Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris
Director: David Fincher
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Running Time: 148 minutes
Synopsis: From the tour de force thriller that became a bestselling must-read comes David Fincher's screen version of Gone Girl, a wild ride through our modern media culture and down into the deep, dark fault lines of an American marriage – in all its unreliable promises, inescapable deceits and pitch-black comedy.
The couple at the center of the story – former New York writer Nick Dunne and his formerly 'cool girl" wife Amy, now trying to make ends meet in the mid-recession Midwest – have all the sinuous outer contours of contemporary marital bliss. But on the occasion of their 5th wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing -- and those contours crack into a maze of fissures. Nick becomes the prime suspect, shrouded in a fog of suspicious behavior. Amy becomes the vaunted object of a media frenzy as the search for her, dead or alive, plays out before the eyes of a world thirsting for revelations.
Just as Nick and Amy personified the quintessential romantic match, Amy's disappearance has all the markings of an emblematic domestic American crime. But her vanishing becomes a kind of hall of mirrors in which tantalizing and savage secrets lead to tantalizing and savage secrets. The events that unfold are thick with shocks and complications, but the questions that remain are what cut, with razor-sharp precision, to the bone: Who is Nick? Who is Amy? Who are any of us in marriages - and a society - built on a precarious base of projected images and disguises?
Release Date: October 2nd, 2014
'It's a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters.
And if all of us are play-acting, there can be no such thing as a soul mate. .."
― Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
Fully Gone: Adapting The Phenomenon to the Screen
Upon its 2012 publication, Gillian Flynn's novel Gone Girl became that rare entity: a massively popular, nail-biting summer bestseller that was also the talk of the literary world.
The book was lauded not only for relentless suspense, but also for its narrative ingenuity and willingness to plumb the murkiest depths of human behavior, grappling with the jagged lines between marriage and possession, public and private life, the lure of artifice and the glare of truth. Even in the crime fiction genre it stood out for its fusing of two stunningly unreliable, dueling narrators – the two halves of a torn marriage – who manipulate each other, tangling the reader in their webs of deceit.
The novel was a visceral, cinematic experience but filled with pitfalls for a screen adaptation. So strong were the voices in the book it seemed unlikely anyone could ever adapt it as well as its author. Fortunately, Gillian Flynn was up for taking on the daunting task and produced a screenplay that boiled the essence of her deftly plotted but deeply interior novel down into a skin-tight structure.
Then a synergy occurred between Gillian Flynn and David Fincher. The pairing of Flynn's merciless insights with Fincher's atmospheric storytelling made a potent mix with the drippingly dark humor of the story – and its skew on marriage, celebrity and the way we mold and remold our life stories.
'It was as if David Fincher interpreted what Gillian Flynn wrote and then that interpretation was put back through Gillian Flynn again on the page," says Ben Affleck. 'And during that process there was even more wit added, there was more sardonic stuff, and there were so many salient observations. It really fits into David Fincher's work and has that distinctive combination of being at once funny and enlivening."
Though she was already enmeshed in the fabric of the story, Gillian Flynn had her work cut out for her. 'The novel has a rather complicated and intertwining plot"and it's not easy to streamline because the pieces are so linked together"so my biggest concern was respecting the plot while making sure the film didn't become all engine," she explain of the adaptation. 'I wanted to make sure to find room for the nuances, the relationships and the characters"the dark humor and odd moments"because that's where the creepy, toxic heart of the story lives."
She'd always seen David Fincher as a potential accomplice. 'Even as I was writing the novel, there were certain scenes I pictured him filming"I could see them through his lens," Gillian Flynn comments. 'I knew he'd bring a great sense of place and I knew he'd capture the suspense and claustrophobia of the story. Everyone knows David Fincher can do dread. But what I have always loved about his films is his dark bursts of humor. Gone Girl, for all its nastiness, has moments of humor, too, and I knew he'd bring those to the screen. I felt, too, that he wouldn't turn Gone Girl into a rigid whodunnit, but would find room to explore what the story is really about, which is this marriage."
