David Fincher

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David Fincher
David Fincher (2012) 3.jpg
Fincher at the Paris premiere of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in 2012
Born David Andrew Leo Fincher
(1962-08-28) August 28, 1962 (age 53)
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Other names Finch
Dave Fincher
Occupation Film director, film producer, television director, television producer, music video director
Years active 1984–present
Spouse(s) Donya Fiorentino (1990–1995)
Ceán Chaffin (1996-)
Children 1 (with Fiorentino)

David Andrew Leo Fincher[1][2] (born August 28, 1962) is an American director and producer, notably for films, television series, and music videos. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director for the romantic fantasy drama The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) and the drama The Social Network (2010). For the latter, he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Director and the BAFTA Award for Best Direction.

He is also known for having directed the psychological thrillers Seven (1995), Fight Club (1999), and Gone Girl (2014) and the mystery thrillers Zodiac (2007) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), as well as being instrumental in the creation of the U.S. television series House of Cards.

Early life[edit]

Fincher was born on August 28, 1962 in Denver, Colorado, the son of Claire Mae (née Boettcher), a mental health nurse from South Dakota who worked in drug addiction programs, and Howard Kelly "Jack" Fincher, an author from Oklahoma who worked as a reporter and bureau chief for Life.[3][4] Howard died of cancer in April 2003.[1][5] Fincher knew from a young age he wanted to go into filmmaking. When Fincher was two years old, the family moved to San Anselmo, California, where filmmaker George Lucas was one of his neighbors.[4] Fincher moved to Ashland, Oregon in his teens, where he graduated from Ashland High School. During high school, he directed plays and designed sets and lighting after school, and was a non-union projectionist at a second-run movie theater, production assistant at the local television news station KOBI in Medford, Oregon, and took on other odd jobs such as fry cook, busboy, and dishwasher.[4][6] Inspired by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Fincher began making movies at age eight with an 8mm camera.[4][7]

Career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Fincher was employed at Korty Films as a production assistant. He moved up the ranks and became a visual effects producer,[4] working on the animated Twice Upon a Time (1983). He was hired by Industrial Light & Magic in 1983 as an assistant cameraman and matte photographer,[4] and worked on Return of the Jedi (1983) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).[8] In 1984, he left ILM to direct a commercial for the American Cancer Society that depicted a fetus smoking a cigarette.[4] This quickly brought Fincher to the attention of producers in Los Angeles, and he was given the chance to direct the 1985 Rick Springfield documentary The Beat of the Live Drum.[9] Though he would continue to direct spots for Levi's, Converse, Nike, Pepsi, Revlon, Sony, Coca-Cola, Chanel, and other companies,[4] Fincher began to focus on music videos. He directed the video for 1986's "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off", which was the biggest commercial success for pop/R&B singer Jermaine Stewart,[10] and worked extensively with Madonna, directing videos for "Express Yourself", "Oh Father", "Vogue" and "Bad Girl."[9]

Propaganda Films[edit]

Set on a directing career, Fincher co-founded video-production company Propaganda Films and started off directing music videos and commercials.[9] Like Fincher, directors such as Michael Bay, Antoine Fuqua, Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, Alex Proyas, Paul Rachman, Mark Romanek, Zack Snyder, Gore Verbinski and others honed their talents at Propaganda Films before moving on to feature films.[11]

1990s: Alien 3, Seven, The Game and Fight Club[edit]

After directing several music videos, Fincher's feature debut was Alien 3 (1992). While it received an Oscar nomination for visual effects,[12] the film was not well received by critics or moviegoers.[13] Fincher became involved with several disputes with 20th Century Fox over script and budgeat issues. In Director's Cut: Picturing Hollywood in the 21st Century, he blames the producers for not putting the necessary trust in him.[14] He stated in an interview with The Guardian in 2009: "No one hated it more than me; to this day, no one hates it more than me."[15] After this, he retreated back into the world of commercial and music video directing, including the video for the Grammy Award-winning track "Love Is Strong" (1994) by The Rolling Stones.[16]

In 1995, Fincher directed Seven. The film, based on a screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker, told the story of two detectives (played by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman) tracking down a serial killer who bases his killings on the seven deadly sins. The film grossed more than $100 million domestically (over $300 million internationally).[17]

