Born in Colorado in 1962, David Fincher made his directorial debut with Alien³ in 1992. Thereafter, he continued directing music videos and commercials, winning a Grammy Award in 1994 for the Rolling Stones video "Love Is Strong." Fincher found controversy with Fight Club, but the film went on to huge cult success. He found more success in 2010 with The Social Network, which won three Academy Awards and was up for five others.
David Andrew Leo Fincher was born on August 28, 1962, in Denver, Colorado. Known for his image-driven and often dark films, Fincher is one of the most innovative and meticulous directors working today. He developed a love for film at an early age and started making movies after getting a Super 8 camera for his 8th birthday. His father was a writer and his mother was a mental health nurse.
Growing up in Marin County, David Fincher had some exposure to the film industry. He and his friends watched as George Lucas filmed American Graffiti (1973) in the area, and Fincher even lived a few doors down from the famed director. After high school, Fincher worked for Korty Films where he worked on the animated film Twice Upon a Time (1983). He then joined the staff of Lucas’s special effects company, Industrial Light and Magic.
At Industrial Light and Magic, Fincher worked on the box office hits Return of the Jedi (1983) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984). He eventually moved on to making commercials, earning a reputation for his edgy work. One of his most notable projects was a public service announcement for the American Cancer Society that featured a fetus smoking. Working with the likes of Madonna, Don Henley, Aerosmith and many others, Fincher became a successful director of music videos. He also helped found Propaganda Films in the mid-1980s.
On the big screen, Fincher made his directorial debut with Alien³ (1992). The sci-fi action film was a personal and professional disappointment. Starring Sigourney Weaver, the film was the third installment of the successful series, but the project was experiencing problems before Fincher even signed on as director. Fincher told Entertainment Weekly in 1997 that he learned from the experience, "never to shoot a movie without a script, and the more money you have the more trouble you’re likely to run into."
Music Videos, Commercials and Films
After Alien³, Fincher continued directing music videos and making commercials. He won a Grammy Award in 1994 for the Rolling Stones video "Love Is Strong." The following year, movie goers flocked to his dark thriller Seven, starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey. Pitt and Freeman played detectives on the hunt for a serial killer whose murders reflect the seven deadly sins. The highly atmospheric, noir-styled film netted more than $100 million at the box office, giving Fincher his first major hit.
The reception for his follow-up effort, The Game (1997), was more tepid. This action thriller starred Michael Douglas as an ultra-wealthy businessman who receives an unusual gift from his brother (Sean Penn)—an adventure with no clear rules orchestrated by a mysterious company. The adventure, however, quickly turns into a battle for survival.
Not one to play it safe, David Fincher delved into dark and twisted territory with Fight Club (1999). Edward Norton starred as a disfranchised office worker who suffers from insomnia and hangs out at support groups. He sheds his boring life after meeting anarchist and soap maker Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), and these two characters start channeling their aggression through bare-fisted, one-on-one battles at their fight club gatherings. The club spawns more clubs and evolves into an underground movement that seeks to create chaos by destroying the offices of credit card companies.
Variety described Fight Club as an "inventive, sustained adrenaline rush of a movie." While the film garnered some positive reviews, it also drew fiery responses from other critics. Some rebuked the film's political leanings while others objected to what they believed was a glorification of violence. Roger Ebert, for example, wrote that Fight Club was "cheerfully fascist," "a celebration of violence," and "macho porn." Fincher was a bit bewildered by the outcries, telling Entertainment Weekly that "I've always thought people would think the film was funny. It’s supposed to be satire. A dark comedy."
Fincher's next film, Panic Room, was released in 2002. The thriller starred Jodie Foster as a mother trying to protect her daughter, played by Kristen Stewart, and herself from a pair of burglars who break into their New York City home. Known to be a stickler for precision, Fincher found the 100-day shoot for the film quite challenging. He and the entire cast and crew worked in only one location for the entire project.
Turning to a true-life story, Fincher next directed Zodiac (2007), named for the infamous California serial killer. The film focused on the people who pursued the killer and how this search changed their lives. Growing up in the area where the murders took place, Fincher described the Zodiac killer as "the ultimate bogeyman." The film was filled with strong performances by Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo and Jake Gyllenhaal. It received mostly positive reviews.
Fincher next tackled a more fanciful project—one that many considered too difficult to bring to the big screen. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) is based on a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald about a man who ages in reverse, starting out as a 70-year-old baby. A master of technique and film technology, Fincher was able to make the character's life journey believable on screen. The film, starring Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button and Cate Blanchett as his love interest, is often described as a love story. However, Fincher described it as "a movie about death."
Whether a romance or a tragedy, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has captured the imagination of critics and movie goers alike. The film also brought Fincher his first Academy Award nomination for Best Director. In total, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button garnered 13 award nominations, including best picture and best actor honors, winning three for art direction, makeup and visual effects.
Fincher received another directing nomination from the Academy for 2010's The Social Network, following up in 2011 with the U.S. film adaptation of the blockbuster novel The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. 2014 saw the release of another major book adaptation from Fincher—the drama Gone Girl, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. The film has earned more than $330 million dollars internationally and Fincher has been nominated for a Best Director Golden Globe.
In his films, Fincher uses his strong visual sensibility to depict unusual and often edgy subject matter. His intended effect, as he has described it, is to make audiences "feel uncomfortable." In his opinion, "Entertainment has to come hand in hand with a little bit of medicine. Some people go to the movies to be reminded that everything's okay. I don't make those kinds of movies."
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