'I loved working with Gillian Flynn," says David Fincher. 'She is so hardworking, so diligent. She's not one of these people that deflects or defends or obfuscates for any reason. She'll slaughter her darlings. I have so much respect not only for her work ethic but also for the way she writes… as a popcorn eating, leaning-forward-in-the-2nd-row audience member. '
David Fincher used the story's nascent humor as a kind of dark marinade to soak into the visuals and performances. 'People laugh in movies when they see something that is true," says David Fincher. 'That's what brings them out of their shells in the dark. If you then get the right people to carry the drama - and you encourage them to find what's human about it all – that's how you breathe life into it."
For now though, David Fincher believes the less said about the film's plot perhaps the better. 'I think this movie is best enjoyed walking in cold," he says. 'People love watching a movie where they don't know where it's going to go next. They go to the movies to be surprised."
Husband Exposed: Ben Affleck on Nick Dunne
Nick Dunne arrives home on his fifth wedding anniversary to find the front door ajar, furniture strewn in the living room and not a single trace of his beautiful, semi-famous wife. Thus begins his instant public transformation from fortunate husband to man flailing in the media spotlight. Tagged as the proverbial suspect No. 1, the former town golden boy erupts in a series of lies, deceits and inappropriateness that does him no favors. His media persona is not pretty: he has disappointments; he has resentments; he has the kinds of secrets that feed imaginations. But is Nick Dunne a killer?
Taking the alternately guarded and exposed role is Ben Affleck. Says David Fincher of casting him: 'Putting a cast together is like putting a basketball team together and Nick was the point guard. He has to feed the narrative. It's a -he said, she said' in the book; but it's -he experiences, she experiences' in the movie. It's more subjective. You're not gifted with all these inner monologues in the movie. So you need an actor who is very deft to play this role. It's 3-D chess, not Chinese checkers."
David Fincher also felt Ben Affleck would have an affinity for a man who is sucked, rightly or wrongly, into the maelstrom of public fury. 'Obviously Ben Affleck had the chops. But there was also something in him… something in the smile. Nick has to stand in front of Amy's poster and be goaded into a reaction. I needed to find somebody who could do that with guile and charm," explains the director. 'I think most actors probably spend a lot of their lives trying to avoid the kinds of horrible public situations Nick is in. But Ben is extremely bright and funny and got the complex humor of how Nick learns to manage his public image as the movie goes on, ultimately becoming a master. He understood the subtleties and could relate to the absurdity of the situation."
Ben Affleck recalls having an early conversation with David Fincher that set the ground rules. 'He said, this can't be a vain performance, you have to fully commit to showing the soft belly of this guy," he remembers. 'You have to be willing to be really embarrassing, not -pretend embarrassing' or -movie embarrassing,' but to actually show those parts of yourself where you think -Why did I say that? Why did I do that?' I knew it was a risk but I wouldn't have done it if I didn't deeply trust the director. I knew he was right about the way to do this, that it was really smart. But later, when I was feeling humiliated as Nick, I had to remember this is what he told me right in the beginning!"
Working with David Fincher's distinctive process was exhilarating for Ben Affleck. 'In most movies you spend 2/3 of the time sitting in your trailer and 1/3 shooting, but the ratio is reversed with David Fincher or even more so, where you spend maybe only 10% of the time not working," he explains. 'The whole structure he creates on set is about the characters, the story and there are no other distractions. I've learned a lot from working with David Fincher. He has a real efficiency and a driving sense of what he wants. He's also steeped in the technology that underpins the film industry – and to have the mind of an engineer and the taste of an artist is a very rare combination."
