Archive Fighter

J.M. Tyree
March 26, 2012
Film Quarterly, Spring 2012, Vol. 65, No. 3

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, David Fincher’s latest antiblockbuster, is a baroque rethink of the serial-killer subgenre; a subtly retuned adaptation of the first novel in Stieg Larsson’s penny-dreadful Millennium trilogy; a technical achievement of narrative compression and pacing in a mainstream thriller; and the most recent proof of the director’s trademark habit of unleashing bad vibes in the multiplex. It’s a sick kind of holiday movie. The story is bookended by two Christmases—a year its two protagonists pass among murderers, sexual predators, and a wealthy family with a history of sadistic brutality (and Nazi sympathies), all stirred up by a cold case involving the disappearance of a sixteen-year-old girl from a private island. With good reason, Fincher called The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo “the feel-bad movie of the season.” The director renders its source material in the coolly droll yet fundamentally shocking and disturbing style of his previous films about psychos, Seven (1995), Fight Club (1999), and Zodiac (2007). In the manner of Tod Browning’s subversive 1931 take on Dracula, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo frightens the viewer while injecting grimly fiendish jokes into an earnest literary artifact with an intractably complicated storyline.

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Behind the Lens: Eric Roth on Life as a Top Screenwriter

Working With Everyone From Scorsese To Spielberg To Fincher, And How He Became A Producer On ‘Mank’

Pete Hammond
April 16, 2021
Deadline

If you are in the mood for a master class in what it takes to be a successful screenwriter in Hollywood, look no further than this week’s episode of my Deadline video series Behind the Lens, where I go deep into the making of Mank with one of its producers, Eric Roth. This happens to be Roth’s first feature film producing credit, and he still laughs at the thought of it because in his heart he isn’t really a member of that tribe. The man is a writer through and through; while Mank has brought him his sixth Oscar nomination, it’s his first in the Best Picture category.

Roth is one of the most prolific writers in movies, having previously been Oscar nominated for scripts on Munich, The Insider, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, A Star Is Born and Forrest Gump, for which he actually won the Academy Award. He talks about all of them, what it takes to make a successful movie, the many directors he has worked with, as well as actors, and so much more. Scorsese, Spielberg, Fincher, Mann, Zemeckis — the list is just so very long.

We actually start our interview talking about one big name he worked with that made him very proud, and that was Akira Kurosawa. Not bad. He also has high praise for his Mank director David Fincher, and tells how the director brought him into the project as a producer, but to also carefully parse the screenplay without rewriting it. In other words, he and Fincher went over it line by line and Roth was probably the best kind of sounding board you could ever hope for. Fincher’s late father Jack Fincher died in 2003 but gets sole credit. In that regard we also talk about how a film about a film about a screenwriter could gather a leading 10 nominations yet not get one for its writing (!) It baffles him, but that is what happened. Mank details the creation of the certified 1941 classic Citizen Kane as well as how writer Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles managed to jointly create an all-timer, sharing the film’s only Oscar for Best Screenplay.

Roth’s other credits include scripts for The Good Shepherd, Ali, The Postman, The Horse Whisperer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the upcoming Killers of the Flower Moon for Martin Scorsese, whom he praises mightily, and Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, among others. When I produce a preview card for one of his earliest credits, The Nickel Ride, which I saw at a sneak in 1974, he went right down memory lane and tells the story of his first job on a big film, rewriting The Drowning Pool for Paul Newman who greeted him on the set by saying, “Here comes our savior.” Indeed.

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Producer Eric Roth on ‘Mank’, David Fincher, and the Relationship Between Writers and Directors

The Oscar-winning screenwriter discusses his work on David Fincher’s Netflix movie and shares some candid thoughts about a writer’s role in the craft of filmmaking.

Adam Chitwood
April 15, 2021
Collider

Eric Roth knows a thing or two about screenwriters. And more specifically, the relationship between a screenwriter and a director. He’s been a working writer in Hollywood for decades, and has collaborated with directors as varied and accomplished as Steven SpielbergRobert ZemeckisMichael MannMartin Scorsese, and Bradley Cooper. He’s been nominated for six Oscars, and has won once (for Forrest Gump). He’s had massive hits and disappointing bombs. Plenty of ups and downs. And at 76 years of age, you can hear in his voice that he still has the enthusiasm and love for the craft of moviemaking of an up-and-coming screenwriter bowled over by the magic of Hollywood.

Which is why, when David Fincher got the chance to make the film Mank at Netflix, one of his first calls was to Roth, with whom he had worked on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and House of Cards. The story of Mank traverses well-worn territory – it chronicles the writing of the original screenplay for Citizen Kane by alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (played wonderfully by Gary Oldman). The film doesn’t delve into the credits debate that ensued after Mank finished the screenplay, but instead it’s a story about a talented writer who’s been slumming it in Hollywood as a script doctor and finally decides he’s going to shoot his shot with a controversial, thinly veiled story inspired by his real-life acquaintance William Randolph Hearst (played in the film by Charles Dance).

