1.) David Fincher's an ass-hole. I think we all knew that from the stories that filter out from his film-sets (like the professional beakup between Fincher and D.P. Darius Khondji on the set of "Panic Room"), but this is the first time I've seen it laid out in black and white. Jake Gyllenhaal, who stars in Fincher's upcoming film, "Zodiac", had this to say about working with Fincher:
“What’s so wonderful about movies is, you get your shot,” he said. “They even call it a shot. The stakes are high. You get your chance to prove what you can do. You get a take, 5 takes, 10 takes. Some places, 90 takes. But there is a stopping point. There’s a point at which you go, ‘That’s what we have to work with.’ But we would reshoot things. So there came a point where I would say, well, what do I do? Where’s the risk?”And Robert Downey Jr. said:
“Sometimes it’s really hard because it might not feel collaborative, but ultimately filmmaking is a director’s medium,” he said. “I just decided, aside from several times I wanted to garrote him, that I was going to give him what he wanted. I think I’m a perfect person to work for him, because I understand gulags.”Mark Ruffalo said:
“The way I see it is, you enter into someone else’s world as an actor,” he said. “You can put your expectations aside and have an experience that’s new and pushes and changes you, or hold onto what you think it should be and have a stubborn, immovable journey that’s filled with disappointment and anger.”It's not hard to see what they're all getting at. They all hated being on this movie. In the same article, Fincher is quoted saying, "Every once in a while there are actors you can defeat." And, about "Panic Room": "I was kind of impatiently waiting for everybody [he means the actors] to get where I’d already been a year and a half ago." With "Zodiac", he ditched the meticulously-storyboarded approach he brought to "Panic Room" and decided he would, instead, "be more attentive to watching the actors." Lucky actors.
All that being said, I think Fincher's one of the best directors working today. Kubrick was notorious for shooting crazy numbers of takes, and I wouldn't have wanted him to lessen those numbers by a single one to make the actors feel better, or like him better. And I think Fincher may not be too far out of Kubrick's league. I guess it's just a little depressing that at least three men renowned for making exceptional films -- Michael Mann, James Cameron, and now David Fincher -- are all unrepentant bastards while working. Does excelling in this medium require a myopic perfectionist hard-ass with a special talent for making others feel small? I would say probably not (I still haven't heard a bad word about Peter Jackson, for example), but it seems to help. I'm very happy to see their films ( "Zodiac" comes out March 2nd), I'm just glad I don't have to work with them.
2.) New Line Cinema Chairman Robert Shaye nearly died in 2005. He caught the streptococcus A bacteria, came down with a very serious from of pneumonia (the same kind that killed Jim Henson), and the doctors put him into a medically-induced coma for 6 weeks. Holy crap! Can you imagine? Giving the OK to the doctors to put you under for six weeks knowing the chances of dying while comatose were (and I'm assuming here) pretty damn good? Creepy.
Anyway, Shaye's recovery took a long time, but I'd say he was getting pretty close to fighting weight when he got all bastard-y with Peter Jackson about the audit Jackson requested for the "Fellowship" DVD sales. (Jim Cameron weighed in saying that, even with the most transparent studio, you still do an audit. This leads me to believe New Line's got something to hide here). Because of that lawsuit (which Shaye's fighting), Shaye doesn't want Jackson to direct "The Hobbit", and is trying to get Sam Raimi to do it. Ugh. I could MAYBE say no to a non-Peter Jackson-directed "Hobbit" if Shaye got some nobody to do it (or worse a somebody like Ratner or Story), but a Raimi-directed "Hobbit" would be hard to say no to.