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David Fincher - Seven & Fight Club

DVD Talker Paul Guyot had an experience that most people never get, an interview with film legend David Fincher. Rather than bring you a conventional interview (as David Fincher is anything but conventional) we decided to bring you the ENTIRE experience of the interview... it's like you're on the phone.... asking the questions ... seeing what it's like to be in Paul's shoes..... Here is Paul's Story:

"David will be right with you," she said. As I sat there on the phone I tried to remember all the Fincher stories I'd heard over the past several years. Spend enough time on film sets and you hear plenty of stories about the rich and famous. Most of them true. These aren't the E celebrity gossip stories, but the real ones, shared between crew members going from one picture to the next.

"Oh, you're going to be working with him? Let me tell you how he was on his last set." That type of thing. The stories I had heard about Fincher never crossed the line into that category we reserve for those... "Less than upstanding" members of the film community. Mostly they were stories of a perfectionist who demands perfection from those around him. If you can't hack it, there's someone else who can. When you think about it, it's rather refreshing. No bullshit. Do your job or go. I silently wondered if this guy would be expecting perfection from me. Would he be difficult to talk to, waiting to pounce on any mistake I made?

"Hey, man, what's up?" the voice on the other line said.

"David?" I stuttered, sitting up so quickly that my elbow mashed down on the remote for the CD player and John Coltrane's sax began blaring so loud I was sure Fincher would hang up thinking he'd dialed the wrong number.

"Yeah,sorry I'm late."

Within the first thirty seconds of speaking with David Fincher I felt like I was talking to an old buddy. Something I'm sure wasn't reciprocated in the least. But you'd never know it. This guy, just days away from principle photography on his next film was actually taking the time to, not only talk to me (and DVDTalk.com), but to make me feel at ease. We made small talk for a bit and then I assured him that I would burn through my questions as fast as possible so he could get back to his day.

"No, take your time. We want to make it good," he replied. Was there another David Fincher in the DGA? Did I get the wrong one? Hardly.

From proving himself worthy of a job at ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) while still a teenager, to co-founding Propaganda with some fellow directors, all who were being told (at the time) that they "didn't have what it takes," Fincher has always lived by one very simple rule: "Do your best." Something he expects not only of himself, but those around him. Just like the stories I used to hear. He has again put his best effort forward with the New Line Cinema Platinum Series release of SEVEN on DVD.

"The film needed a DVD worthy of it," he told me. And he is so right. The first SEVEN DVD that was released is one of those things we don't like to discuss around the hallowed pages of DVDTalk. We hate the dreaded F word. David Fincher himself must've felt similar, so he got involved and we should all thank our Thor crackers he did. This new release will feature not only brand new commentary by Fincher, Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and writer Andrew Kevin Walker, but also composer Howard Shore, Sound Designer Ren Klyce, Professor of Film Studies/author Richard Dyer and Editor Richard Francis-Bruce who was nominated for an Oscar for this picture. It also features an audio cameo by New Line's boy wonder (and President of Production) Michael De Luca.

"I always feel ill-prepared for commentaries and it had been so long I was afraid I'd forget everything that happened on the film," Fincher joked. "But having everybody come together for it was really great. It was like a high school reunion. We all reminisced and just had a great time."

Fincher and I discussed how terrific the Criterion Laser Disc of SEVEN was.

"Yeah," Fincher said, "Peter Becker had done an outstanding job with the Criterion Laser Disc and we wanted to try and make the DVD's supplements just as good."

"I thought the transfer on the LD was one of the best ever," I told him. Fincher laughed and said, "Wait until you see the DVD."

"It's better?"

As Fincher began to tell me the story of the transfer for the new DVD, his voice rose a bit and his speech quickened. This guy was now talking with a passion.

"We were all sitting around working with the transfer and the audio and it wasn't any good." Remember, dear reader, good for Fincher is perfect.

"We were working with this lousy print and it just wasn't going to be good enough. I said that we should get the original negative and do it from that. Well, a couple guys pointed out that the negative was locked up over at Deluxe. I said, just go in there and sign it out. They'll never know. Someone heads over there and sure enough they come back with the negative. So the transfer for this DVD is from the original negative. It took us seven weeks, going scene by scene. It's like nothing you've ever seen before. Better than any Hi-def master. It just looks incredible."

Now, I've seen some great transfers before, we all have. But I think it's a safe bet to say if this transfer is something that David Fincher calls 'incredible' then it has to be just that. Fincher was excited now and we discussed more DVD "Talk."

"What type of system do you have in your home?" I asked him.

"Just a straight Pioneer set up. Nothing fancy."

"You don't have an HD TV or a plasma or anything?"

"Nope," he said. "I'm going to wait until they figure it all out before I invest. Right now, nobody knows what's what."

For whatever reason I found the fact that Fincher had no megabucks system in his home to be very cool. Suddenly, my own Panasonic setup wasn't so bad. I wondered if he gets the chance to use his Pioneer much.

"Do you watch a lot of DVD's, or do you not really have the time?"

"Oh, yeah, I love DVD's. I don't have what you'd call an extensive collection, maybe a couple of hundred or so. But I have something on almost all the time."