After the success of Seven, Fincher went on to film The Game (1997). The story focused on a closed-off San Francisco businessman (played by Michael Douglas) who receives an unusual gift from his younger brother (Sean Penn), in which he becomes the main player of a role-playing game that takes over his life. The film had middling box-office returns despite being well received by critics.[citation needed]

Fight Club (1999) is a screen adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's 1996 novel about an insomniac office worker who opens up a club devoted exclusively to bare knuckle fighting for men. Featuring Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, and Seven collaborator Brad Pitt, the film was an early disappointment at the box-office and received mixed reviews. Entertainment Weekly, which had originally given the film a D-,[18] later ranked the DVD #1 on its list of 50 Essential DVDs.[19]

2000s: Panic Room, hiatus, Zodiac and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button[edit]

In 2006, the British magazine Total Film voted Fight Club number four in the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time, beaten only by Jaws, Vertigo and Goodfellas at 3, 2 and 1 respectively.[20]

In 2002, Fincher followed up with the thriller Panic Room. The film earned over $92 million at the U.S. box office. The story follows a single mother (Jodie Foster) and her daughter (Kristen Stewart) as they hide in a safe room of their new house, away from criminals (Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam, and Fight Club collaborator Jared Leto) bent on finding a missing fortune. Fincher acknowledged Panic Room as a more mainstream thriller, describing the film, on the DVD's audio commentary, as "[basically] a date movie" and a "really good B movie" about "two people trapped in a closet".

Five years after Panic Room, Fincher returned on March 2, 2007 with Zodiac, an adaptation of Robert Graysmith's books about the hunt for the Zodiac Killer that starred Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey, Jr., Anthony Edwards, and Brian Cox. The first of Fincher's films to be shot digitally, the majority of the film was recorded on a Thompson Viper Film Stream Camera. However, high-speed film cameras were used for the Blue Rock Springs and Presidio Heights murder scenes for the slow-motion shots.[21] It was originally to be released in the fall of 2006 but was pushed back after Fincher refused to cut 20 minutes off the film.

Zodiac was one of the best-reviewed films of that year, with only two other 2007 films appearing on more top-10 lists (No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood).[22] However, the film struggled at the box office in the U.S., earning only $33 million, but did well overseas with a foreign gross of $51.7 million. Worldwide, Zodiac was a decent success.[23] Despite an aggressive campaign by the studio, expectations surrounding Robert Downey, Jr.'s supporting performance, Fincher's direction and Vanderbilt's adapted script, the film did not earn a single Academy Award nomination.[24]

A story about life and death, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story of the same name. The film was Fincher's third with Brad Pitt. The film started shooting in November 2006 in New Orleans, before moving on to the Virgin Islands, Montreal, and L.A. Both Zodiac and this film are co-productions of Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. The budget for the film was estimated at $150 million, partly due to the CGI effects used to reverse the aging in Pitt's character. It received 13 nominations at the 81st Academy Awards, including Fincher's first nomination for Best Director. It won three Academy Awards for Best Art Direction, Best Makeup, and Best Visual Effects.

2010s: The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl and television career[edit]

Fincher directed the 2010 film The Social Network, about the legal battles of Mark Zuckerberg and the founding of Facebook. The film features an Oscar-winning screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, adapted from the book The Accidental Billionaires. Featuring a young cast ensemble, the film was produced by Scott Rudin, Kevin Spacey and Michael DeLuca. Filming started in October 2009[25] and was released a year later, to critical acclaim. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross created the Oscar-winning soundtrack for the film. Fincher had long been a fan of Reznor's work in Nine Inch Nails, even putting a remix of "Closer" in the beginning of Seven and directing the music video for "Only". The film went on to win many awards, including four Golden Globes (including Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Original Score), three BAFTAs (including Best Direction), and three Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Film Editing.[26]

Fincher directed the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which was based on the book by Stieg Larsson, with a script written by Steven Zaillian. The film was shot in Sweden, with Rooney Mara (who played Erica Albright in The Social Network) as Lisbeth Salander, Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist, Robin Wright as Erika Berger, Stellan Skarsgård as Martin Vanger and Christopher Plummer as Henrik Vanger. The film was released on December 21, 2011. Dragon Tattoo writer Steve Zaillian is in the early stage of scripting The Girl Who Played with Fire, which Fincher has the option to direct. While he has not yet committed to the project, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker has admitted that (should he sign on) he would prefer to shoot both the second and third Millennium book adaptations back-to-back, for both practical and artistic purposes.[27][28] Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross composed the soundtrack for the film (their second collaboration with Fincher).[29] It received five Academy Award nominations at the 84th Academy Awards including: Best Actress for Rooney Mara, Best Cinematography, Academy Award for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and won one award for Best Film Editing.

