Blood, lies and murder when David Fincher takes on the Gone Girl novel
Blood, lies and murder: this is what happens when the director of Seven, David Fincher, takes on marriage in Gone Girl. Interview by Nev Pierce.
Gone Girl is a thriller about a mystery, a murder and a marriage. At its heart, Ben Affleck gives his best ever performance – frayed, angry and unflattering, as a rundown former journalist suspected of killing his wife (Rosamund Pike). It’s his first time working with Fight Club director David Fincher, a man renowned for his dark humour and desire to push actors to deliver their best, through repeated takes. ‘I pride myself on being the last man standing,’ says Affleck. ‘With Fincher it’s like, “How about second to last?” I find myself being like, “Dave, it doesn’t matter what laundry’s inside the washing machine if we never see inside the washing machine!” But it’s just a great lesson. Some people go like “Aw God, you did so many takes!” I love it. It’s a great luxury as an actor, because you just get so many bites at the apple. You get more shots to find your best version of it. That’s a great advantage for an actor, I think.’
Fincher cast Affleck for his affability and also the enjoyment to be had in seeing him put under strain on screen – how a character who tries to glide through life is slowly undone. ‘It’s the story of Nick Dunne,’ says the 52-year-old director. ‘A guy who may have been a Homecoming King, may have been a frat boy, and may have once been, you know, Mr Charming. He’s moved back to his hometown in Missouri and brought his beautiful bride with him. And she disappears on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary. We learn about her and about their marriage through an investigation into him – and flashbacks in a diary that she kept unbeknownst to him. It’s very much about how the same circumstances can be seen by two different combatants.’
Based on Gillian Flynn’s international bestseller, Gone Girl was also scripted by the author, who had always dreamed of Fincher being the one to direct it. She was also thrilled to see Affleck cast. ‘Ben was someone from the very beginning that I had thought of,’ says Flynn. ‘I just thought he had the right qualities. I thought he could do that kind of aloof smugness that Nick needs to be able to have and again, also, he’s just so like someone you know. I felt like we all have that guy friend that we just call up whenever we wanna go out and have fun. I thought that he would be able to do both of those really well. And I remember when David first mentioned Rosamund to me I thought, that’s very cool and interesting. I like the fact that she isn’t this known quantity in Hollywood. We don’t know her back story. She’s not known for playing a certain type necessarily. And that she would be able to come to the role without any audience baggage attached to her.’
Affleck’s baggage, in contrast, worked very well for the part. He is someone who has known the strain of celebrity and knows first-hand – as his character discovers – just how the media can torment someone. But that was only part of what interested him – he was also compelled by the way the material deals with relationships. ‘Ultimately one of the most strong threads in the book is this theme of what it means to be married, what it means to be in a serious relationship, what we give up of ourselves, what we turn into ultimately – and do we recognise that? It asks some really tough questions and it’s very provocative and prickly and will, I think, elicit a lot of different reactions, because it almost asks, at some points, is marriage fraudulent? Are you always lying, in a sense, if you’re in a marriage?’ Deception, media, violence: Gone Girl grips and entertains, but it’s probably going to provoke a few awkward post-movie conversations too. As the director himself says, ‘I wanted to make a date movie that could cause divorces!’ And he has succeeded. Gone Girl is in cinemas across the GCC.