From Fight Club to Zodiac, Gone Girl to The Killer, having the name "David Fincher" attached to a project makes it seemingly guaranteed for success, but the filmmaker claims that hasn't always been the case.
Fincher's acclaimed-but-cancelled Netflix series Mindhunter, on which he acted as a director and executive producer, is a notable example, with fans hoping for a Season 3 of the psychological crime thriller being disappointed to learn that Fincher was putting the series on hold while he pursued other projects, like the Herman J. Mankiewicz biopic Mank.
That indefinite "hold" ended up being permanent cancellation, with the streamer citing the show's high budget. Netflix gave Fincher a proposition: either reduce costs or "make it more pop," i.e. broaden the show's audience appeal. He refused, a move that he recently told France's Première Magazine stemmed from a reaction he once received to that famously shocking ending (no spoilers here!) of his classic 1995 thriller, Se7en. Per an English translation courtesy X user @FincherAnalyst, Fincher said:
At a test screening of Seven, in the second of silence just before the lights came back on, while everyone was gasping for air, I caught the producer cursing at me: 'This guy has taken a great thriller and made it into a foreign film!' [Laughs.]
Just as the movie subverted both audience and genre expectations with Se7en's notoriously brutal ending, Fincher cites Mindhunter as a more of a "risk" to make than his other Netflix thriller series, the politically minded House of Cards, which starred Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright and ran for six seasons on the streaming platform.
The expense, for one, was an issue on Mindhunter, but the drama was also darker and, yes, weirder than more straightforward procedurals like CSI and Criminal Minds, the director claimed:
Maybe House of Cards wasn't a huge risk, but Mindhunter was. A procedural on behavioral sciences that would be neither X-Files, nor CSI, nor Criminal Minds, but would function as the portrait of a guy who loses his virginity in the world of psychosexual sadists? We couldn't complete the trajectory, but it was a gamble. An expensive series, too. Very expensive. We went as far as we could until someone finally said to us: it makes no sense to produce this series like this, unless you can reduce the budget, or make it more pop, so that more people will watch it. We did not want to change our approach so, respectfully, they told us that they were drawing a line under it. That's it: I always take a slight step aside from what is expected of me. Otherwise, I'm not interested.
So, alas, we won't get to see more tension-filled criminal profiling from Mindhunter's Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) at the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit. But at least Fincher is sticking to his guns and not compromising his creativity.
You can stream the tremendous two seasons of Mindhunter with a Netflix subscription, and if you want to revisit that grizzly finale of Se7en, the Fincher favorite is available to watch with a Max subscription.