Fincher is executive producer of the Netflix television series House of Cards; he also directed the first two episodes.[30] The series has received critical acclaim, receiving nine Primetime Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series and Fincher for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for the first episode, which he won.[31]

Fincher directed the adaptation of Gillian Flynn's novel Gone Girl,[32][33] Production began in September 2013[34] and the film was released on October 3, 2014.[35] Fincher signed a three-series deal with HBO for Utopia, Shakedown, and Living on Video. He was to handle the directing and writing duties for the first season of HBO's adaptation of Utopia, a British television series, but budget disputes between HBO and Fincher led to the project being cancelled in July 2015.[36]

Future work[edit]

Shakedown, a noir-ish crime drama, set in LA in the 1950s, is about a tabloid world and the underbelly of Los Angeles in the 1950s and centers on a real-life private detective. It is inspired by the life of legendary 1950s Hollywood vice cop-turned-private eye Fred Otash.[37] Fincher will be producing the series while author James Ellroy will be developing the series. This will be Fincher's second TV project after House of Cards on Netflix, which also attracted actor Kevin Spacey.[38] Living on Video, a comedy set in the 1980s, will follow Robby, a college drop out, pursuing his dream as a music video and film director in Hollywood.[39] Red Band Society actor Charlie Rowe will play the lead role after Tyler Ross dropped out due to conflicts.[40] Fincher is attached to direct another Netflix TV series, Mindhunter, starring Holt McCallany and Jonathan Groff. The series is based on the book Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit.

Personal life[edit]

Fincher married model-photographer Donya Fiorentino in 1990 and divorced in 1995.[41] They have a daughter, Phelix Imogen Fincher.[42] Fincher is married to producer Ceán Chaffin.[43]

In an interview with Empire magazine in 2008, Fincher named the following films as his favorites: Alien (1979), All That Jazz (1979), All the President's Men (1976), American Graffiti (1973), Being There (1979), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Cabaret (1972), Chinatown (1974), Citizen Kane (1941), Days of Heaven (1978), Dr. Strangelove (1964), (1963), The Exorcist (1973), The Godfather Part II (1974), The Graduate (1967), Jaws (1975), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Mad Max 2 (1981), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), National Lampoon's Animal House (1978), Paper Moon (1973), Rear Window (1954), Taxi Driver (1976), The Terminator (1984), The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), and Zelig (1983).[44]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Director Producer Executive producer
1992 Alien 3 Yes
1995 Seven Yes
1997 The Game Yes
1999 Fight Club Yes
2001 The Hire (Short films) Yes
2002 Panic Room Yes
2005 Lords of Dogtown Yes
2006 Love and Other Disasters Yes
2007 Zodiac Yes
2008 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Yes
2010 The Social Network Yes
2011 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Yes
2014 Gone Girl Yes Yes

Television[edit]

Year Title Director Producer Executive producer Notes
2013–present House of Cards Yes Yes Directed 2 episodes
2016 Mindhunter Yes Yes Pre-production

Music videos[edit]

As a music video director, Fincher has won two Grammy Awards for Best Music Video, for his work in "Love Is Strong" by The Rolling Stones (1995) and "Suit & Tie" by Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z (2013), and three MTV Video Music Awards for Best Direction, being one of the most awarded directors in the category, alongside Spike Jonze. He also earned back-to-back MTV Video Music Awards for Best Direction in 1989 for "Express Yourself" and in 1990 for "Vogue". In 1990, he earned three of the four available nominations in the Best Direction category.

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
Alien3 44% (45 reviews)[52] 59 (20 reviews)[53]
Seven 80% (70 reviews)[54] 65 (22 reviews)[55]
The Game 72% (53 reviews)[56] 61 (19 reviews)[57]
Fight Club 79% (162 reviews)[58] 66 (35 reviews)[59]
Panic Room 76% (182 reviews)[60] 65 (36 reviews)[61]
Zodiac 89% (233 reviews)[62] 78 (40 reviews)[63]
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 72% (238 reviews)[64] 70 (37 reviews)[65]
The Social Network 96% (290 reviews)[66] 95 (42 reviews)[67]
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 86% (224 reviews)[68] 71 (41 reviews)[69]
Gone Girl 88% (295 reviews)[70] 79 (49 reviews)[71]

