Cary Fukunaga is aware he has a reputation for being difficult on set, but he dispels that rumor in a new profile published by GQ magazine. The filmmaker became a breakthrough talent after his work helming the first season of HBO’s anthology series “True Detective,” which won him an Emmy for directing, but the production of the show was filled with tension between Fukunaga and showrunner Nic Pizzolatto. Fukunaga revealed to GQ one point of contention was the tracking shot from the show’s fourth episode.
“Nic wanted to cut it up in post-production,” Fukunaga said of the nearly six-minute unbroken take, which follows Matthew McConaughey’s detective through a bloody robbery. “He did not like that I was pushing for that one at all.”
Fukunaga argued that the show could use a visual shake-up like a one take after several episodes full of talking and philosophizing. “I mean, there’s nothing really that inventive about [‘True Detective’],” the director said. “It’s just another crime drama.” For this reason, Fukunaga wanted to do “something fun” and fought hard for Pizzolatto to keep the shot as a one take. When the episode aired, the long take was universally acclaimed and singlehandedly elevated Fukynaga’s profile.
Despite the Emmy win for “True Detective” and the solid reviews for his Netflix movie “Beasts of No Nation,” Fukunaga said he was still perceived as a combative personality. The director alleges this perception of him is the main reason he had to exit the director’s chair on Warner Bros.’ “It” remake. Fukunaga was originally attached as a writer and director on the Stephen King adaptation but left the project.
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“I think it was fear on [the studios’] part, that they couldn’t control me,” Fukunaga said of his “It’ experience. The director said the issue was that the studio thought they couldn’t control him, which was hardly the case.
“I would have been a total collaborator,” Fukunaga said. “That was the kind of ridiculous part. It was just more a perception. I have never seen a note and been like, ‘Fuck you guys. No way.’ It’s always been a conversation.”
Fukunaga mentioned that he has long been a compromiser on sets. During the making of “Beasts,” for instance, he agreed to rewrite the entire third act of the film so that the budget could be reduced. “We compromise all over the place,” he said.
Next for Fukunaga is the Netflix limited series “Maniac,” starring Emma Stone and Jonah Hill. The show premieres September 21 on the streaming platform. Head over to GQ to read Fukunaga’s full profile.