What made Mank extra tricky to pull off was the fact that the script was written by Fincher’s father Jack Fincher, who died in 2003. David and Jack had worked together to develop the screenplay throughout the 90s, but failed to find a studio willing to finance the film – at least the way Fincher wanted to make it (in black-and-white with a 1930s Old Hollywood feel). When Roth got the call from Fincher, he was asked not to rewrite the screenplay as is normally his task, but to instead come onboard the film as a producer and work with Fincher to make surgical changes here and there to get the script in tip-top shape as they headed into production.

It’s a somewhat extraordinary situation, as Roth was tasked with honoring what Jack Fincher had put together while also making small alterations here and there. And, of course, consulting with David to bring his decades of experience as a working screenwriter to the table, which would then inform what the movie has to say about Hollywood and the writer-director relationship.

So I jumped at the chance to speak with Roth about his involvement in Mank recently for an exclusive interview. While the discussion was pegged to Mank, it really went many different places as Roth elegantly and intelligently dove into the complicated relationship between a writer and a director, and why he believes a script can only take you so far and it’s up to the director to decide the direction it will take as it becomes a film. He talked about his relationship with Fincher, his specific role in bringing Mank to the screen, and why he feels it’s a true work of art.

We also talked about the craft of screenwriting in general and why Roth doesn’t feel like it’s an artform in and of itself, and he spoke enthusiastically about collaborating with Scorsese on Killers of the Flower Moon and Denis Villeneuve on Dune. It’s a wide-ranging conversation with a true Hollywood legend, and you’ll very quickly see that his passion for movies and moviemaking is infectious.

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‘Mank’ writer-producer Eric Roth on working with Fincher, ’Dune’, Scorsese’s next project

Oscar-winning screenwriter Eric Roth served twin roles on Mank — punching up Jack Fincher’s screenplay and as producer. Mark Salisbury talks to him about his 50-year career, including upcoming films for Denis Villeneuve and Martin Scorsese

Mark Salisbury (Twitter)
April 14, 2021
Screen Daily

Back in the early 1990s, when David Fincher was still best known for his Madonna videos and had yet to direct a feature, he challenged his father Jack, who had recently retired as a Life magazine journalist, to write a screenplay. He even suggested a subject matter: Herman J Mankiewicz, who penned Citizen Kane for Orson Welles, but whose authorship had been controversially overlooked, not least by Welles, until an extended essay in 1971 by the late New Yorker critic Pauline Kael reclaimed it.

Fincher tried in vain to set Mank up for the best part of a decade, but his desire to shoot in black and white proved a sticking point with financiers. Until, that was, Netflix, for whom Fincher had produced House Of Cards and Mindhunters, asked what he wanted to do next. Did he, they wondered, have a passion project he had always wanted to direct? Fincher took down his father’s script from the shelf, and Netflix agreed.

Jack died in 2003 so Fincher called on Eric Roth, with whom he had collaborated on The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and House Of Cards, to help him finesse the script. “David and I are very close,” says Roth, “and I’ve lent my eye, a point of view, on a few of his other movies. He has a group of us, including Bob Towne, Steven Soderbergh and Spike Jonze, that looks at all of his movies at some point in a cut and you’re allowed to tell him whatever you feel about it. So I’ve been involved in a number of those. He came to me a couple of years ago and asked if I would like to get involved with this.”

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The Nick Taylor Horror Show: The Empty Man, Writer/Director David Prior

Nick Taylor (Twitter)
April 1, 2021
The Nick Taylor Horror Show

David Prior is an American writer and director who made his feature directorial debut with The Empty Man, an epic in the world of horror, one of the most criminally overlooked horror movies of 2020, and one of the most ambitious horror movies of recent years . It has the scope and execution of a Chris Nolan movie while mixing elements of cults, quantum horror, and creepypastas into an extremely unique mythology that is all its own.

The story behind the making of The Empty Man is very harrowing. In the middle of shooting in South Africa, it was temporarily shut down due to weather conditions, during which a key studio executive who greenlit the film left the studio, essentially leaving the movie abandoned. If that wasn’t enough, once the movie finally got finished, David had to endure a series of calamities, including negative test screenings and studio interference which kept the movie in limbo for years. If that wasn’t enough, once the movie was finally released, it was in theatres during the height of the pandemic only to get largely negative Rotten Tomato reviews (which were very unjust) and thus be completely buried.

However, as of the past few weeks, The Empty Man has been seeing a major resurgence as a number of outspoken critics have been singing the praises of the movie and thus causing it to get the attention it deserves. The story behind The Empty Man brings to light the many issues that can befall a movie but also shows the power of the internet to champion a movie when it belongs in the spotlight. I’m personally thrilled that The Empty Man is getting the viewership that it has been; it’s a must-see, and I’m convinced it will be considered a horror epic for years to come.

In this conversation with David, we got into the whole story behind The Empty Man, his directorial processes, and what he learned observing directors like David Fincher, Tim Burton, and Peter Weir when he visited them on set while producing special features for multiple DVD titles. All of this and so much more on today’s episode of The Nick Taylor Horror Show.

