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‘Mindhunter’: David Fincher on Learning From ‘Zodiac’ and the Challenge of Finding the Right Directors

Speaking to Charlie Rose, Fincher finally breaks his silence about his new Netflix drama.

David Fincher at Bafta's 'Life in Pictures' Series at Bafta PiccadillyDavid Fincher at Bafta - 19 Sep 2014

David Fincher


David Fincher is returning to Netflix with his new serial killer drama “Mindhunter,” in which he executive produces and directs, but he has stayed completely quiet in the weeks leading up to the show’s debut. Fincher won’t be making the press rounds so heavily, so consider his new interview with Charlie Rose a rare gift. The director joined lead actors Holt McCallany and Jonathan Groff on the CBS News program to discuss “Mindhunter,” which he says is sort of the anti-“Zodiac.”

“Mindhunter” is based on Mark Olshaker and John E. Douglas’ true crime book “Mind Hunter: Inside The FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit.” The series is set in 1979 at the onset of the FBI’s interest in criminal psychology and criminal profiling and follows two detectives who interview convicted serial killers in order to apply their rationale to ongoing murder cases. Think “Criminal Minds” with a David Fincher twist.

The director said part of his interest in the project came from demystifying the heightened role of the serial killer. Movies like “The Silence of the Lambs” and Fincher’s own “Seven” and “Zodiac” have profiled serial killers who are mad geniuses and almost mythic in nature, an archetype Fincher refers to as the “Wile E.Coyote super-genius,” but “Mindhunter” is less about idolizing the murderers and more concerned with widening the divide between the hunter and the hunted.

“I don’t want to talk about the gourmet, you know, opera expert — to me these are very sad people under who have, you know, grown up under horrendous circumstances,” he said. “This is not to overstate how much empathy or sympathy we should have for them but it’s just simply a fact…We’d seen so much of this sort of literary conceit of, there’s a very fine line separates the hunters from the hunted. And I really thought it was time to sort of take that back and make it, really, the reason that we are fascinated with them is because we’re nothing like them. They are unfathomable.”

Similar to his work on “House of Cards,” Fincher will launch the series as the director of the first several episodes before passing the baton off to other directors. Finding filmmakers to follow in his footsteps proved to be challenging given that “Mindhunter” is a show more interested in the art of conversation than the art of murder and action.

“This is conversations,” Fincher said of the series. “In finding the other directors that we found, there are certain people that when you give them an 11 page scene that takes place at a table and say, ‘Well there’s this movement in the first two pages, and then there’s this pivot.’ They go, ‘Can’t I crash something? Can’t somebody jump through the window?'” For this reason, Fincher turned to directors who understand the art of dialogue such as documentary filmmaker and “Amy” Oscar winner Asif Kapadia.

As for what he learned from “Zodiac” to help him on “Mindhunter,” the director had this to say: “I learned my lesson with ‘Zodiac’…You can ask a lot of an audience, but two hours and 45 minutes and no closure is probably — ‘Yes, get a babysitter; yes, find parking; yes, wait in line; yes, sit and have people with their phones on in your peripheral vision and concentrate for two hours and forty-five minutes,’ is asking a lot.”

Does this mean the 10-hour “Mindhunter” will move at a faster pace and have more closure? We’ll all get to find out when the series debuts on Netflix this Friday, October 13. Watch Fincher’s entire interview below (via Collider).

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