Behind the Scenes of David Fincher’s Fight Club

Adam Nayman on the Production and Cultural Impact of the Still-Controversial Film

Adam Nayman
November 24, 2021
Literary Hub

The following is an excerpt from the new book David Fincher: Mind Games, by Adam Nayman.

Fight Club was adapted by screenwriter Jim Uhls from Chuck Palahniuk’s cult 1996 novel of the same name, which traced its gestation to a Portland-based author’s workshop specializing in “dangerous writing.” The enclave’s transgressive, minimalist mandate would be allegorized in Fight Club’s eponymous bare-knuckle boxing group, whose members become the acolytes of Tyler Durden Project Mayhem, in effect going from pummeling one another to “punching up” against the forces of late capitalism.

In his foreword to a 2004 reprint of the novel, Palahniuk reflects on the book’s themes of catharsis and self pity and ties them to a literary moment “[full of] novels that presented a social model for women to be together.” He cites bestsellers like Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club and Whitney Otto’s How to Make an American Quilt and notes the lack of corresponding masculinist examples; with the calculated humility of a writer who no longer worries about his advance, he proposes that his breakthrough novel’s popularity was a simple matter of supply and demand.

The question of whether Fight Club, in either literary or cinematic form, fills that void deepens it, or disappears down it—or if, like Tyler Durden, such a void ever really existed in the first place—was open at the time and remains so. Twenty-five years after its publication, Fight Club looks like a signal work anticipating, dramatizing, and perhaps exemplifying a condition recently identified as “toxic masculinity,” loosely defined by New York Times essayist Maya Salam as “a series of cultural lessons . . . linked to aggression and violence.”

Read the full excerpt

Buy the book David Fincher: Mind Games. By Adam Nayman

The Film Comment Podcast: The Mind Games of David Fincher

David Fincher by Michael Avedon

Devika Girish and Clinton Krute
November 23, 2021
Film Comment

This week’s conversation focuses in on David Fincher—a director whose decade-spanning body of gritty Americana—from the grim moral drama of Se7en to the revisionist Hollywood tale of the recent Mank—has inspired both obsessive fandom and derisive dismissal.

A new book by Adam NaymanDavid Fincher: Mind Games (out November 23 from Abrams Books), offers a canny and timely appraisal of the director’s filmography. Adam writes that, “Over the past thirty years, Fincher has cultivated and maintained a reputation that precedes him of formal rigor and technocratic exactitude, of moviemaking as a game of inches.” Film Comment editors Devika Girish and Clinton Krute invited Adam and critic, filmmaker, and former NYFF director, Kent Jones—who’s written about Fincher many times over the years in FC—for an illuminating deep-dive into the Fincherverse.

Listen to the podcast

Buy the book David Fincher: Mind Games. By Adam Nayman

Adam Nayman on David Fincher’s Complicated Auteurism

David Fincher by Jack Davison

Nick Newman
November 23, 2021
The Film Stage

Few film books in recent memory made waves like Adam Nayman’s Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks, a too-rare melange of authorial talent, topical interest, and opulent presentation. Last year Nayman and I spoke at length about the tome that no doubt you’ve seen in bookstores (big and small alike) since.

Nayman has returned with David Fincher: Mind Games, another Abrams-published doorstop on another double-capital-A American Auteur, lined again with essays that surprise in their capacity to find new perspectives and provocative readings on films for which there seemed no more room. Finally able to talk in person—thus, you’ll (please) read, at greater length—we sat down for a talk on writing thousands of words on someone for whom a consistent critical standing is tougher than meets the eye.

Read the full interview

Buy the book David Fincher: Mind Games. By Adam Nayman

Adam Nayman Talks David Fincher’s Adman Past (And Present)

A conversation with the author about his new book, “David Fincher: Mind Games”

Sydney Urbanek
November 17, 2021
Mononym Mythology

Adam Nyman is a fellow film critic and the author of several books about films and filmmakers, including but not limited to The Coen Brothers: This Book Really Ties the Films Together (2018) and Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks (2020). (Though we’ve never crossed paths in person, he also teaches in the department where I did my Master’s program.) He opens Mind Games with a dedicated discussion of the decade or so before Fincher ever made his narrative feature debut with ALIEN³ (1992), but then continues to come back to his commercial and music video work for the remainder of it, wisely treating his adman past as, well, more of an adman present. A few weeks back, Adam and I chatted for an hour about Fincher’s short-form oeuvre, but also his features because—again—the two aren’t as discrete as a lot of people believe. Our conversation has been edited for clarity, but not really so much for length.

Read the full interview

Buy the book David Fincher: Mind Games. By Adam Nayman

Multiple Men Play the Zodiac Killer in Zodiac. Adam Nayman’s New Book on David Fincher Explains Why

Illustration by Ana Godis

Adam Nayman
November 15, 2021
MovieMaker

There is a fourth major screen presence in Zodiac: the title character, who is played by a number of different actors in various guises before disappearing as a physical presence around the midpoint of the movie, last seen and heard threatening a female hitchhiker who survives her encounter. This set-piece, based on the recollections of one Kathleen Johns (Ione Skye), pays off the ruthlessness of what has come before, even as it emphasizes Fincher’s restraint. Because we’ve seen in bloody detail what the Zodiac is capable of in the prologue and the borderline unwatchable lakeside filleting of a couple in Berryessa, his warning to Kathleen that “before I kill you, I’m going to throw your baby out the window” is hideously credible. But, amazingly, the historical record intervenes as a deus ex machina; Kathleen’s unlikely escape and roadside salvation constitute this pressurized movie’s only moment of true relief.

Zodiac’s multiple-casting trick is there to account for the possibility — floated in Graysmith’s book, as well as several other studies — of multiple killers, either working in tandem or in a copycat scenario. Broadly speaking, the film follows Graysmith’s hypothesis that the most plausible suspect was one Arthur Leigh Allen (referred to in Zodiac the book pseudonymously as “Bob Starr”), a disgraced elementary school teacher with a history of pedophilia who died in 1992 surrounded by a veritable mountain of persuasive circumstantial evidence, including a series of supposedly self-incriminating comments to friends and relatives. Allen was ultimately exculpated by DNA testing and inconclusive fingerprint matches, events which Zodiac presents without trying to either reinforce or rebut them. “I don’t want this [movie] to be about convicting Arthur Leigh Allen,” Fincher said in 2005. “Certainly [Graysmith] came to his conclusion and it was good enough for him . . . When [Allen] died, he felt like it was put away. That’s not what we want to represent.”

Read the full excerpt

Buy the book David Fincher: Mind Games. By Adam Nayman

What’s in the Box?: The Terrifying Truth of ‘Se7en’

David Fincher’s horrifying breakthrough continues to scare us. In an excerpt from a new book about the director’s work, open the box and see what evil lurks in the hearts of man.

Adam Nayman
November 15, 2021
The Ringer

“Wanting people to listen,” says John Doe (Kevin Spacey) to Detectives Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and Mills (Brad Pitt), “you can’t just tap them on the shoulder anymore. You have to hit them with a sledgehammer. And then you’ll notice you’ve got their strict attention.”

The idea of a movie directed with a sledgehammer conjures up a bludgeoning clumsiness, or maybe accidental expressionism. Observing the Jackson Pollock–like splatter of another senseless murder at the beginning of Se7en, William Somerset sighs, “Look at all that passion all over the wall.” From there unfolds a series of precise strokes—its pace as finely calibrated as the metronome in Somserset’s study, its shocks as carefully curated as a museum retrospective. In this gallery analogy, there is a didactic aspect to an artist using excess as a tool of communication, and a real–world precedent for such pummelling innovations as the ones used by John Doe. In 1971, the American artist Chris Burden, whose oeuvre included shutting himself inside a locker for five days and crucifying himself to a Volkswagen Beetle, arranged for a friend to fire a bullet from a small-caliber rifle into his arm as part of a performance piece titled Shoot. “In this instant,” Burden reflected later, “I was a sculpture.”

Ever the vanguard artiste, John Doe adapts Burden’s gambit while interrogating its mixture of self-aggrandizement and self-endangerment—the frisson that occurs when art is remodeled into a life or death venture. Burden made his mark without resorting to full-on martyrdom; as a self-styled fin-de-siècle aesthete jointly projecting his superiority and self-loathing onto the world around him, John Doe goes further. He has to, because he’s on the margins of a marketplace oversaturated with morbid images and ideas. In order to make an impact, he must swing for the fences.

Read the full excerpt

Buy the book David Fincher: Mind Games. By Adam Nayman

Why Does It Always Rain In David Fincher’s Films?

Gray Kotzé (Director of Photography)
November 7, 2021
In Depth Cine

After watching a few David Fincher films I realised that one way he presents a cinematic world which is an exaggerated version of real life is through the weather.

0:00: Introduction
0:50: Seven
4:08: Sponsored Message
5:06: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
7:48: The Social Network
9:00: Conclusion

Music:
Rhythm Scott‘Tribal Splash’
Dear Gravity‘Finish Remember Begin Again’
Doug Kauffman‘The River Brethren’
We Dream Of Eden‘After the Storm’
Ottom‘Quiet Street’

The first 1,000 people to use this link will get a 1 month free trial of Skillshare.

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The Drysdale Exchange: Nev Pierce

Jeremy Drysdale (Scriptastic)
November 5, 2021
The Drysdale Exchange (365 Radio)

Jeremy is a screenwriter and producer who has written films, computer games, novels, events, and primetime television globally for over two decades.

