Fincher, 49, has an almost mythic reputation for obsessiveness, particularly because of a shooting style that favors a huge amount of takes — an approach he feels that does away with artificial, calibrated movement to arrive at a hopefully less self-conscious performance.
Mara first worked with Fincher in the famous, 99-take opening scene of "The Social Network," but she's never felt controlled by Fincher.
"David won't lie to you," says Mara. "He just won't. I don't think he's capable of it. He's the most straightforward human being I've ever met. He always empowers you to have a choice."
Fincher's bluntness has also figured into his image, but Eric Roth, who scripted Fincher's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," says in an e-mail: "He is a man sure of himself with good cause and despite his pugnacious style is as generous and loving a person as I have had the good fortune to work and remain close friends with."
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" is essentially Fincher's third detective-based film, following the ill-fated serial killer hunt of "Seven" and the prolonged compulsive search for another murderer in "Zodiac." He acknowledges: "The evil that men do in their basement with power tools when they're not being supervised was certainly something that I'd explored before." But he also notes that the procedural of "Seven" becomes a meditation on evil, and the pursuit in "Zodiac" turns to an examination of unknowing endlessness.
The conclusion of "Dragon Tattoo" is tidier than those films, but there could be two sequels, although the film didn't perform especially well in its first weekend of release, earning $13 million domestically. In any case, Fincher says that while he's open to anything, directing another in Larsson's series "isn't even something I want to entertain."
Among other things, he's working on a 3-D blockbuster update of Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," a kind of thriller about a Craigslist murder, an HBO series co-produced with Charlize Theron for HBO called "Mind Hunter," and an adaptation of the paranormal comic book "The Goon."
For Fincher, the best part of any production is the early work: casting, doing lighting tests, building sets — all elements where he's energized by the possibility of a film, before inevitable compromises mount.
"I like reading the script the first time," he says, half-joking, "and then it's kind of over."
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