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David Fincher on ‘Se7en’ 4K Remaster and ‘Dragon Tattoo’ Failure

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“Shooting for me is a lot of indigestion,” David Fincher told the audience at the 2023 Tribeca Festival during a spirited conversation with fellow director and longtime friend Steven Soderbergh. The “Fight Club” and “Mank” Oscar nominee was asked by Soderbergh which part of the filmmaking process he loves the most. Fincher said it’s certainly not the physical shooting of a movie.

“I love rehearsal,” Fincher said. “I love talking to people about the intention and going over every single word and what the script means and listening to people read it. I love the casting process. I love designing the movie and sitting with the production designer and the DP and talking about what do we want to say, where do we want people’s attention, and what do we have to underline.”

“By the time it gets to the shooting…I don’t enjoy shooting,” the director admitted. “I find it to be a necessary evil. I would much rather love to workshop it and have some one else take it over after all those conversations and bring it home. But you got to be there!”

Fincher said the pandemic only complicated his relationship to shooting. The director shot his latest project, Netflix’s “The Killer,” with strict Covid safety protocols in place.

“Movies require you to impress upon people the amount that you’re sweating it and the amount that you care. They have to see it in your face and see it in your eyes,” Fincher said. “Shooting a movie last year with all the Covid protocols. Working through a mask and the visor, I had no idea how much I was imparting with making faces and sound effects. It was a completely different experience.”

Written by Fincher’s “Se7en” collaborator Andrew Kevin Walker, “The Killer” is based on the graphic novel by Alexis Nolent and stars Michael Fassbender as a cold-hearted assassin who turns against his employers. The cast also includes Charles Parnell, Arliss Howard, Sophie Charlotte and Tilda Swinton. Netflix, which previously worked with Fincher on “Mank,” is set to release the film this fall.

Speaking of “Se7ven,” Fincher confirmed during the conversation that he is currently working on a 4K remaster of his classic 1995 crime thriller, starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Gwyneth Paltrow.

‘We’re going back and doing it in 4K from the original negative and we overscan it, oversample it, doing all of the due diligence and there’s a lot of shit that needs to be fixed,” Fincher said. “Because there’s a lot of stuff that we now can add because of high dynamic range. You know, streaming media is a very different thing than 35 mm motion picture negative in terms of what it can actually retain. So there are, you know, a lot of blown-out windows that we have to kind of go back and ghost in a little bit of cityscape out there.”

The director stressed that he’s “fundamentally against the idea of changing what [the film] is,” adding, “I’m not gonna take all the guns out of people’s hands and replace them with flashlights.”

Fincher could’ve been referencing Steven Spielberg, who infamously removed guns from a scene in “E.T.” and replaced them with walkie talkies for the movie’s 20th anniversary release. Just last month, Spielberg openly admitted that choice “was a mistake.”

Elsewhere during the Tribeca conversation, Fincher looked back on his 2011 adaptation of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” Sony Pictures intended to launch a new trilogy with the movie, which starred Rooney Mara in an Oscar-nominated performance opposite Daniel Craig, but it barely crossed the $100 million mark in the U.S. on a production budget in the $90 million range. Fincher said he made peace with the film’s commercial disappointment rather quickly and moved on.

“I was offered ‘Dragon Tattoo’ long before the first movie was made,” Fincher said. “The thing went on to be a huge deal. I thought It would be interesting to see if you took this piece of material that has millions of people excited and you did it within an inch of its life. Could it support the kind of money that it would take to do it?”

“We had pledged early on that we wanted to make a movie that was not embarrassing to its Swedish heritage,” Fincher continued. “They said, ‘Well, can you shoot it in Atlanta?’ Well, no. Atlanta for Sweden? I don’t know. We wanted it to be true to its essence. You shoot in Sweden for eight or nine hour days. The movie took 140 days to shoot. I was proud of it. I thought we did what we set out to do…when people said it cost too much for what the return on investment was, I said, ‘Ok, swing and a miss.’”

Fincher’s “The Killer” releases November 10 on Netflix.



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