David Fincher Describes Tension With Jake Gyllenhaal On Zodiac Set

As Fincher prepares for the release of his latest film, Mank, he’s taken the time to speak with The New York Times about the on-set tensions he experienced with Gyllenhaal during the Zodiac shoot. The issues between the two creatives weren’t particularly well-known during the film’s theatrical run and subsequent award nominations, but it’s now clear there were problems. Thirteen years later, Fincher, though apologetic, remains open about just how important it is for him to above all, tell a great story:

“Jake was in the unenviable position of being very young and having a lot of people vie for his attention, while working for someone who does not allow you to take a day off. I believe you have to have everything out of your peripheral vision.” But “I think Jake’s philosophy was informed by — look, he’d made a bunch of movies, even as a child, but I don’t think he’d ever been asked to concentrate on minutiae, and I think he was very distracted. He had a lot of people whispering that ‘Jarhead’” was going to be this massive movie and put him in this other league, and every weekend he was being pulled to go to the Santa Barbara film festival and the Palm Springs film festival and the [expletive] Catalina film festival. And when he’d show up for work, he was very scattered.

I don’t want to make excuses for my behavior. There are definitely times when I can be confrontational if I see someone slacking. People go through rough patches all the time. I do. So I try to be compassionate about it. But. It’s: Four. Hundred. Thousand. Dollars. A day. And we might not get a chance to come back and do it again. I tell actors all the time: I’m not going to cut around your hangover, I’m not going to cut around your dog dying, I’m not going to cut around the fact that you just fired your agent or your agent just fired you. Once you get here, the only thing I care about is, Did we tell the story?”

Though blunt, Fincher’s comments are a testament to just how hardworking and devoted he is to whatever project he happens to be working on. It’s not at all unusual for big-name Hollywood stars to clash with their directors from time to time, and it sounds as though Gyllenhaal was in a particularly challenging, yet promising time in his career. Nonetheless, Fincher’s responsibilities as a director are immense and, given Zodiac’s significant bulk and subject matter, the production certainly wouldn’t have been a straightforward, simple one.

As far as directors being demanding about the story that needs to be told, Fincher can hardly be faulted. Only a bad filmmaker would have allowed Zodiac’s production to take a backseat to the demands of Gyllenhaal’s entourage. While Zodiac may not be Fincher’s best work, from the sounds of it, the production would have been far worse had Fincher been less upfront and more flexible with Gyllenhaal.

Source: The New York Times