Collaborating with Rosamund Pike in the role of Amy brought Affleck into an intense pas de deux unlike anything he's done before. 'There's a kind of inscrutable, enigmatic quality to Rosamund Pike that made her really right for this role," Ben Affleck observes. 'A big part of this movie, at least from my point of view, is the constant calibration of where each of the characters stands as they keep shifting and evolving – so that sense of mystery in Amy was very important to the whole enterprise."
The entire cast, each of whom puts Nick under a different microscope – investigating Nick, defending Nick, suspecting Nick - impressed Ben Affleck. He says: 'There are a lot of interesting choices. Tyler Perry has never done this sort of character, Carrie Coon is so unexpected as Go, and Neil Patrick Harris is a brilliant choice because he's so fearless and you have no idea what's really going on inside him. This casting is the sign of a director whose interest is in always surprising the audience."
On Being Gone – Rosamund Pike on Amazing Amy
Amy Dunne is gone. But at the same time that she disappears into thin air, she becomes an omnipresent media sensation, the paragon of all the beautiful, fragile things that are too easily lost in the world. That is how she is now known throughout America. Yet that is not her only identity.
Indeed, Amy never developed a single persona. She grew up in the long shadow of her psychologist parents' popular children's books about her alter-ego: the impossibly perfect 'Amazing Amy." Later, she morphed into the woman she believed her Nick most desired: the perfect 'cool girl," as sexed-up and playfully easy-going as she is on top of things. Then, after moving to Nick's recession-ravaged hometown in Missouri, leveraging her trust fund in the process, Amy took on new facets.
So just who is Amy Dunne? That is the bottomless abyss into which actress Rosamund Pike descended. A London native, Pike came to the fore as a Bond Girl in Die Another Day, and went on to roles in Pride and Prejudice, An Education, Jack Reacher and World's End. But Amy would take Pike into fresh challenges as a character with unending layers that peel away to leave no solid center.
Rosamund Pike recalls being drawn instantly towards the book's inky, x-ray view of the underside of marital bliss. 'I was quite intrigued by this idea of marriage as con game – the idea that we're all selling a version of ourselves," she muses. 'And Amy is such a remarkable creation. It fascinated me that she is always performing, perhaps in part because it points back to the life of an actor. The challenge of being Amy is that nothing that happens with her is quite what it seems on the surface."
That was both the challenge and the allure. She continues: 'In playing Amy, I get to explore so many different aspects of the feminine brain. There are scenes where Amy is playing two different things to two different people in the same room – and the audience has to see both."
Rosamund Pike notes that Amy's contradictions leapt were electrifying to explore. 'She can be easy-going, sexy and relaxed but then there are all these other currents running underneath. It's all very true to our lives right now, isn't it? We all are editing a version of ourselves it often seems. Amy is the kind of girl who is not just Nick's -dream girl.' She would attempt to be the -dream girl' for any man she was with – she will get in their head and be that girl, play that role for all it's worth."
In the beginning, Rosamund Pike believes Amy hoped to construct the perfect relationship. 'Those early glory days were really fun for her," says the actress, 'but they weren't sustainable. 'When things started to go wrong – when Nick's mother got cancer, when Amy's parents started having financial troubles – the marriage changed. I think Amy felt she showed her real self and Nick didn't like it."
Playing Amy took Rosamund Pike through physical and emotional extremes. 'The challenge was peeling back one layer after another of the onion that is this marriage," she comments. But she says along with the challenges came rich rewards, especially working with David Fincher. 'David Fincher is so detailed in the most psychologically observant ways . . . and because he wants to explore everything, he leaves you feeling that no stone was left unturned," she says.
David Fincher has reciprocal respect for Rosamund Pike. 'Amy is a very, very tricky part," he says. 'The audience should have no idea what she's going to do next. I'd seen Rosamund Pike's work and I was struck by the fact that I couldn't get a read on her. There was something about the way she catches the light in a different way… you don't really have a grasp of who she is. The most important aspect of Amy for me was that I needed the feeling of an only child. I needed an orchid. I needed a hothouse flower. Rosamund Pike had that thing and she's also impeccably craft oriented, luminously beautiful and incredibly watchable. I know there were people saying, this is a risk. But when I sat with her I saw that this was somebody who was going to give you everything."
The Rich Ex: Neil Patrick Harris On Desi
Among the possible suspects in Amy's disappearance are former boyfriends, including Desi Collings, Amy's long-suffering ex from prep school who, though breathtakingly wealthy, has continued to write her lovelorn letters. Taking the role is stage, screen and television star Neil Patrick Harris.
Like so many, Neil Patrick Harris was stunned by the novel. 'It was one of my favorite books of all time," he says. 'I loved that Gillian Flynn was able to write so perceptively from the point of view of both sexes. It was also among the most unsettling books I've read. I felt it really broke down the myths of what relationships are and this whole fairy tale ideal that partners can always share everything."
Desi, Neil Patrick Harris notes, has his own fairytale ideas of who Amy is and how they might end up together. 'He's somewhat delusional," observes Neil Patrick Harris. 'But your first lover never really leaves you and Amy was certainly that for Desi. So he's blinded by this undying idea that they're meant to be."
Neil Patrick Harris notes that Desi is not alone in his reaction to Amy, though he has his own reasons. 'Amy seems to have a strong power over everyone in her life but especially men who desire her," he says. 'She kind of sucks you into her vacuum. I think Desi is a little socially off, so he likes the idea of that. He's rich but he's the recipient of family money that was never earned so he doesn't have a strong sense of himself. I see him as weirdly fragile in his own right. There's something heightened about him, but I felt I really needed to understand why he behaves the way he does."
His probing into the character paid off on the set where he found himself reacting instinctively to Rosamund Pike's portrait of the many-sided Amy. 'There are so many different angles to Amy - and she excelled at every single one of them. She's so gorgeous, yet so sharp, and yet there's also something about her that feels like she's guarding something within," he observes. 'It was all so perfect for Amy. We had some scenes together that were in…let us say very close quarters, and throughout it all she was very professional, always seeking out truths and not just playing for results."
Working with David Fincher for the first time was also a revelation. 'I've been a big fan of what he has created on screen but watching him create in person made me even more so," he says. 'He has such deep passion for the entirety of the filmmaking process - from light refractions and dolly moves to pacing and the written word. He is a true director in the most dynamic sense."
Neil Patrick Harris especially enjoyed David Fincher's way of peering into the infinitesimal details of performance. 'It felt like we were all in a kind of meditation together," he says, 'and you knew by the time David Fincher was happy, a scene had been distilled to its essence. I think he's a visual poet, nay, a sculptor. He takes a moment and chips away until he gets at something true."
The Defender: Tyler Perry on Tanner Bolt
As Nick comes under suspicion, he hires the most renowned expert in his type of situation – the so-called 'patron saint of wife-killers": defense lawyer Tanner Bolt. Taking a surprise turn as Tanner Bolt is actor, filmmaker and media mogul Tyler Perry in his first major dramatic feature role.
Tyler Perry was instantly drawn to the challenge of doing something completely unexpected. 'Having the opportunity to do something new and different always is interesting to me," he says. 'And once I realised the weight of this project it was something I absolutely wanted to be involved with. I live in this fricking bubble – and I had heard of David Fincher, but I did not put immediately put together that a lot of my favorite movies were directed by this same guy – and that speaks to the brilliance of someone who brings to each project its own style and its own life. I'm so glad I didn't put it all together before I said yes, because I would have been far more intimidated."
Once he accepted the part, Tyler Perry says it was easy to immerse himself in Bolt and his fascination with the machinations of the media in today's world of celebrity court cases. 'Gillian Flynn made it so clear who he was – he's they guy you want on your side if you are guilty and he's also the guy you want on your side if you are innocent. And it really doesn't matter to him which it is. He's going to do his job," says Tyler Perry. 'Not only is he a very skilled lawyer, but he is a master manipulator of the media and savvy PR man. His specialty is spinning the story, wagging the dog, because he knows that 99% of what people think about anyone in the public spotlight comes down to image perception."
