It seems everyone has an opinion about the Scott Rudin vs. David Denby fiasco, in which the critic for the New Yorker knowingly broke the December 13th review embargo for “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” for a variety of reasons and rationalizations he flaccidly tried to explain. But of all the peple to weigh in on the subject, one man has remained curiously silent: the film’s director David Fincher. But never one to hold his tongue for too long, Fincher recently spoke with the Miami Herald and let it be known he would have done things differently if he had his way. But at the end of the day, he believes critics and filmmakers are all part of the same pool and he agrees with Rudin on how an embargo break messes up a carefully planned campaign.
As you might remember, the New York Film Critics Circle controversially (and somewhat foolishly) moved their voting date way up this year, in order to be first out of the gate with their awards. This caused some timing issues as Warner Bros. outright declined to screen “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” as it wasn’t finished in time, while Sony delivered “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” albeit a bit late, forcing the group to push back their vote one day. This is where Denby first saw the movie, but if Fincher had his way, he wouldn’t have screened it for them (or anybody).
“…if it were up to me, I wouldn’t show movies to anybody before they were released. I wouldn’t give clips to talk shows. I would do one trailer and three television spots and let the chips fall where they may. That’s how far in the other direction I am. If I had my way, the New York Film Critics Circle would not have seen this movie and then we would not be in this situation. I would be opening this movie on Wednesday Dec. 21 and I would have three screenings on Tuesday Dec. 20 and that would be it,” Fincher explains.
However, the director understands something that most movie writers and critics don’t want to admit (but that is totally true). We all stroll along hand in hand with the studios, and both sides owe as much to the other. It’s a simple exchange: an embargo allows the studio to build their (expensive) marketing campaign with the knowledge that reviews will be arriving on X date, allowing them to properly allocate resources before and after. And writers, who have the privilege of seeing a movie early, have to play the game (because that’s what it is) and adhere (or don’t play the game, and see the movie in the theater with everyone else). So no surprise, Fincher sides with his producer.
“I think Scott [Rudin]’s response was totally correct. It’s a hard thing for people outside our business to understand. It is a bit of a tempest in a teapot. But as silly as this may all look from the outside – privileged people bickering – I think it’s important. Film critics are part of the business of getting movies made. You swim in the same water we swim in. And there is a business to letting people know your movie is coming out. It is not a charity business. It is a business-business,” Fincher explains.
“This is not about controlling the media. If people realized how much thought goes into deciding at what point can we allow our movie to be seen, they would understand. There are so many other things constantly screaming for people’s attention,” the director says, addressing a common arguement made by those siding with Denby. “…And when you’re trying to orchestrate a build-up of anticipation, it is extremely frustrating to have someone agree to something and then upturn the apple cart and change the rules – for everybody.”
And at the end of the day, Fincher sees this whole issue as a sad reflection on the state of film criticism as whole these days. “…when you agree to go see something early and you give your word – as silly as that may sound in the information age and the movie business – there is a certain expectation. It’s unfortunate that the film critic business has become driven by scoops.”
You can read Fincher’s full comments over at the Miami Herald, but needless to say, this will hardly put an end to the discussion. As for the movie, it arrives on December 21st.