David Fincher Says Differences Over Casting And Disney’s Corporate Culture Stalled ‘20,000 Leagues Under The Sea’

David Fincher Says Differences Over Casting And Disney's Corporate Culture Stalled '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea'
David Fincher Says Differences Over Casting And Disney's Corporate Culture Stalled '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea'

Had things turned out differently, it wouldn’t be “Gone Girl” hitting theaters in a couple of weeks. For a moment, it looked like David Fincher would be going blockbuster, directing Disney‘s “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.” Fincher had done location scouting in Australia in 2012, and in the spring of 2013, the government had gone ahead and approved tax rebates and refunds for the production. However, one holdup remained: casting. Fincher had sought his “Fight Club” and “Se7en” star Brad Pitt, but he passed on the movie, while the director also had his eye on Channing Tatum. Meanwhile, the studio was keen on Chris Hemsworth. And it seems the filmmaker and studio could never get on the same page about who should star.

In an interview with Little White Lies (via Brad Pitt Online), the director discusses the roadblocks that prevented him from making the underwater adventure movie. “You get over $200 million — all motion picture companies have corporate culture and corporate anxieties,” he explained. “Once we got past the list of people we could cast as the different characters in the film, once we got past one or two names which made them very comfortable, making a movie at that price, it became this bizarre endeavour to find which three names you could rub together to make platinum.”

“I wanted Aronnax to be French, God forbid! It got to be a little too confusing to me,” Fincher elaborated on the process of trying to find the right names to greenlight the film. “I had this argument with a studio executive one time where he said to me, ‘why is it that the actors always side with you and we’re paying them?’ And I said, ‘I think it’s because at some level, they know that my only real allegiance is to the movie.’ And because that’s very clear and it never wavers, they may not agree with the image of the movie I have in my head, but they know that’s what I’m after. They’ve seen me for 100 days take the long way around. I think that when you’re trying to put together a handful of people to deliver all those facets of humanity and who work well together, it has to be in service of the narrative and not in service of the balance sheet. It became very hard to appease the anxieties of Disney’s corporate culture with the list of names that allowed everyone to sleep at night. I just wanted to make sure I had the skill-sets I could turn the movie over to. Not worrying about whether they’re big in Japan.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time Fincher and a studio have clashed over casting. The filmmaker famously battled Sony over putting Rooney Mara in the lead role in “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” after a very long, very publicized casting session that saw almost every name you can think of trying out for the role. At any rate, we can probably scratch ‘Leagues’ off Fincher’s dance card unless somehow he and Disney suddenly agree on who should lead the movie.

“Gone Girl” opens on October 3rd. 

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