As for how Tanner views Nick, Tyler Perry says: 'He doesn't what to think at first, but he begins to wonder if this guy is just a shmuck who is getting bamboozled."
Tyler Perry's rapport with David Fincher was instantaneous and he says he learned a lot from him as a filmmaker as well. 'He and I had a great chemistry together – and once I began to understand his eye and what he's seeing, he became a case study for me," he observes. 'He does not see like the average human being, I'm telling you right now. He can look at a blank wall and you will see nothing but a blank wall while he's seeing 20,000 different qualities. How can you not be inspired by that? He's very patient but he's seeing everything all at once – in clear focus – and once you understand that you're ready for the ride with him as an actor."
The Twin: Carrie Coon On Margo
The person who lures Nick Dunne back to Missouri as the prodigal son is the one person who believes she knows him as well as anyone can: his twin sister, 'Go." Bereft of their former ambitions, now the pair runs a local bar together. But when Amy goes missing, Go becomes Nick's singular confidante, the one who still believes in his innocence . . . or does she?
Making her feature film debut in the vivid role is Carrie Coon, known for her work on stage in 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" and HBO's 'The Leftovers." A native Chicagoan, Carrie Coon had been aware of David Fincher as a rising Midwestern writer. 'My husband actually handed Gone Girl to me because there are references to -Virginia Woolf' in there, and I really connected to the book."
She continues: 'The passages about what we do to each other in relationships are what make the book far more than a thriller. I think we all get damaged by our relationships, no matter how subtly. So you're having fun with this twisted plot and then suddenly, Gillian Flynn hits you in the face with something deeply true about human behavior. And David Fincher the perfect person to take audiences on this ride Gillian Flynn created. They are both lovely people who have a deep, dark core."
Carrie Coon sees Go as a kind of anchor for the audience – one of the few characters devoid of pretense. Having grown up the only girl among three brothers, Carrie Coon related to Go's way of 'being one of the guys." 'The way my family expresses love is through sarcasm so I get that kind of interaction and it's a big part of how Go and Nick relate," she explains. 'I love that she's someone who cracks jokes with the boys, who is very direct. In a way, she's the real -cool girl.'"
At the same time, Go is struggling as much as her twin. 'Like Nick, she hasn't really fulfilled on her promise. She's come home and kind of given up, which is very true to our economic times. She and Nick are also survivors of a tough childhood together, so it makes sense that, even now, they feel closer to each other than anyone else."
As for how Go reacts to the accusations against Nick, Carrie Coon admits she is unmoored: 'Her faith can only go so far before it starts to get outweighed by facts – but it's deeply troubling to her that she begins to wonder about Nick. She can't even ask him out loud because it's such a betrayal to even think about it. I tried to imagine if one of my siblings was in that situation and all these damning, rational facts were coming in, and I could see how much it would be fighting against your own nature."
Throughout it all, Carrie Coon was thrilled be working with Ben Affleck. 'He doesn't have sisters so it was a lot of fun to answer his questions about how siblings act and let him punch me in the arm," she laughs. 'There's also something about the way David Fincher demands so much from the actors, where you feel like you're all in this together. It was inspiring."
The Small Town Detective: Kim Dickens On Boney
When Nick reports his wife missing, he begins a thorny, unwanted relationship with Detective Rhonda Boney, the primary investigator on the case - and Nick's only conceivable lifeline. Among the image-obsessed characters in Gone Girl, Boney is the one drawn to cold, hard truth. Taking the role is Kim Dickens, best known for The Blind Side, 'Deadwood", 'Friday Night Lights" and 'Sons of Anarchy."
