David Fincher Interview ”In movie making, the best idea wins”

David Fincher talks about "The Girl With Dragon Tatoo".
Interviewed by Tomohiro Machiyama at Stockholm, Nov.21, 2011.

------How did you meet this novel?
First, when I made “Benjamin Button”, Katherine Kennedy, the producer of the movie, gave me the novel and told me the story. A bisexual girl with hacking skill investigates a bizarre serial-murders case. I didn’t think they would make that material into a movie in Hollywood. However, after that, the original novel became a worldwide best seller. Scott Rudin told me Sony bought a film right and asked me if I want to direct it.

---Were you interested in it because it is about serial murders like “Seven” and “Zodiac”?
I’m not so interested in serial murders. For me, "Seven" was not a film about a serial killer, but about notion of evil and sins. And the "Zodiac" is about the way you can actually find closure knowing whether or not you need revenge. This movie was interesting to me on the reasons not about the Vanger family or mystery as much as. I was really more interested in a middle aged man and a slightly socially retarded 23 year old woman and what those two characters did for one and another and how they find each other. I think it’s more than anything obvious to me reason why the books become such a hit is it’s very beautiful love story with all these other crazy stuff going on the background.

-----The role of Lizbeth finally went to Rooney Mara. How did you decide that?
My casting rules are simple. I try to find the person that I feel like I can turn the character over to. You're looking for somebody to sort of hang a character on. You can kind of see them in... If you were to pre-imagine the movie, you would see them in it. Indeed, about Lizbeth, there were lots of lobbying from various actors and I ate a lot of lunch together with them. Then someone suggested me, "What about Rooney?" and I considered "Oh, that’s a good idea". Rooney and Lizbeth have some things in common, like timidity and not distrust the world but she wanted to understand what is going on around the world before she committed the action.

------She was an ordinary female college student in the "Social Network."
Yes, she appears in a first scene as a Mark Zuckerberg's girl friend, in fact, that first 8 minutes is very important. She gives you compassion for a guy you appalled by. So you kind of go “oh, there is no way he gets the girl”. And she is fed up with him and walks away. She is anti-thesis of Lizbeth.
Lizbeth has no verbal facility. She has no hope in life at all.

------- There is also almost no smiling face.
She smiles when she is with a lesbian girlfriend. Look at the rape scene. She is smart enough to give up. She is smart enough to stop fighting him because in the situation Lizbeth who was bound and gagged and chained to the bed, resisting only gives rapists satisfaction. Female audience see the scene feel very uncomfortable about that she stop fighting. They think she should continue resisting more. A spectator should be moved unpleasant by it here. Since it is becoming a part of movie, sympathizing with a character, and sharing their problem.

-------The title of original novel was "the men who hate a woman" and mythology is the one of the theme. Was it shocking such a tale is written in advanced country like Sweden?
Yes. I thought that the Sweden society was progressing in various ways. And there was Swedish movie "I’m curious" which gave us an impression that Sweden has been liberated sexually and gender equality has been attained. However the novel showed us the dark side in such country.

-------When Hollywood remakes a foreign movie, they often put the location in US or Canada. How did you think you would shoot it in Sweden this time?
You can’t stage it in, for example, Montreal because this tale and character came out from Sweden. Before the script was done, I spent some weeks in Sweden and tried to catch the spirit of the country.

-------What did you find in Sweden?
There’s coolness. You know, for example, music in restaurants is very quiet. Even in a bar. Compared to New York. And voices of people talking on the street are not laud. In addition, there is no honking in Stockholm. It’s crazy. Look at the police drama "low & order" which made New York the stage. From the beginning up to the last you hear continual sirens all over the place.

-----How was the shooting in Sweden?
It’s a totally different from Hollywood. I don’t want to call this movie a Hollywood film because we came here we brought 10 American crews and the rest 80 other crew members are Swedish. They have more master's degrees than any crew in Hollywood. In Hollywood, there is some kind of assembly line approach to make movies. That can be very reassuring as relates to the man you worked expect to accomplish in given days. But it also is specific kind of product. Movies themselves tend to look more like made in assembly line. When I came here to look around and find it’s not gonna be like shooting in Downtown LA with 40 Trailers because it’s very different city. There is a quality of life here. Like Paris. Do you know the reason why Paris is so beautiful? Because they don’t allow film there. They can say you can fim there, but it’s a nightmare. Just like San Francisco. San Francisco is beautiful and really great on films, but it’s almost impossible to shoot because you can’t go in due what they do in Hollywood movies. We are used to joke about tax cut squib all sides of the streets and bullets hit. You can do it in Hollywood.
Although we shot in winter where daytime was very short, Sweden in summer is amazing. Summertime in Sweden, the sun does not sink to midnight, so you can shoot very long time. Also, the sky does not become pitch-black even if the sun hides in a horizon. And the sun rises very in near the place sunken after a while again!

-------Did you know that Lizbeth is based on Pippi the longstocking and Michael is based on another children book character? And were you conscious about that during the shooting?
I know little bit about Pippi, but I didn’t look into that. There are too much various elements in the original novel. It is impossible to all stuff it into the movie of about 2 hours. In the book there are things vain to follow like the portion about the Nazis. You know the book is so dense. The story goes like a serpent. Therefore, I tended to stick to the script.

------You use computer for an unexpected scene in many cases like twins in "social network." How about this time?
The quantity of the snow of a background is adjusted by CG. In addition, we take off the helmet form Lizbeth riding motorcycle because she must not have enough time to wear it in the scene. And we use computers for the opening credit. It’s supposed to be Lizbeth's nightmare.

------You have a reputation of perfectionist and kind of notorious for the numerousness of takes. Stellan Skalsgart said you shoot 40 takes for every set-up. Is that true?
Sometimes I only shot just one take because we had snow. OK, first of all, I don’t know why people give a shit about I shoot multiple takes because it’s not like I don’t charge you more money just because it took more time to make it. 
The thing is , for me, there’s an initial response that the actor has to give set stimulate. They prepare for emotionally and intellectually who the character is, in order to dramatize it. Dramatizing of it becomes another sort of extenuating circumstance. You have lighting you have to work, you have the camera you have to shoot, you have a boom mic you have to get out of the way. All those things everybody has to think about. It’s not to say there isn’t validity and initial response. Initial response is very important thing. Sometimes it takes 18 takes to get back to that….
There times over my 30 year directing career, I go “Oh, fuck, the take 2 is really really good. We should go back to that” In the 1.00008000% of the time, that has been true, but I also find most part of the time, it’s usually the last 2 or 3. That’s where I’m building from.
Even the best actor in the world, when they walk into the set for the first time and are said “this is your home”, is not going to look as comfortable in their own home in take2 or take3.

------There is an opinion it’s harsh for actors to do 40takes, but from different view, it is good for actors because you let them try anything they want to do no matter how many times it takes.
That is right. In many times actors propose various ideas beyond my thought. For example, in the rehearsal of “Fight Club”, Brad Pitt brought his nunchaku and he showed various Bruce Lee mannerisms. I didn’t know what he was doing, but I thought it’s cool and took it into the movie. In movie making, the best idea wins. Therefore, I pile up many takes so that actors' best can be pulled out. Like kids playing in a sandbox, each will propose various ideas. Making a movie is the same as that. We are big kids.