Box office performance[edit]

Film Studio Release date Box office gross Budget Reference
North America Other territories Worldwide
Alien3 20th Century Fox May 22, 1992 (1992-05-22) $55,473,545 $104,340,953 $159,814,498 $50 million [72]
Seven New Line Cinema September 22, 1995 (1995-09-22) $100,125,643 $227,186,216 $327,311,859 $33 million [73]
The Game PolyGram September 12, 1997 (1997-09-12) $48,323,648 $61,100,000 $109,423,648 $50 million [74]
Fight Club 20th Century Fox October 15, 1999 (1999-10-15) $37,030,102 $63,823,651 $100,853,753 $63 million [75]
Panic Room Columbia March 29, 2002 (2002-03-29) $96,397,334 $100,000,081 $196,397,415 $48 million [76]
Zodiac Paramount / Warner Bros. March 2, 2007 (2007-03-02) $33,080,084 $51,705,830 $84,785,914 $65 million [77]
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button December 25, 2008 (2008-12-25) $127,509,326 $206,422,757 $333,932,083 $150 million [78]
The Social Network Columbia October 1, 2010 (2010-10-01) $96,962,694 $127,957,621 $224,920,315 $40 million [79]
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / Columbia December 20, 2011 (2011-12-20) $102,068,888 $130,101,637 $232,617,430 $90 million [80]
Gone Girl 20th Century Fox October 3, 2014 (2014-10-03) $167,238,510 $199,700,000 $366,938,510 $61 million [81]
Total $858,764,264 $1,246,038,476 $2,136,548,250 $650 million

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Work Award Result
1992 Alien 3 Saturn Award for Best Director Nominated
1993 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation Nominated
1999 Fight Club Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Director Nominated
2007 Zodiac Palme d'Or Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Director Nominated
London Film Critics' Circle Award for Director of the Year Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Director Nominated
Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Director Nominated
2008 Bodil Award for Best American Film Nominated
Empire Award for Best Director Nominated
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button London Film Critics' Circle Award for Director of the Year Won
National Board of Review Award for Best Director Won
Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Director Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Director Nominated
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Director Nominated
Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Director Nominated
SFX Award for Best Director Nominated
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director Won
2009 Saturn Award for Best Director Nominated
Golden Globe Award for Best Director Nominated
BAFTA Award for Best Direction Nominated
Academy Award for Best Director Nominated
2010 The Social Network Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Director Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Director Won
César Award for Best Foreign Film Won
David di Donatello for Best Foreign Film Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Director Won
Film Critics Circle of Australia for Best Foreign Film Won
Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director Won
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Director Won
London Film Critics Circle Award for Director of the Year Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Director Won
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Director Won
Nastro d'Argento for Best Non-European Director Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Director Nominated
Robert Festival for Best American Film Nominated
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director Won
Southeastern Film Critics Association Award for Best Director Won
Russian Guild of Film Critics for Best Foreign Film Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Director Nominated
Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Director Won
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director Won
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Nominated
2011 Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Director Won
Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Feature Film Nominated
Empire Award for Best Director Nominated
Bodil Award for Best American Film Nominated
Golden Globe Award for Best Director Won
Satellite Award for Best Director Won
BAFTA Award for Best Direction Won
Academy Award for Best Director Nominated
2012 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Feature Film Nominated
2013 House of Cards Peabody Award[82] Won
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Won
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series Nominated
2014 Nominated
Gone Girl Iowa Film Critics Association Award for Best Director Runner-up
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Director Nominated
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Director Nominated
Dorian Award for Film Director of the Year Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Director Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Director Nominated
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Award for Best Director Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Director Nominated
2015 Golden Globe Award for Best Director Nominated
Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Director Nominated
Satellite Award for Best Director Nominated
House of Cards Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series Nominated

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  81. ^ "Gone Girl (2014)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 7, 2014. 
  82. ^ 73rd Annual Peabody Awards, May 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Waxman, Sharon, ed. (2005). Rebels on the Backlot: Six Maverick Directors and How They Conquered the Hollywood Studio System. HarperEntertainment. 

External links[edit]

Interviews
Awards and achievements
National Board of Review
Preceded by
Tim Burton
for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Best Director
for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

2008
Succeeded by
Clint Eastwood
for Invictus
National Board of Review
Preceded by
Clint Eastwood
for Invictus
Best Director
for The Social Network

2010
Succeeded by
Martin Scorsese
for Hugo