Kim Dickens says she felt an instant kinship with the character. 'I felt I could climb right into her," she says. 'She's a real salt-of-the-earth woman – pragmatic, humble but actually quite good at her job."
She notes that Boney chooses to sidle up to Nick because that's the most promising strategy, guilty or not. 'The percentages are very high when a wife goes missing that the spouse is involved," Kim Dickens points out. 'But Boney knows that even if Nick did it, she still has to get him to think she's on his side so he'll open up to her. She knew him as a child, but now she has to try to figure who he has become as a man – and it's not all that clear right off the bat. Things feel a little hinky. But she still gives Nick a little benefit of the doubt because that's what her instincts about human behaviour tell her."
The hinkiness only deepens as the investigation entwines with the media onslaught that pegs Nick as a wife-killer. 'It's all very weird for this small Midwestern town but I think Boney sees herself as a fair, no-nonsense detective who isn't going to be drawn into a witch-hunt," says Kim Dickens. 'She sees the media coverage as just one more obstacle she has to deal with in this case."
Having the chance to interrogate Ben Affleck was both a deep thrill and a challenge. 'I didn't know what to expect," Kim Dickens admits. 'I was going toe-to-toe with this huge movie star"and had to stand up to his character. But Ben Affleck was so fun and smart and once we got to know each other it was like we were in the trenches together. I think he's so perfect for this role: he has that mix of being super manly yet with a bit of a boy about him. And Ben Affleck is also great at playing the put-upon guy."
Kim Dickens also enjoyed playing opposite Patrick Fugit as her less intuitive partner Gilpin. 'Patrick Fugit and I had an ease and chemistry from the first time we read together," she says. 'That was great because Boney and Gilpin are the kind of comrades who have a real short-hand –and a way of ribbing each other. There's not a power struggle between them, which is a nice change."
David Fincher was impressed by Kim Dickens' organic take on the role. 'I wanted Boney to be a kind of Midwestern Sherlock Holmes, and that's what Kim brings to her. She doesn't miss much," he says.
The Other Woman: Emily Ratajkowski On Andie
Playing the role of Nick Dunne's all-too-involved student Andie is Emily Ratajkowski, a popular fashion model known for her starring role in Robin Thicke's controversial 'Blurred Lines" music video, who makes her major feature film debut in Gone Girl. Emily Ratajkowski had read the book a year before she was cast. 'It was one of those -I just can't put this book down' kind of things," she recalls. 'I was so intrigued by all things it had to say and even then, I felt like I really understood Andie."
Once she took the role, Andie became even more clear to her. 'I felt she was a truly nice young lady, a bit liberated for the town perhaps, but someone who tries to do her best by Nick when he is first accused," she says. 'I think she saw Nick as this smart, sophisticated guy, a New York writer who could open up a world she hungers for. He symbolized the future she wants. I think a big part of her just wanted to have a taste of this kind of grown-up experience."
Emily Ratajkowski admits it all seemed surreal that this was her first major feature. 'Working with Ben Affleck and David Fincher was quite a way to start off in movies," she laughs.
Facades And Interiors: The Gone Girl Landscape
The physical world of Gone Girl mirrors the internal states of its characters – or perhaps vice versa – with its portrait of a recession-era America full of comforting facades that, upon closer inspection, are fraying at the seams. The result is a kind of noir Americana, a darkly hypnotic angle on displaced American dreams. Fincher crafted this world of both strangeness and intimacy with a team he has relied on repeatedly including cinematographer Jeff Cronenworth, production designer Donald Graham Burt, costume designer Trish Summerville and editor Kirk Baxter.
Jeff Cronenworth has certainly gone down dark roads before with Fincher. Through a series of films including Fight Club, The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo the pair have forged a distinctive visual style that conjures potent atmospheres out of restraint. Driven by subtleties and details, their work on Gone Girl takes their aesthetic for the first time into the suburban Midwest. This film's regionalism echoes the work of influential American street photographer Joel Sternfeld - who found both human beauty and ironic humor in modern, manmade landscapes.
