Director David Fincher is an icon when it comes to psychological thrillers (in my humble opinion), but you may know that he’s also defined by his purposeful visual storytelling and meticulous attention to detail.
As one of my favourite directors to date, I love reading about the intricacies of Fincher’s filmmaking and behind the scenes facts that make the movies so much more enjoyable, so I wanted to share with you some of my favourite revelations!
A lot of David Fincher film spoilers ahead: You’ve been warned! 1. One of the sets in Se7en was based on a real crime scene.
Yup, the grisly “Gluttony” set in the psychological crime thriller
was based on a real crime scene, taken from police photos. In the DVD commentary of the film, Fincher expressed that photos were of a real case of suicide, and the quality of that crime scene is what he tried to achieve in the studio set. Se7en Arnold Kopelson Productions / Via youtube.com 2. Detective Mills wasn't supposed to have a broken arm in Se7en. Brad Pitt’s character, Detective Mills, wasn’t supposed to break his arm when confronting John Doe, but a real-life injury had to be woven into the story line. Why? Because when Pitt was shooting another chase scene on the LA set, he slipped on the rain-slicked hood of a car and smashed into a windshield, severing a tendon in his hand. In an interview with EW, Producer Arnold Kopelson shares how Pitt needed stitches and a cast, hence the tweak to the storyline. Arnold Kopelson Productions / Via youtube.com 3. Meat Loaf wore elevated shoes to play Bob in Fight Club.
Ah, the infamous boob-hugging scene in
between The Narrator ( Fight Club Edward Norton) and Bob ( Meat Loaf) is a memorable image from the film. Well, who would have thought that Meatloaf actually had to wear enormous elevated shoes because Norton was so much taller than him? Norton discusses this surprising fact in the DVD commentary, stating the heels were to add 8 inches to Meatloaf’s height. Arnold Kopelson Productions / Via youtube.com 4. Robert Downey Jr. asked for the straw trick to be included in Zodiac.
You may recall a moment in
where Zodiac Robert Downey Jr. does a little trick involving four straws. In a hilarious confession on the DVD commentary, Fincher explained how Downey Jr. showed the director the trick and asked for it to be included in one of the bar scenes, and because it fit perfectly with the character, Fincher agreed. Much to Downey Jr’s regret, he hadn’t realised just how many times he would need to perform the trick because true to Fincher’s nature, the scene took twenty-six takes and Fincher recalled how it made Downey Jr. beside himself and very frustrated. Phoenix Pictures / Via youtube.com 5. The John Doe notebooks in Se7en were real props created especially for the film.
Se7en, John Doe possessed a number of spine-tingling notebooks which were personal diaries that recorded his own dark thoughts. The notebooks are evidence of how much Doe enjoys seeing other people in emotional or physical pain, but they’re also indicative of sexually sadistic thoughts thanks to the array of disturbing images where people are half-naked or in certain positions.
Well, these creepy notebooks were all real thanks to the efforts of the production team! In the DVD commentary, the calligrapher shares how painful it became writing all of the works, and how the little details throughout the notebook were tribute to Doe’s methodicalness; take for example how neat each corner of the taped photographs were, and the annotations throughout. What’s even scarier though is that the calligrapher apparently sourced a real suicide letter and put it into the notebook, with the letter showing tear stains and misspellings, from someone who was clearly in a state of distress.
Arnold Kopelson Productions / Via youtube.com 6. There’s an interesting nod to the Swedish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in Fincher’s reboot.
In one scene in Fincher's
, the barista in the coffee shop is the daughter of the late The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Michael Nyqvist, who starred as Mikael in the original Swedish trilogy! When discussing this on the DVD commentary, it was said that Nyqvist even dropped by during filming to give his blessing! Columbia Pictures / Via youtube.com 7. The “diabetic” reveal in Panic Room was subtly hinted at throughout the film.
