Friday, 5 April 2013

Great Actor/Director Collaborations #1 David Fincher and Brad Pitt

Lying awake last night and thinking about all the things I'd like to blog about and worrying that I Love That Film has no running features, I kept thinking about all the great actor/director collaborations there have been in cinematic history. I say history, but actually I was thinking mostly about modern ones. So hopefully this is going to turn into a semi-regular feature.

My thoughts immediately turned to David Fincher and Brad Pitt who have made three films together: Seven, Fight Club and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

"They're like brothers - opposite in the way they act, but they understand each other the way families do." Taraji Henson (Bowles, 2008)

Brad Pitt gained international recognition as a sex symbol for his supporting role in Thelma and Louise in 1991. Pitt went on to secure his reputation as a handsome leading man with larger parts in A River Runs Through It and Legends of the Fall.  However his appetite for edgier roles was clear from his early work as a psychopath in Kalifornia, and his cameo in True Romance as a couch potato stoner.

On the other hand, David Fincher began his directing career in commercials and music videos. He moved on to feature films with an extremely brave debut- directing the third film in the Alien franchise. Afterwards, Fincher continued on his course of dark, challenging films by choosing to direct a disturbing serial killer film.  Pitt was on the look out for new, darker material; a film that would subvert what audiences were expecting from a Hollywood movie ‘starring Brad Pitt’

Seven (1995)

Brad Pitt plays a young, cocky and short-fused detective, David Mills.  He is newly transferred to a crime-infested, permanently rain-soaked, unidentified city to be partnered with Morgan Freeman’s older, wiser detective, William Somerset. After reading the script and being offered the part, Pitt ‘immediately signed on, with one caveat: The studio could not change the film's final scene… “They tried all kinds of things to change our minds," Pitt says. "We wouldn't budge. David isn't afraid to use an ending that works, even if it isn't the one you want(Bowles,2008).  This created a bond between actor and director.  

Fight Club (1999)

Fight Club is the story of an unnamed protagonist (Edward Norton) who creates an alter-ego for himself.  This imaginary friend is Tyler Durden and is played by Brad Pitt with a shaved head and part of his teeth missing.  In Tyler’s own words, he is “All the ways you wish you could be… I look like you wanna look, I fuck like you wanna fuck, I am smart, capable, and most importantly, I am free in all the ways that you are not.”  Producer Art Linson said studio executives expected “Seven in another costume” (Swallow, 2003, p.121) but got something quite different.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the life story of the titular character played by Pitt.  Born with the appearance of an old man and looking younger and younger as he grows older, it is argued that ‘both director and star would have to wade into unfamiliar waters. Pitt would have to get ugly, Fincher happy’ (Bowles, 2008).  

Will there be more collaborations? 

‘Paramount Pictures has acquired graphic novel "The Killer" and will develop it as a directing vehicle for David Fincher… produced by Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment and Alexandra Milchan’ (Fleming, 2007).  This was reported some time ago and has yet to come to fruition.  However, there is also Fertig; ‘based on the biography of middle-aged American civil engineer-turned-World War II guerrilla fighter Wendell Fertig who with a small team of Americans refused under orders to surrender and led thousands of Filipinos in a seemingly hopeless war against the Japanese.’ (Holmes, 2008)  Fincher believes Pitt would be perfect and would sign up for the project when the script is right. 

What is your favourite collaboration of Fincher and Pitt? Seven and Fight Club are, to me, the pinnacles of both Fincher and Pitt's careers to date.

Parts of this post were already printed in an article in Media Magazine back in April 2011. 

Next up in this feature: Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese