The Curious Development History of ‘Benjamin Button’

Adam Chitwood
January 3, 2019
Collider

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is, at first glance, a unique entry in director David Fincher’s filmography. It’s an epic romance of sorts; a sweeping love story told through the ages, one which would appear to be at odds with what many view as a cold and cynical worldview that permeates Fincher’s other films like Se7en, Fight Club, or Zodiac. But upon further inspection, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button fits right in with the rest of Fincher’s darker films, as it’s really the story of a man whose entire life is surrounded by the reminder of death.

Benjamin Button hit theaters on December 25, 2008—almost exactly a decade ago—and was the biggest hit of Fincher’s career until Gone Girl, grossing over $330 million worldwide. It received mostly positive reviews and was nominated for 13 Oscars, winning three for Art Direction, Makeup, and Visual Effects. It almost certainly paved the way for Fincher to next make The Social Network, another successful Oscar-winning film, but actually creating The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was arduous, and the road to getting the film off the ground in the first place was a decades-long journey.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button itself is based on a short story in an F. Scott Fitzgerald book published in 1922, and the central premise caught Hollywood’s attention in the late 1980s: the story of a man born old who ages backwards and dies young.

The first director attached to the project was Frank Oz, with Martin Short attached to star. But after working on the script for a few months for Universal Pictures, Oz left the project. He couldn’t quite crack how to turn this short story into a compelling drama, as the central premise lacked significant conflict.

So Universal’s president of production at the time, Casey Silver, next turned to screenwriter Robin Swicord, asking her to attempt an adaptation. She turned in a first draft in January 1990 and her contribution was so substantial that on the finished iteration of the film directed by Fincher, Swicord received a “Story by” co-credit.

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Frank W Ockenfels 3: David Bowie, Light, & Portrait Photography

The Hollywood Reporter (YouTube)
June 22, 2018

A craftsman with a camera and an artist with a vision. Frank W Ockenfels 3 takes us through his detailed story of his close relationship with the late David Bowie. A master of light and one of the industry’s most prolific photographers, this is ‘Magic Hour.’

Thanks to John Sant

Click for a full screen view:

Frank Ockenfels 3

Original Benjamin Button Model by Kazuhiro Tsuji

Click for a full screen view:

2018-01. Make-Up Artist Magazine - Kazuhiro TsujiSculptor and Special Make-Up Effects Artist
Kazuhiro Tsuji (Make-Up Artist Magazine, 2018)

kazustudios.com

Exclusive: DP Claudio Miranda on ‘Only the Brave’, Shooting Fire, and David Fincher Stories

By Adam Chitwood
October 12, 2017
Collider

Claudio Miranda has had an interesting career thus far. After working as a gaffer on films like Se7en and Fight Club, filmmaker David Fincher (with whom he’d worked on a few commercials and music videos as a cinematographer) asked him to serve as the cinematographer for the wildly ambitious 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. That VFX-intensive effort scored Miranda an Oscar nomination and led to him then shooting visually breathtaking movies like Tron: Legacy and Oblivion, and of course Life of Pi, for which he won the Best Cinematography Oscar.

Miranda’s latest film reteams him with director Joseph Kosinski for the third time and also marks something of a departure—the true story drama Only the Brave. The film revolves around one unit of local firefighters who battled the Yarnell Hill wildfire in 2013 to tragic results. Josh Brolin leads a cast that includes Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch, and Jennifer Connelly.

With Only the Brave hitting theaters on October 20th, I recently got the chance to have an extended conversation with Miranda about his work on the film. He talked about his working relationship with Kosinski, the challenges of capturing real fire onscreen, shooting on location, and his approach to shooting realistic visual effects.

But I’m also a big fan of Miranda’s work in general, so the conversation veered off into his early days working as a gaffer for Fincher, and we discussed his “trial by fire” experience shooting Benjamin Button as well as what it’s like to work with Fincher and how his gaffer work with other cinematographers like Harris Savides and Dariusz Wolski has shaped his approach. Finally, with Kosinski next set to direct the Top Gun sequel Top Gun: Maverick, I asked Miranda what the prep has been like on that movie so far.

It’s a wide-ranging and refreshingly candid conversation that hopefully admirers of Miranda’s work, or just those curious about cinematography in general, will find illuminating. I certainly had a great time chatting with the talented DP.

Read the full interview

VES 70: The Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time

10 years after releasing the “VES 50: The Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time“, a list voted by its members, the Visual Effects Society (VES) has celebrated its 20th anniversary with an expanded list (of 72 films in total, due to ties), which now includes The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008):

300 (2007), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), A Trip to the Moon (1902), The Abyss (1989), Alien (1979), Aliens (1986), An American Werewolf in London (1981), Apollo 13 (1995), Avatar (2009), Babe (1995), Back to the Future (1985), Blade Runner (1982), Citizen Kane (1941), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1958), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), District 9 (2009), E.T. the Extraterrestrial (1982), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Ex Machina (2015), Fantastic Voyage (1966), The Fifth Element (1997), Forbidden Planet (1956), Forrest Gump (1994), Gertie the Dinosaur (1914), Ghostbusters (1984), Godzilla (1954), Gravity (2013), Inception (2010), Independence Day (1996), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), Jaws (1975), Jurassic Park (1993), King Kong (1933), King Kong (2005), Life of Pi (2012), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), The Lost World (1925), Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Mary Poppins (1964), The Mask (1994), The Matrix (1999), Metropolis (1927), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006), Planet of the Apes (1968), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Return of the Jedi (1983), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Sin City (2005), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Star Wars (1977), Starship Troopers (1997), Superman: The Movie (1978), The Ten Commandments (1956), The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), The Thing (1982), Titanic (1997), Total Recall (1990), Toy Story (1995), Tron (1982), Transformers (2007), Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), The War of the Worlds (1953), The Wizard of Oz (1939), What Dreams May Come (1998), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).

VES Board Chair Mike Chambers said:

“The VES 70 represents films that have had a significant, lasting impact on the practice and appreciation of visual effects as an integral element of cinematic expression and storytelling.”

“We see this as an important opportunity for our members, leading visual effects practitioners worldwide, to pay homage to our heritage and help shape the future of the global visual effects community. In keeping with our mission to recognize and advance outstanding art and innovation in the VFX field, the VES 70 now forms a part of our legacy that we can pass down to future generations of filmmakers as a valuable point of reference.”

Visual Effects Society (vimeo)
September 11, 2017
vimeo

Why CG Sucks (Except It Doesn’t)

RocketJump Film School
Published on Aug 4, 2015
YouTube

Are computer generated visual effects really ruining movies?

We believe that the reason we think all CG looks bad is because we only see “bad” CG. Fantastic, beautiful, and wonderfully executed CG is everywhere – you just don’t know it. Truly great visual effects serve story and character – and in doing so are, by their very definition, invisible.

Written and Narrated by Freddie Wong
Edited by Joey Scoma
Assistant Editor – Joshan Smith