, when Panic Room Kristen Stewart’s character, Sarah, suddenly breaks into a cold sweat and suffers a seizure, viewers realise that she’s diabetic and is going into a hypoglycemic shock. Initially, it seems like a big surprise that drives Jodie Foster’s character to leave the panic room, resulting in a riveting and nail-biting scene. However, if you watch the film closely, you can see that the subtle hints were there all along, from Sarah’s restrictive amount of soda when the mum and daughter are having pizza, to shots of Sarah’s fictional watch, a device that becomes apparent to track Sarah’s blood glucose levels. Columbia Pictures / Via youtube.com 8. Gone Girl production was shut down for four days because Ben Affleck refused to wear a NY Yankees baseball cap. Ben Affleck’s character in tries to hide his face with a cap at the airport, but the type of cap causes a problem. In the DVD commentary, Fincher sighs as he retells the story of how he wanted Affleck’s character to put on a NY Yankees baseball cap to hide his face, but and to quote the director, “being from Boston and not being very professional as an actor, Ben refused to wear a Yankees cap” and the team was forced to shut production down for four days as the two negotiated. Gone Girl Regency Enterprises / Via youtube.com 9. The rain in Se7en was due to Fincher’s contingency plan.
In conversation with
, Fincher expressed how he wanted to shoot in Oakland because of the beautiful clapboard houses, but they didn’t have enough time so had to film in downtown LA. With this, he stated that the reason it rains all of the time in the film is that they only had Brad Pitt for 55 days, with no contingency, so they did it to stay on schedule because they knew if it ever really rained, it would have been a problem! Scraps from the Loft Arnold Kopelson Productions / Via youtube.com 10. It took 12 hours to film the Fight Club sex scene.
Not quite as exciting as it sounds! The infamous sporty sex scene in
Fight Club between Helena Bonham Carter and Brad Pitt took a total of 12 hours. Bonham Carter shared the details in the DVD commentary, stating that she and Pitt had to get into multiple Kama Sutra sex positions, with their body covered in dots, so that still pictures could be taken and the scene could be worked up by the CGI experts. Fox 2000 Pictures / Via youtube.com 11. The first scene of The Social Network took 99 takes.
True to his style, and well-known for doing a crazy amount of takes, Fincher filmed the movie’s first scene of
a total of 99 times, and it’s the moment where Zuckerberg’s character ( The Social Network Jesse Eisenberg) gets dumped by his Boston University girlfriend ( Rooney Mara).
When talking about the scene with
New York Mag, Armie Hammer adds that there’s a method to Fincher’s madness because he knows that actors are inherently vain and think to themselves “In this moment, I’m gonna give him this look,” and explains that Fincher didn’t want the actors to bring that on set with them. Columbia Pictures / Via youtube.com 12. Marla Singer’s phone number in Fight Club was the same one in Christopher Nolan’s Memento.
555-0134 is apparently the number to call! I found no evidence of this being an intentional easter egg, but it’s a little surprising that Marla Singer’s phone number in
Fight Club is the same as Teddy’s in Both films have an unreliable narrator so the coincidence is uncanny, but after doing some digging, it’s likely just that! Memento. Summit Entertainment / Via youtube.com 13. In Se7en, Mills' gun was firing Mexican blanks (which was not a choice of Fincher’s).
In the pivotal “what’s in the box” scene, Mills fires his gun several times, but what we are seeing is the firing of Mexican blanks. Sound specific? As Brad Pitt explains in the DVD commentary, it’s because of the Mexican-American agreement that Mexican blanks must be used when filming on Mexican land. Pitt hilariously states that he would have been better off making the gun sounds with his mouth!
Arnold Kopelson Productions / Via youtube.com 14. There’s a restaurant in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which had previously been used for a Daniel Craig film.
The DVD commentary for
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo offers the funny story of how the scene was filmed in a well-known London eatery, and it took a few hours for Fincher to pick the precise seating arrangement he wanted both actors to use. Low and behold, halfway through the day he noticed Craig laughing…it turns out Craig had already filmed there before and he and his fellow actor were seated in the exact same chairs. Columbia Pictures / Via youtube.com 15. Fincher asked for Michael Douglas’s input as to whether or not Deborah Kara Unger should get the role in The Game.
If, like me, you’ve found yourself in a black hole of DVD commentaries, then you may have heard the funny story of the decision behind casting
Deborah Kara Unger in The Game . Apparently, Fincher sent the male lead, Michael Douglas, a video clip of Unger for his thoughts on whether or not she should get the role. Much to Douglas’s surprise, the tape was from the film and comprised of Unger fornicating in about 19 positions. Douglas claimed that he thought it was a joke and questioned what her agent was sending out at the time! Luckily for Unger, she met Douglas in person and he was sold by her energy, humour, and her overall look. Crash Propaganda Films / Via youtube.com 16. Fincher relented having to do this scene in Panic Room. 17. There’s an array of clever and subtle references to Citizen Kane in Mank.