Read the full article and listen to the podcast:

The Nick Taylor Horror Show
Apple Podcasts
Spotify
YouTube
Stitcher
Audible (Amazon)

Watch The Empty Man

‘Mank’ producer Eric Roth on his 1st time as a Best Picture nominee and his BIG upcoming 2021 films

Eric Roth with co-producer Douglas Urbanski and cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt on the set of Mank (Gisele Schmidt-Oldman / Netflix)

Riley Chow
April 6, 2021
Gold Derby

“It’s going to be a short entrance and probably exit, not that I didn’t enjoy it,” laughs Eric Roth in his exclusive interview with Gold Derby about his foray into film producing with “Mank” for Netflix. Roth is such an industry veteran that he won the Writers Guild of America’s lifetime achievement award back in 2012. With screenplay credits going back five decades, including his Oscar-winning screenplay for 1994’s “Forrest Gump” and 2018’s “A Star is Born” earning him his fifth Best Adapted Screenplay nomination, “Mank” represents 76-year-old Roth’s debut as a film producer. He now has his first Oscar in the Best Picture category for his first time in contention.

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The New Yorker Radio Hour: David Fincher on ‘Mank’ and How the Movies Learned to Talk

David Remnick
April 2, 2021
The New Yorker / WNYC Studios

The director talks about his latest feature—written by his late father, Jack Fincher—and the eternal struggle between screenwriters and directors.

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The ‘Mank’ scene that best encapsulates its 10 Oscar nominations

Christopher Rosen
March 30, 2021
Gold Derby

No movie received more Oscar nominations in 2021 than David Fincher’s “Mank,” a Hollywood throwback about Herman Mankiewicz (Best Actor nominee Gary Oldman), Marion Davies (Best Supporting Actress nominee Amanda Seyfried), and the writing process behind Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane.” With 10 total nominations — including Best Picture, Best Director for Fincher, Best Actor for Oldman, Best Supporting Actress for Seyfried, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Hair & Makeup, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, and Best Score — the lavish black-and-white Netflix film is just the 96th feature in Academy Awards history to receive double-digit citations and the second-most lauded Fincher effort behind only “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

With a project comprised of so many academy-endorsed contributions, it might be difficult to imagine one single scene representing the sum of the whole. But nestled within the complex structure of Jack Fincher’s time-hopping screenplay is a sequence that combines all 10 of the “Mank” nominations and shows how each department and performance elevated the next: Mank and Marion’s stroll through San Simeon.

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Secret Handshake Podcast: Bonus Features. Writer/Director David Prior (The Empty Man)

Jacob Knight and Marten Carlson
March 4, 2021
Secret Handshake

For this very special edition of Bonus Features, Jacob and Marten talk to David Prior, the writer/director behind last year’s criminally underseen horror picture The Empty Man. Over the course of our lengthy chat, David dives into his career as a special features pioneer during the the early days of DVD, and just what happened to his future cult classic at Disney/Fox.

Listen to the podcast

Watch The Empty Man

Interview on Mount Olympus

Eric Roth with co-producer Douglas Urbanski and cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt on the set of Mank (Gisele Schmidt-Oldman / Netflix)

Producer and Black List founder Franklin Leonard asks Eric Roth about his career as a celebrated screenwriter and his experience producing David Fincher’s Mank.

Franklin Leonard
March 26, 2021
Netflix Queue

Gary Larson has a Far Side cartoon that will stick with me for the rest of my days. In the single panel, aptly captioned “God at His computer,” a white-maned Creator sits at his desktop. On the screen, we see a piano hanging above a dopey-looking man. God’s right index finger hovers over a key labeled “SMITE,” and we can all assume what happens from there.

That cartoon dropped into my psyche at roughly the same moment I internalized the notion that every movie I’d ever seen was — first — the product of a writer doing much the same thing. I regard writers like gods. That’s part of the reason why I founded the Black List and started our annual survey of the best unproduced screenplays. Writers sit, often alone, and will entire worlds into existence.

What a joy, then, to take a virtual seat on Mount Olympus with Eric Roth, one of the greatest screenwriters of our time, to discuss his role as a producer on Mank. Directed by David Fincher and written by Fincher’s late father, Jack, Mank tells the story of how Herman Mankiewicz came to write the first draft of what would evolve into Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane. It was many years before Fincher found the opportunity to make the film, but when the moment came, he turned to his trusted collaborator Roth to produce.

“David said to me, ‘I’m not asking you to rewrite anything. Let’s leave it as it is for Jack, and let’s make the best of it,’” Roth recalls. “He said, ‘I want you for two reasons: You know what it feels like to be a screenwriter, and you know the inside-Hollywood thing.’”It’s an astute assessment, if highly abridged. Having won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Forrest Gump in 1995, Roth became the go-to writer for A-list directors like Robert Redford, Michael Mann, and Steven Spielberg, and he authored scripts including The Horse Whisperer, The Insider, Ali, Munich, and 2018’s A Star Is Born.

He first partnered with Fincher as the screenwriter on 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, for which they both earned Academy Award nominations. That project also marked the start of a lasting friendship that is evident in their latest collaboration. With Mank, the pair worked together to deliver the soul of Jack Fincher’s script to the screen.

I spoke with Eric Roth about that experience and the craft we both revere.

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