Fincher On “WWZ 2” Status, “Utopia” Collapse

Normally fairly reticent to do press, filmmaker David Fincher (“Se7en,” “Fight Club”) has been a regular Chatty Cathy this month, doing multiple interviews to discuss the launch of “Mindhunter” on Netflix last weekend. While talk mostly focused on the new series, some other key topics came up during a recent podcast chat with Empire.

First up, Fincher revealed he was previously approached with an ofer to helm a “Star Wars” film, but he ultimately passed on the project due to the pressure associated with the franchise:

“I talked to [producer Kathleen Kennedy] about that and look, it’s a plum assignment. I don’t know what’s worse: being George Lucas on the set of the first one where everyone’s going, ‘Alderaan? What the hell is this?’ Where everyone’s making fun, but I can’t imagine the kind of intestinal fortitude one has to have following up the success of these last two. That’s a whole other level.

One is that you have to endure the withering abuse of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, and the other is you have to live up to a billion or a billion-five, and that becomes its own kind of pressure. I think [The Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner] had the best job. He had a pretty great script and he had the middle story. He didn’t have to worry about where it started and he didn’t have to worry about where it ended. And he had the great reveal.

You’d have to really clear your head, I think. You’d have to really be sure this is what you wanted to do because either way it’s two years of your life, 14 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Fincher isn’t averse to sequels though and surprised many when he attached himself to helm the sequel to the Brad Pitt-led “World War Z”. He says he’s hard at work on the project and is currently ironing out the details:

“I worked on a show for HBO that didn’t see the light of day and at the same time was doing [Mindhunter], and then did [Mindhunter], and I’ve been working for about a year now with Dennis Kelly on World War Z… We’re hoping to get a piece of material that’s a reason to make a movie not an excuse to make a movie.”

There’s currently no set release date for “World War Z 2”. Fincher had two shows in the works at HBO – “Video Synchronicity” and a remake of the British cult series “Utopia”. Fincher was slated to direct the entire first season of the latter and had a major cast all lined up, but budget issues led to the network pulling the plug. Fincher explained what happened:

“Utopia was something at HBO that I desperately wanted to do and I thought we had really, really good scripts and a great cast and we were getting ready to do that and you know it came down to $9 million. In the end, when you actually kind of lay it all out, $9 million in the scheme of things doesn’t sound like a huge discrepancy between what we wanted to do and what they wanted to pay for.

But when you cut $9 million out of $100 million, 10% is not 10% in filmmaking. In filmmaking terms, you’re gonna have the same amount of drivers, you’re gonna have the same amount of accountants, you’re gonna have the same amount of costumers, you’re gonna have the same amount of stunt people. The only area that’s going to have to shrink by 10% is the amount of time that you have with the actors.

Our version of it was we were attempting to do something that would allow HBO to run something in the summer during kind of you know spandex blockbuster tentpole time, and I wanted to make a show that would sort of rival the tentpole movies maybe not in terms of the CG or how much the universe is gonna explode, but in terms of twists and turns.”

In a separate interview with The Financial Times, he explains the problem with modern movies is not just formulaic filmmaking, but also a need for quick pacing which effectively guts the film of character development scenes:

“Look, many people at studios are still fighting the good fight. There are executives there who are friends of mine. But if you want to make studio movies, you stay in their lanes, which are romantic comedy, affliction Oscar bait, Spandex summer, superhero tentpole, moderately budgeted sequel.

I see Netflix as people who are bold enough and interested enough to build a playground between film and television, and that playground can be a safe haven for adult drama, which has been squeezed out of the multiplex. There’s no time for character in movies…Look at All The President’s Men – everything is character.

Now, movies are about saving the world from destruction. There aren’t a lot of scenes in movies, even the ones I get to make, where anyone gets to muse about the why. It’s mostly the ticking clock. And in this show it’s hard to find the ticking clock. But the thing is: I don’t care if the whole scene is five pages of two people in a car sipping coffee from paper cups as long as there’s a fascinating power dynamic and I learn something about them.

The cinema isn’t dead. It just does something different. The place is still filled with kids, it’s just they’re all on their phones. It’s a social event like a bonfire, and the movie is the bonfire.”

“Mindhunter” is now streaming worldwide on Netflix. Check out a new featurette about Fincher’s directorial style which explores how his camera movements track the characters in the scenes which makes his visual style more personal