Whilst it’s not shocking that a film about the writing of
would serve up some nods to the movie itself, Fincher did his best to dish out some very subtle references amongst the more obvious ones! Did you notice them? Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane there’s the moment Kane’s second wife, Susan, suffers through her humiliating stage debut, and amongst the montage, there’s a prominence on the light bulbs, almost as if they stand for the frazzling effects of the stage. Well, in , there’s a brief scene whereby the bulbs flash at the election night party, signaling that Mank is burned out in his own way (with politics). Mank
Another subtle hint to the film is the fireplace which appears when Mank is at Randolph Hearst’s house, a nod towards the end of
Citizen Kane where his doomed marriage plays out in front of a fireplace.
Finally, at Kane’s birthday party there are large ice sculptures (a large K with a newspaper inside of it, the heads of Bernstein and Leland), whilst in
Mank, there’s an elephant that is slowly melting during the election. Netflix International Pictures / Via youtube.com 18. All of the blood in Zodiac was added digitally.
Surprisingly, none of the blood we see in
Zodiac was made from practical effects. Why, you wonder? Well, in the confessional DVD commentary, it turns out that Fincher refused to use fake blood because he shot so many takes that it would delay the film too much to clean up after each one, so the blood was added digitally in post-production! Phoenix Pictures / Via youtube.com 19. There’s a Tyler Durden easter egg in The Social Network.
The first rule of Fight Club is that you do not talk about Fight Club, but hey, that doesn’t mean Fincher can’t throw a little easter egg into another one of his films! And that’s exactly what he did in
The Social Network. If you look closely enough in the scene where Mark Zuckerberg creates a fake Facebook profile for an art assignment, you can see that he names the profile “Tyler Durden”, after Brad Pitt’s macho leading man. Columbia Pictures / Via youtube.com 20. Fincher sent stern selfies to Rosamund Pike when filming Gone Girl.
It’s not as creepy as it sounds! Apparently when on the set of
Gone Girl, Rosamund Pike said she received selfies of Fincher giving her stern looks whenever he saw her checking her phone. According to , Pike has a collection of photos, and each time she discovered one of the photos which landed via text message, she’d look around horrified. I mean hats off to Fincher as that’s one way to encourage your cast to stay in character! The Hollywood Reporter Vcg / Visual China Group / Via Getty Images 21. The helicopter POV scenes in Se7en are all looking down at doubles
When you’re so invested in a film, it’s easy to forget that there’s often some trickery at work! That’s why I was so surprised to learn that in one of the most pivotal and climactic sequences, the primary cast was not even present.
Remember when Mills (Brad Pitt) and Somerset (Morgan Freeman) are led by a handcuffed John Doe (Kevin Spacey) into the desert? Well, the POV scenes from the helicopter which follow the trio as they leave their car and walk across the derelict path are actually all doubles! In the DVD commentary, Fincher confessed that the POV shots from the helicopter were shot at a later date because they couldn’t initially afford it, and when they got the go-ahead from the studio later on, the primary cast had already wrapped up. The solution? In those shots looking down at the characters, Fincher used doubles.
Arnold Kopelson Productions / Via youtube.com 22. Edward Norton really did punch Brad Pitt in Fight Club. 23. There’s more to the camerawork than meets the eye when it comes to Panic Room. 24. The cast were genuinely frightened in the “Sloth” murder scene in Se7en.
Se7en, there’s a gruesome murder scene in what looks like an abandoned industrial-esque building. In the room lies a skeletal victim who is found by the SWAT team. In an interview with the SWAT leader, played by John C. McGinley, recalls how he was genuinely terrified when the corpse made a sound and came to life. Turns out McGinley thought the victim was a dummy and the first take was pretty scary! USA Today, Arnold Kopelson Productions / Via youtube.com 25. There’s a nod to Fight Club in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Fincher dropped a subtle but prominent
Fight Club easter egg in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button . Remember the crumbling mansion where Tyler Durden lived? That was called The Paper Street House, which is referenced in Benjamin Button when Benjamin’s dad asks about “the house on Paper Street”. That’s no coincidence folks! Paramount Pictures / Via youtube.com 26. There’s a lot of Sony product placement in Panic Room Panic Room was distributed by the Sony Pictures Releasing team, and boy don’t we know it. Just in case the company thought we’d miss it in the opening credits, they were sure to put a lot of Sony product placement in the film. If you somehow missed it the first time, next time you put on Panic Room, keep an eye out for the Sony branding on the panic room monitors, the cameras in the house, oh and the telephone! We get it, Sony! Columbia Pictures / Via youtube.com 27. Fincher altered the opening credits of The Game because of the teaser the marketing department put out. 28. Amy and Desi’s sex scene in Gone Girl was shot over two days.