"Just playing in the background?"

"Yeah. There are some movies I can watch over and over, never get sick of. I'll put one of those on and be puttering around the house. Then a certain scene will come on and I'll just have to go over and watch."

"What are some of the movies you can watch over and over?"

"Chinatown, definitely. That's one of those movies..."

His voice trails off for a bit.

"It's just incredible. I can never get enough of it. And... All the President's Men. That's another film that is just amazing. There are so many scenes that are so great. And the cast is phenomenal. It's just a great film."

"Do you ever listen to the commentary on DVD's?"

Fincher pauses, thinking.

"You know, I don't think I have," he says. "As far as mine go, I can't listen to one second of my own voice. But I love listening to Andy Walker or Michael De Luca."

"Yes," I said, "I was surprised to see De Luca's name on the SEVEN commentary list."

Fincher laughs, "Yeah, he's not on for a really long time, but he's great. The time he's there, it's just great to listen to him."

Fincher goes back to the original question. He runs some memories through his mind and finally says, to his own surprise, "You know, I don't think I've ever listened to someone's commentary. Ever."

This brings the discussion to other films and other directors working today. Who does David Fincher like? I imagine it would be quite a task to impress this guy with anything, especially doing the same thing he does. But without hesitation he rolls off several names and I realize that, perfectionist he may be, he is also still a guy who simply loves movies.

"Danny Boyle is great. And Mendes, Spike Jonze. And Steven Soderbergh is really amazing. He does some stuff that is just..."

His voice trails off again. When you leave Fincher speechless, you've done something special. When he finds the right word, he continues and goes and on about the director. Fincher has no problem talking about those people who impress him. I try to steer the conversation back to his own work.

"Let's talk about your DP's. It's interesting in that you've used different cinematographers on most of your films, but each picture, while very different, still maintains that amazing look that people have come to associate with a Fincher film."

"Well, I've been very lucky to have worked with some really great people. Harris Savides is just incredible and Darius Khondji and Jeff Cronenweth - they're all so great."

"Has it been a specific choice to try and use different cameramen?"

"No, it's just been circumstances. Like, Darius has his own amazing career going and so just trying to hook up scheduling-wise can be really difficult."

"You gave Jeff Cronenweth his first crack at shooting a studio picture. The FIGHT CLUB was just incredible looking."

"Yeah, Jeff is really talented. He did an amazing job on that film."

Fincher goes on to tell me how happy he was with the FIGHT CLUB DVD release. He points out that they really wanted to use the technology available today and David Prior kept coming up with idea after idea and Fincher just kept giving him the green light: "Yes, do it. Go, man. Go."

I look down at my desk and see that I'm already at my last question. I'm bummed. It's actually fun talking to this guy. I only wish I wasn't so busy writing everything down, I'd love to just sit and bullshit with him for awhile. While extremely knowledgeable regarding film, the process of film, and a myriad of other things, Fincher has a way of coming across as just a guy you're sitting next to in a bar.

"So, what's next for you?" I ask, forcing it out of my mouth.

"I'm doing a film called THE PANIC ROOM. It's about a woman who buys a New York Brownstone with a panic room. Do you know what a panic room is?"

Ack. I wished he hadn't asked, but then again, I don't know what one is.

"Uh, no."

"It's like a safe room in a house. Rich people would sometimes build these secret rooms in their homes."

Oh. A safe room. Shit, I knew that.

Fincher continues, "So these guys break in and the woman takes her kid and hides in the Panic Room. But the guys don't leave. What they're looking for is in the panic Room. So she and the girl are trapped inside the room."

I asked Fincher how he goes about choosing a project.

"It just depends. After FIGHT CLUB (which had nearly four hundred scenes and almost two hundred locations), the idea of doing an entire story inside one house appealed to me."

"Yes, it sounds like it should be a challenge, cinematically."

"Yeah, exactly. The whole place, a three-story apartment, is all built on stage and we have cameras that can go literally anywhere. They can move and follow the actors from the third floor to the first. All over the place."

Ack. My time with him has come to an end. I must think of something else to ask. I sense Fincher knows I'm scrambling for another query, but he patiently waits.

I come up with, "Um, do you use music or anything for any kind of inspiration when you're working, or when you're trying to get 'into' a project?"

Lame, Guyot. I await the flaming, but it doesn't come. The question actually seems to cause Fincher to wonder for a moment.

"Not really. I tend to over-intellectualize things, to come at them from a structural point. Where the characters are at..."

Then the pause.

"Hmm... I do have the Deftones' 'Change (in the house of flies)' in my head right now as I work on this new film. And I remember during FIGHT CLUB that I played the Foo Fighters' 'Everlong' over and over. It was just something I couldn't get out of my head. But no, I don't think I really do. Not consciously, anyway."

We wrap it up and say our good-byes. As I hang up the phone, my first thought is, "Damn, I should've asked him for a SEVEN DVD." Nah, I'll order it along with everyone else. From what I learned today, I think it'll be money well spent. Money spent on perfection.

- Paul Guyot

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