The material itself helped to focus the approach. 'Once I read Gillian Flynn's script and started getting into David Fincher's head and started to live vicariously through these characters and the mental chess games they play with each other and the emotional roller coaster they are on, the question became how can the visuals support this deep, dark journey?" explains Jeff Cronenworth. 'We felt an obligation to visually immerse the audience in the fullest possible way into Gillian Flynn's world."
As for how camera and lighting become complicit in creating doubt and suspicion in a film where faux facades proliferate, Jeff Cronenworth says: 'You look for ways to take a traditional, mundane small town and a couple's impersonal home and subtly transform them into something mysterious."
Filming took place in Cape Girardeau, a quaint Missouri River town a little over 100 miles outside St. Louis, which stands in for Nick's downturned hometown of Carthage. Donald Burt notes that the location offered a lot of advantages. 'Everything about Cape Girardeau was right – from its mix of different levels of economics and period architectures from the 60s, 70s and 80s to its sprawling malls to having the river right there as an anchor," says the designer. 'The people there were also so kind and so helpful. It shone a light on their remarkable generosity."
Jeff Cronenworth was equally intrigued by the contours of Cape Girardeau in creating Carthage. 'Carthage is much like many one-time prosperous towns across America where a highway came in and a few big box stores went up and suddenly the economic opportunities have moved down the road," he describes. 'I saw Carthage as a kind of a dusty old wedding gown that's been kept in the closet. It still has a natural beauty and allure to it – but it hasn't really been taken out and used for years."
Practical locations were commandeered to hone in on this portrait. Donald Graham Burt explains, 'With avid Fincher it's always about restraint but also finding things that are just a little bit off center. The idea is both -let's keep it simple' and yet -let's keep it complex.' We also make a concerted effort to constantly question ourselves; avid Fincher often asks -do you think the characters would be in this place?' And we explore things in that way, always through the characters."
Adds Jeff Cronenworth: 'I think avid Fincher and Donald Graham Burt and I all feel that the less we make obvious fingerprints, the more people are immersed in the atmosphere."
Perhaps the most essential location was the Dunnes' home, a rented McMansion in an affluent subdivision. Though shiny and new, shadows prevail within. 'The Dunne's house was all about taking a normal, ordinary domestic situation and turning it into an isolated fortress with the blinds drawn down," Jeff Cronenworth explains. 'From small details comes that sense of disenchantment."
Donald Graham Burt and his team took a lot of care finding just the right house. 'The house wasn't too grand, yet it was large enough that two people could feel there was both closeness and at the same time a kind of separateness -- the unspoken -don't enter my space, I won't enter yours.' We wanted it to feel vacuous yet have layers," the designer says. 'It evoked the feeling of a McMansion without being disturbingly vulgar. We liked that it had classical elements, so that some of the wood in the Carthage house echoes their more historical townhome in New York but in a skewed way. It's as if the house yearns to be traditional… but the hardware and the light fixtures and the vinyl windows give it away." The production lucked out in finding Desi's lavish lakehouse nearby. 'We found this spectacular home by a Frank Lloyd Wright student and it was just perfect. It felt remote but it spoke to money and yet it had a certain kind of prison quality," Donald Graham Burt says.
One of the film's literally darkest scenes takes place in an abandoned Missouri mall that has become a kind of mecca of the disenfranchised. Those sequences were shot in Los Angeles, using an abandoned Montgomery Ward store for the exteriors and the vast Hawthorne Mall for the interiors. 'We dressed it with all this broken drywall and old dilapidated planters that you find in malls. We actually did a lot research on abandoned malls, because there are a lot across America," says Donald Graham Burt.
