By this point, David Fincher‘s preference for shooting literally dozens of takes of a single scene is well known, and comes with the territory if you’re going to sign on to work with him. Some actors have clearly gelled with the filmmaker, working with him more than once (Brad Pitt, Rooney Mara) while others found the process exhausting and creatively unrewarding (Jake Gyllehaal). All this is to say that on Fincher’s currently in production “Gone Girl,” it’s a not shock to learn that once again he’s doing everything he can to get the most he can out of a scene.
The Southeast Missourian recently chronicled an afternoon of shooting in Cape Girardeau, an extras-filled sequence that the paper noted found Fincher filming “over and over again for several hours.” The scene featured over one hundred people acting as media and regular citizens, chasing down a police car with someone of interest inside. Approximately 20 takes were done of this scene, which according to Fincher’s longtime producer Cean Chaffin is on the low end for this film.
She told the paper Fincher is averaging about 50 takes per scene in “Gone Girl,” a figure markedly up from 27/per scene in previous movies. “… it’s an odd business. A lot of times it’s more like doing construction than painting a picture,” she said.
So why does Fincher insist on this method? “I hate earnestness in performance… usually by Take 17 the earnestness is gone,” he told The New York Times in 2007. And when we spoke to the director in 2010, he shared what he told Justin Timberlake before the singer/actor signed up for “The Social Network” which goes a long way in explaining Fincher’s process.
“We’re going to micro-fractally explore this text cause all there is in this movie is people talking. We’re going to pick that shit out of pepper. We’re going to find the moments between the moments that move and resonate. And if you’re not willing to hit that hole a lot of times, don’t do this. Because it’s going to be agony for you. If the charge for you is wardrobe malfunction, you’re not going to get that. There’s not going to be a lot surprises here, you’re going to surprise yourself. I’m going to have you do it until you have gone past memorizing it, gone past knowing your own name, until we can get all of the the physical nonsense so ingrained that we can get to what the actual text is.”
In short: Fincher wants the words to feel natural, real and lived in, almost like a reflex, and thus, they will leap off the page more authentically. Whether or not you agree, it clearly has been working for Fincher, so why change what isn’t broken? Filming continues on “Gone Girl” with the movie slated to hit theaters on October 3, 2014.