AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
You almost can't talk about the movie "Gone Girl" or the book it's based on without massive spoilers, but we're going to try with director David Fincher. Fincher is a master at book-to-film adaptations - "Fight Club," "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," and "The Social Network" were hits under his watch. When he sat down with author Gillian Flynn about her heady mystery of a wife gone missing, Fincher offered up this advice for her screenplay.
DAVID FINCHER: We don't have the ability to gift the audience with the characters thoughts, so tell me how they're behaving.
CORNISH: Or misbehaving. In the film "Gone Girl," Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne, a man under suspicion for the disappearance of his wife and caught up in the ensuing media frenzy.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GONE GIRL")
BEN AFFLECK: (As Nick Dunne) As you all know, my wife, Amy Elliot Dunne, disappeared three days ago. I had nothing to do with the disappearance of my wife. I have nothing to hide.
CORNISH: But the "Gone Girl" in question, Amy Dunne, has plenty of secrets of her own. And director David Fincher knew it was going to be tricky to bring these dueling points of view to the screen.
FINCHER: It's very much too subjective sort of he said, she said in the book. But, you know, Gillian was very crafty, and I waited, you know, to read the first draft. I was concerned because I felt, you know, this was a very difficult adaptation to do, but upon cracking the first script and getting through it I really - I was sort of amazed that she really understood one fundamental thing, which is the audience needs an access point. And she was very smart about being able to keep this, she said, to this extremely subjective point of view. And yet, she was able to bring the he said into this omniscient foreground, where you're kind of measuring everything in terms of Ben's behavior; the way he reacts to information as it's divulged to him.
CORNISH: And we should say that throughout the plot - that's a big part of this - that this character that Ben Affleck plays, Nick Dunne, is under media scrutiny, of course, after his wife goes missing. You've always been meticulous about casting, and I do want to ask about the choices here. First, Ben Affleck, some of his kind of past tabloid history sort of came to bear in a way. I couldn't help watching it without thinking like...
FINCHER: He's been through this, yeah. Ben is extremely bright and he's been through situations that are very similar to this. And he has a great sense of humor and great wit about what this situation is and how frustrating it is. And he was able to obviously draw on that stuff to be able to portray somebody who, you know, puts one foot in his mouth and then goes another two days and puts the other one. And that was, I think, sort of a key to empathizing and I don't know that it made the character more likable, because he is kind of frustrating in a certain way, but he's very human.
CORNISH: Now, I don't mean this to diminish, like, the anguish that families experience when a loved one is missing and is in the situation, but clearly the book took aim at that kind of true-crime cable machine that kicks in when there is a missing girl, and it seems as though there are so many elements here that felt like they weren't even satire. Right? Like, did you have a temptation to take it further?
FINCHER: No. I mean, the - wow - I mean, the interesting thing about headline news is that it's a little bit like how do you over-do that? You know, Missi Pyle plays Ellen Abbott; we talked a lot about...
CORNISH: Is this the Nancy Grace-type character?
FINCHER: Yes, exactly. And we talked a lot about - and we looked at a bunch of clips that we had as research and there is no "Saturday Night Live" version of this. It's broad, it's big and, you know, it's loud and it's righteous. So in a weird way, we were kind of always saying to Missi - bring it back, bring it back a little bit, a little bit less, little bit less. And that was the irony of it - was you can't really send it up. I mean, I drove down Gretna Green and Brentwood, you know, four months after the Nicole Brown Simpson murder. And there were trucks across the street, and people doing updates on a sidewalk at a murder scene where a body had been removed weeks and weeks and weeks ago. And when you see that in real life there is a certain insanity to it. A lot of people have said, well, is it a satire of media? It's not media. You know, CNN and The New York Times and NPR are not in the flowerbeds of the Dunne house. This is tragedy-vampirism, and it's a very different thing.
CORNISH: I got through much of this interview without using the one word I've seen in every single story written about you...
CORNISH: Which is that the films are dark, visually and emotionally.
FINCHER: You almost got through it.
CORNISH: I almost got through, but do you want to rebut that? Or, I mean, what do you say to the folks who have so consistently described your work this way?
FINCHER: No. I mean, I don't see much point in refuting it, but I - you know, it's a very limited moniker. I think, yeah, I don't know what to say to people who say that. I think that's quick.
CORNISH: I mean, are we ever going to see a comedy? I mean, do you have like an alternate...
FINCHER: I thought "Fight Club" was a comedy.
CORNISH: Oh, really? (Laughter).
FINCHER: I sort of thought this movie was funny, too. Look, it takes all kinds, right?
CORNISH: It's funny because you are so expansive about other people and not so expansive about yourself. And is part of it just, like, this part of the job - the press and interviewing - not that fun for you?
FINCHER: You know...
CORNISH: I won't be offended. (Laughter).
FINCHER: No, no, no, no, it's fine. You know, I get bored talking about myself. I live with me. (Laughter). So it feels awkward and it feels like it's the least interesting part of my - of the possible discussion. To me I don't want to be reflective; I don't want to dig too deep; I just want to - I want to follow my interests and I want to follow things that I, you know. I read a book and I say, wow, I've never seen this articulated this way this could - this is movie I would wait in line for, then I want to make it. And I don't want to be that person who limits themselves because, you know, what will Indiewire say?
CORNISH: Well, David Fincher thanks so much for talking with us about this film.
FINCHER: No problem. Thanks for having me.
CORNISH: Director David Fincher. His latest film is called "Gone Girl."
CORNISH: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
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