'There's an apocalyptic feel – like there's another, darker world underneath what you see in Carthage." For Jeff Cronenworth, it was a favorite location because of its challenges. 'The scale was daunting in that you can see down 3 floors and 300 feet in each direction – and we wanted it all lit mostly with flashlights and bonfires," he says. 'It was one of the film's most interesting photographic challenges. We wanted the scene to embrace that kind of catacombs feeling."
Both men have found their work with Fincher deepening. Says Jeff Cronenworth: 'I would say the main thing that has changed over the years is our ability to sleep a little more comfortably at night. We're more decisive and efficient, which makes things just a little easier. But one thing that has stayed the same is that I go away every day on his films feeling like I've learned something."
Donald Graham Burt has a similar take on their long-lived collaboration. 'I'd like to think there's a shorthand when you work with somebody enough – but I truly try to approach each project as a completely fresh experience, and this one was," he says. 'What strikes me most about David Fincher's films is that there are so many elements that only hit you peripherally on first viewing, then later really sink in. It's so often not the element that's right in front of your face that is key and that is his unique artistry."
The Sound of Gone: Trent Reznor on the Music
For the music that provides a surging undertow to Gone Girl, David Fincher returned again to work with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who in addition to collaborating on Nine Inch Nails' albums, together composed the scores for The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. They have become valued partners in producing scores as atmospheric and assaultive as David Fincher's direction.
Trent Reznor notes that the way they work with David Fincher is something more instinctive and unstructured than conventional composition – and that these altered means lead to a different kind of result. 'We've learned working with David Fincher over the last couple of films to deploy a strategy that, really by chance, became the right way to do things," Trent Reznor explains. 'It all starts with spending as much time as we can trying to extract from David Fincher the role he envisions the music playing in the film."
On Gone Girl that meant starting with the film's time and place amidst economic and social transitions. 'We talked about the promise of the Midwest and what's happened to that part of the American Dream, with all these foreclosed mega-mansions and downtowns that are being abandoned. We talked about the idea that this is a story about people presenting themselves to the world as they wish they could really be, at the same time that things around them are curdling," Trent Reznor says. 'From that came the discussion of what palette of sounds, what instrumentation, what colors on the easel could create that. We wanted the sound to be distressed – where everything feels a little beaten up."
Atypically, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross compose conceptually long before they ever see reels of the film, continuously honing the score as the final film comes together. It's a time-consuming, creatively daunting process, but one that can lead down unexpected alleys. 'We work almost subconsciously based often just on textures and swatches," Trent Reznor delineates. 'After a few weeks of working this way, we'll turn in some music to see if what we are doing is resonating with what is in avid Fincher's head. It probably takes about 30 times as long to work in this way but it's what feels right."
The kick-off point for the music was the kind of softly benign strains you might hear whilst on a spa massage table. 'We thought, what if we start with something almost grotesquely sweet and then reveal what's under that surface," Trent Reznor says. 'We incorporated spa-like moments, but then explored how to make them turn unpleasant, to peel off the layers so you feel the unraveling."
Trent Reznor continues: 'In terms of the palette of sounds what's unique on this one is that we used a more organic, less synthetic soundscape. We didn't want it to feel too slick so we used a lot of interesting homemade equipment. There are moments where the rhythm is just me tapping on a wooden box so it feels repetitive but drifts around a bit like a human heartbeat."
As for why he and Atticus Ross keep coming back to work with avid Fincher, Trent Reznor says: 'We've had such magical, inspirational and artistically rewarding experiences with him that it spoils you," he says. 'You realise how rare it is for really great films to pop up."
Ultimately, over time, the music became a uniting thread weaving through all the other elements. 'There was a moment when we turned in a batch of material and we got that sense of excitement from avid David Fincher and Kirk that we'd zeroed in on something that helped inspire them to tie the whole movie together. It's like that moment when you're recording and it coalesces into a true album and no longer just a collection of songs."
Trent Reznor concludes: 'I could start to picture the goose bumps on the arms of the audience as they're being assaulted by this story."
Release Date: October 2nd, 2014