David Fincher is one filmmaker who can never be accused of pulling his punches, both in terms of the content of his movies and his methods of moviemaking. While making 2007’s Zodiac, Fincher famously had a lot of issues with one of his leading men, Jake Gyllenhaal. In a new interview with The New York Times, Fincher argued that the problem was caused by Gyllenhaal’s attitude.
“Jake was in the unenviable position of being very young and having a lot of people vie for his attention while working for someone who does not allow you to take a day off. I believe you have to have everything out of your peripheral vision. I think Jake’s philosophy was informed by – look, he’d made a bunch of movies, even as a child, but I don’t think he’d ever been asked to concentrate on minutiae, and I think he was very distracted.”
At the time of Zodiac’s making, Jake Gyllenhaal was an up-and-coming actor who was projected to be the next big thing thanks to the buzz surrounding his performance in Donnie Darko and Jarhead. It seems Fincher believes that buzz affected the way the actor approached his work on Zodiac.
“His managers and his silly agents who were all coming to his trailer at lunch to talk to him about the cover of GQ and this and that. He was being nibbled to death by ducks, and not particularly smart ducks. They got in his vision, and it was hard for him to hit the fastball.”
For his part, Gyllenhaal’s account of the problems he faced on the sets of Zodiac place the blame on Fincher’s method of working. According to the actor, the fact that David Fincher insisted on retaking each shot again and again and again was both exhausting and ultimately pointless.
“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?”
Gyllenhaal’s co-stars from Zodiac, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo, were more tactful in their appraisal of Fincher’s methods, but they also admitted the unending retakes were tough to handle. For his part, Fincher stands by his method of working as the only way to ensure the story is being told in the best possible manner.
“There are definitely times when I can be confrontational if I see someone slacking… People go through rough patches all the time. I do. So I try to be compassionate about it. But. It’s: Four. Hundred. Thousand. Dollars. A day. And we might not get a chance to come back and do it again. I tell actors all the time: I’m not going to cut around your hangover, I’m not going to cut around your dog dying, I’m not going to cut around the fact that you just fired your agent or your agent just fired you. Once you get here, the only thing I care about is, did we tell the story?”
This news first appeared over at the New York Times.