Each Drysdale Exchange will showcase a penetrating one-on-one interview with an entertainment industry specialist, designed to illuminate an area of film, television, writing, or music which is not generally addressed in the mainstream.

David Fincher called Nev Pierce‘s directorial debut, Bricks, a “classy take on a morbid classic”. Mark Romanek labeled his fourth short Promise “superbly done”. His other films (Ghosted, Lock In) are well praised, too, and not just by A-list directing talents. He’s seen his work played at festivals worldwide, including Fantasia, FrightFest, and the London Short Film Festival. He has various features in development as a director and is also a contributing editor for Empire Magazine.

Listen to the podcast:

365 Radio
Amazon Music

Because We Love Making Movies: Screenwriter Eric Roth

Eren Celeboglu
Because We Love Making Movies (InstagramFacebook)

Part 1

May 22, 2021

Today, I sit down with legendary screenwriter Eric Roth.

We talk about his life and his craft and why we should all be more generous of spirit. Truth be told, Eric has been involved in creating so many iconic films that it would have been impossible to try… so I asked him about the films of his that meant the most to me, and he held court and digressed in the loveliest of ways. I hope you have as much fun listening as I did recording this interview. Enjoy! 

Eric’s credits include: The Nickel Ride, The Drowning Pool, The Onion Field, Forrest Gump (for which he won an Oscar), The Postman (for which he won a Razzie), The Horse Whisperer, and then one of my favorite films ever, The Insider, followed by Ali, Munich, The Good Shepherd, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. He’s also worked in Television, and seen not one but two sea changes, first with HBO, and then with Netflix and House of Cards. And much more recently he wrote A Star Is Born, Dune, and the new Western being Directed by Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon. He was also a producer on the Oscar nominated Mank, directed by David Fincher, from a script by Fincher’s father.

Listen to the podcast:

Because We Love Making Movies
Apple Podcasts

Spotify

Part 2

October 18, 2021

Today we welcome back the legendary Eric Roth. An Oscar-Winning Screenwriter & Producer.

We talk about how he writes, and blends craft with pure inspiration. He talks about working with Robert Redford. We re-visit Munich & The Good Shepherd. He talks about being re-written, and his unique creative partnership with Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga on A Star Is Born. And last but not least, we talk about writing the new Dune film which he thinks just might be something very special.

It’s a wonderful conversation with one of the very best working in Hollywood today, whose generous not only with his talent, but his spirit. Dig it!

Recommended Viewing: The Horse Whisperer, Munich, The Good Shepherd, A Star Is Born (2018), and Dune (See it in IMAX on October 22, 2021)

Listen to the podcast:

Apple Podcasts
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David Fincher: Mind Games. By Adam Nayman

DAVID FINCHER: MIND GAMES
By Adam Nayman
Foreword by Bong Joon-ho
Produced by Little White Lies

David Fincher: Mind Games is the definitive critical and visual survey of the Academy Award– and Golden Globe–nominated works of director David Fincher. From feature films Alien 3, Se7en, The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl, and Mank through his MTV clips for Madonna and the Rolling Stones and the Netflix series House of Cards and Mindhunter, each chapter weaves production history with original critical analysis, as well as with behind the scenes photography, still-frames, and original illustrations from Little White Lies’ international team of artists and graphic designers. Mind Games also features interviews with Fincher’s frequent collaborators, including Jeff Cronenweth, Angus Wall, Laray Mayfield, Holt McCallany, Howard Shore and Erik Messerschmidt.

Grouping Fincher’s work around themes of procedure, imprisonment, paranoia, prestige and relationship dynamics, Mind Games is styled as an investigation into a filmmaker obsessed with investigation, and the design will shift to echo case files within a larger psychological profile.

About The Author

Adam Nayman is the author of Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks (Abrams, 2020) and The Coen Brothers: This Book Really Ties the Films Together (Abrams, 2018) and is a contributing editor to Cinema Scope.
             
Little White Lies is one of the world’s pre-eminent film magazines, pairing a unique editorial angle with beautiful illustrations and world-class design.

Formats

Imprint: Abrams Books
Publication Date: November 23, 2021
Rights: World/All

HARDCOVER
ISBN-10: 141975341X
ISBN-13: 9781419753411
Page Count: 304
Illustrations: Full-color photographs and illustrations throughout
Dimensions: 9 x 10.88 inches
Weight: 1.74 pounds
Price: $45.00
PRE-ORDER, PRE-ORDER SIGNED
Also available from: Amazon, IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Powells, !ndigo, Bookshop

EBOOK
ISBN-10: 1647002442
ISBN-13: 9781647002442
Page Count: 304
Price: $31.10
PRE-ORDER