“Gone Girl’s” David Fincher has an unerring eye when it comes to casting

gone-girl-600x450The internet helped Ben Affleck land the role of Nick Dunne (Affleck), the prime suspect in his wife Amy’s (Rosamund Pike) disappearance, in this weekend’s mystery thriller Gone Girl.

Director David Fincher told Playboy he’s very concerned about what facial expressions actors can bring to his movies so when casting Gone Girl he imagined a scene where Nick Dunne smiles while standing next to a poster of his missing wife.

“I flipped through Google Images and found about 50 shots of Affleck giving that kind of smile in public situations,” Fincher told writer Stephen Rebello. “You look at them and know he’s trying to make people comfortable in the moment, but by doing that he’s making himself vulnerable to people having other perceptions about him.”

There is already Oscar buzz surrounding Gone Girl’s actors. Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly called Affleck’s work “the most natural performance of his career,” while Digital Spy’s Simon Reynolds said Pike’s performance, “should bag her an Oscar nomination come awards season.”

Fincher’s careful casting has bagged Oscar nods for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’s Brad Pitt and Taraji P. Henson, Rooney Mara of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Jesse Eisenberg of The Social Network.

The director has an unerring eye when it comes to casting, but it’s not always a smooth process. When he signed on to direct The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo he had actress Rooney Mara in mind to play hacker Lisbeth Salander. She won the role, but not before auditioning five times and beating out better known hopefuls like Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Lawrence. “We didn’t make it easy for Rooney, and there was no way to dissuade her.”

Recently Fincher walked away from a big budget remake of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea when the studio rejected his casting choice Brad Pitt or Channing Tatum in favor of Chris Hemsworth.

One of the director’s best-known films, Se7en, starred Kevin Spacey as serial killer John Doe who offed his victims in the order of the Seven Deadly Sins. He’s fantastic but he wasn’t Fincher’s first choice. The director wanted Ned Beatty, a shorter, rounder character actor who starred in Deliverance and Nashville. “He should look like a postman,” said Fincher. Beatty turned down the role—“This is the most evil thing I’ve ever read,” he said.—opening the door for Spacey. Trouble was, Spacey wanted too much money. It wasn’t until star Brad Pitt intervened and called the studio to ask that Spacey be hired. The moral of the story? “It pays to be blond,” says Fincher.


the-social-network-1As you might imagine the story of a socially inept computer nerd who created the world’s most popular social networking website isn’t chock-a-block with action. Occasionally cursors fly across computer screens and fingers tap out code on keyboards, but that is about the limit of the action. But that’s OK when the dialogue is as entertaining and well delivered as it is in “The Social Network.”

Adapted from Ben Mezrich’s 2009 book “The Accidental Billionaires,” the movie is the story of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) the genius computer programmer behind facebook. Bookended by the legal case (or more rightly put, cases) filed against Zuckerberg by an unsocial network of jilted business partners, including co-founder Eduardo Saverin (future Spider-Man portrayer Andrew Garfield) and a pair of well connected twins who claim the original idea was theirs, “The Social Network” charts the rise and, well rise of facebook from its humble beginnings in a dorm room at Harvard to its current evaluation of $25 billion.

The opening scene of the movie sets the tone for the rest of the film. Zuckerberg and his soon-to-be-ex girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) engage in a long, awkward conversation that reveals his disconnect from regular society. He’s the smartest guy in the room, but has a chip on his shoulder and an attitude. Their exchange, beautifully written by former “West Wing” screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, displays the kind of verbal fireworks that propels the movie.

Sorkin and director David Fincher have done a great job of taking a complicated story with loads of computer jargon and making it accessible. They treat the audience and the story respectfully by not dumbing down the details but unlike Oliver Stone’s recent attempt to explain the financial meltdown in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” the drama of the story is allowed to take center stage, not the mechanics of the lawsuits or the computerese.

At the center of it All is Jesse Eisenberg, a young actor who, in the past, was often written off as the poor man’s Michael Cera. No more. This is a daring performance that shows Zuckerberg’s detachment while not turning him into a nerdy stereotype.

Also nicely cast are Andrew Garfield as Savein and Rooney Mara, who will soon be seen in the lead of the American remake of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” but the biggest surprise may be Justin Timberlake. His film career has been a bit spotty to date, but playing Napster co-creator Sean Parker with equal parts charisma and smarm suggests that when properly cast he can shine.

Mark Zuckerberg is a polarizing figure but love him or hate him, his story has made one the best films of the year.