Amy (Rosamund Pike) and Desi’s (Neil Patrick Harris) sex scene in
Gone Girl was pretty wild, for a number of reasons. Not least the fact it was shot over two days and took a production effort of 36 wardrobe changes and linens. According to the DVD commentary, “it was a particularly complex scene to shoot, not so much for the activity, but for the clean-up." Regency Enterprises / Via youtube.com 29. Meg’s fear of small spaces is hinted at early on in Panic Room.
There’s nothing like a subtle easter egg to help guide the plot along! Early on in
Panic Room, when Meg is having a tour of her new house, she’s shown the surveillance screens in the panic room and confesses that the whole thing makes her nervous. When questioned on this, her response is, “Ever read any Poe?” and whilst the scene plays off her remark as a joke about a singer, it’s likely that Meg is referencing the stories of Edgar Allen Poe. If you’ve ever read “The Premature Burial” then the signs are there, because that’s about a man who falls into trances and is scared of being buried alive, so by Meg referencing this claustrophobic story, it’s fair to say she has her own worries too. Columbia Pictures / Via youtube.com 30. There’s a Starbucks cup in every Fight Club scene.
Fight Club, there’s apparently a Starbucks cup in every scene, whether it’s front and center or hidden in the background. When talking to , Fincher expressed that in LA, Starbucks became too much of a good thing, and for the film, they worked with him to poke a little fun at themselves. The significance? The Narrator in Empire Fight Club buries himself in mindless consumerism, and Starbucks represents his view on how “it’ll be the corporations that name everything…Planet Starbucks”. Fox 2000 Pictures / Via youtube.com 31. Fincher had to fight to keep spoilers out of the Gone Girl trailer. 32. The “What’s in the box?” ending in Se7en was an accident.
Yup, that epic ending in
Se7en may not have happened if Fincher didn’t receive the wrong script! Apparently, a lot of directors were approached to take on the film, and before it landed in Fincher’s hands, there were changes made to the script which included the removal of that scene. In conversation with he signed onto the film after seeing the original script, and wouldn’t have wanted to finish the film with a different ending. Phew! , The Hollywood Reporter Arnold Kopelson Productions / Via youtube.com 33. Fincher wasn’t allowed to film on the Harvard campus for The Social Network.
Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook back in 2004 whilst studying at Harvard University, but the irony is that for a film that needed to depict this, Fincher wasn’t allowed to film on the real campus.
, and in the DVD commentary, Fincher actually called them atrocious and confessed to having to film at other colleges that had a similar look to Harvard. Harvard University closed its campus for filming crews Columbia Pictures / Via youtube.com 34. The production team flew Oak trees into Lake Berryessa for Zodiac.
Being the stickler he is when it comes to historical accuracy, Fincher didn't stop at
Zodiac. According to the DVD commentary, when the Zodiac killer murdered two victims at Lake Berryessa, he first hid behind an oak tree while he stalked them. Not wanting to miss a detail, Fincher flew in two massive oak trees via helicopter after realizing the original trees were gone. Phoenix Pictures / Via youtube.com 35. In Zodiac, San Francisco was created using CGI.
The San Francisco you see in
Zodiac was created using CGI. In the DVD commentary, we learn that whilst much of the film was shot on location in the actual spots where the murders took place, Fincher was unable to shoot the scene where Paul Stine was murdered in San Fransisco due to the changing architecture over the years. So to keep the scene as detailed as possible, the scene was filmed in front of a green screen with the city being created through photographs and matte paintings in post-production. Phoenix Pictures / Via youtube.com 36. Brad Pitt and Edward Norton really learned how to make soap for Fight Club.
In the book Best. Movie. Year. Ever., Norton talked about how he and Pitt really learned to make soap for the film, and for that iconic scene. Norton confessed that the pair worked with an expert soap maker and stated that “we probably spent more time learning to make soap than we did training for anything.” Is that true dedication or is making soap just really fun?!
Fox 2000 Pictures / Via youtube.com I think we can all agree that Fincher’s easter eggs and behind-the-scenes details make his films even more worthy, but which Fincher film is your favourite?!