood filmmakers. began his career directing ads (Nike and Coca—Cola) and pop promos (Madonna and Sting). Certainly. Fincher displays the stylistic flair of fellow ad/promo grads. but he cleverly allies himself with great scripts. from New Zealander Vincent Ward’s radical reworking of the Alien franchise to Jim Uhls‘ razor sharp adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel Fig/rt (Yul). And l‘incher brings a dark audio-visual style all of his own to each writer's work.
Fig/II (lab. for example. wickedly satirises consumer lifestyles -« climaxirrg with an act of terrorism aimed at big business — but it‘s also a chaotic assault on the eyes and ears. Although the ﬁlm boasted two top American stars. it flopped at the [TS box office because audiences didn't recognise the comic satire through the bloody punch tips. Still. the ﬁlm worked wonders for the careers of the actors concerned. Pitt and Norton aside. Meatloaf got his first ever good notices playing a transsexual. while Helena Bonham Carter ﬁnally shed her stereotyped screen image as a Merchant lvory upper class good girl by allowing Fincher to cast her as a manic depressive (loth with a penchant for sex with rubber gloves.
.S'e7en faired better at the box office. because audiences weren‘t required to laugh and wince at the same time. Not that l‘inchcr made it easy on the eyes. A series of grisly murders inspired by the seven deadly sins and carried ottt by a serial killer with a labyrinthine plan to make a corrupt urban society take a painful look at itself. it starred a murderous John Doe making an example of a money-grabbing lawyer. He did that by forcing him to chop a pound of flesh off himself with a meat cleaver. Audiences got to see the litigator's handiwork.
Pitt. l’altrow and Morgan Freeman did their careers no harm with .S'e7en. but it was Kevin Spacey who scored big with the ﬁlm. Making an uncredited appearance as the killer (so as not to give away the plot). Spacey. it is not difficult to argue. watched his career take off at this point. His next two ﬁlms were The l.’.vua/ .S'uspeeis and [A ( 'wt/ir/ential.
l’anie Rmml has so far done very respectable business at the American box office. topping the charts in its first two weeks of release. and may become l’incher's most commercially successful lilrn. It‘s not going to do Foster’s career any harm either. Although she's well respected in Hollywood. her last few films — Anna And The King. Contact. rl/Iaveriek — have failed to make the grade. Foster almost didn‘t get the Fincher treatment. Nicole Kidman was originally targeted to be locked in the steel vault. but when she suffered a foot injury while making Mun/in Rouge. Foster stepped into her shoes.
Happy days. then. if Fincher‘s nightmares are the stuff of your cinematic dreams. The director has plenty more thrills to terrorise us with. As he says. ‘I have demons you can‘t even imagine.’
Panic Room opens Fri 3 May. See review, page 27.
Clockwise from top left: Jodie Foster in Panic Room; Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt in Se7en; David Fincher (centre); Sigourney Weaver in Alien 3; Pitt and Ed Norton in Fight Club; and Michael Douglas in The Game