Oscar Profile #529: David Fincher

Born August 28, 1962 in Denver, Colorado, David (Andrew) Fincher was the son of Howard “Jack” Fincher, a reporter and bureau chief for Life Magazine, and his wife, Claire Mae, a mental health nurse.

The family moved to San Anselmo, California where filmmaker George Lucas was a neighbor. He began making films with an 8mm camera at the age of 8. In his teens, ne moved to Ashland, Oregon where he attended high school and worked as projectionist at a local movie theatre and as a production assistant at the local TV news station.

Fincher went to work for John Korty at Korty Films in Mill Valley in 1980 when he was 18. He then went to work for Industrial Light and Magic from 1981-1983. In 1987, he founded Propaganda with fellow directors Dominic Sena, Greg Gold and Nigel Dick where he directed TV commercials for Nike, Coca-Coola, Budweiser, Heineken, Pepsi, AT&T, and others. He also directed music videos for Madonna, Sting, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, George Michael, and others. He was married to Donya Fiorentino, who later married Gary Oldman. From 1990-1995. They had a daughter born in 1994.

Fincher’s first theatrical film was 1992’s Alien 3 starring Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton and Charles Dance. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Special Effects. He followed that with 1995’s Se7en, a major box-office hit starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Film Editing.

The director’s 1997 film, The Game starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn, garnered strong audience support but failed to win any major awards recognition. His 1999 film, Fight Club starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt was a huge success, earning an Oscar nomination for Sound Editing.

Minor awards recognition came with Fincher’s 2002 film, Panic Room starring Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart, but Oscar wasn’t biting. His 2007 film, Zodiac starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey, Jr. brought critical acclaim but no Oscar recognition either.

Fincher received his own first Oscar nomination for 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button which earned a total of 13 nominations and 3 wins for Art Direction, Makeup and Visual Effects. He received a second Oscar nomination for 2010’s The Social Network which received a total of 8 nominations and 3 wins for Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing and Score.

Another 5 Oscars came to Fincher’s 2011 film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig. It won for Best Film Editing. His 2014 film, Gone Girl earned a nomination for Best Actress. His latest film, Mank, is a major contender for 2020 awards.

In addition to his film work, David Fincher remains a major TV producer and director at 58.

ESSENTIAL FILMS

SE7EN (1995)

Set in a city of constant rain and urban decay, two detectives, veteran Morgan Freeman, and rookie Brad Pitt, investigate the murder of a morbidly obese man with the word GREED highlighted in his blood on the floor. Another murder in which the word GLUTTONY is written in grease the dead man’s refrigerator signals that they are dealing with a serial killer out to murder representatives of the seven deadly sins. Gwyneth Paltrow as Pitt’s wife and Kevin Spacey as a man in the shadows have principal supporting roles in Fincher’s audacious thriller nominated for an Oscar for Best Film Editing.

ZODIAC (2005)

San Francisco Chronicle crime reporter Robert Downey, Jr., and cartoonist Jake Gyllenhaal join forces with detectives Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards to solve the case of the notorious Zodiac killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s and 1970s. Although the film received no Oscar nominations, it certainly deserved consideration for the James Vanderbilt’s screenplay, David Shire’s score, Donald Burt’s production design, and Casey Storm’s costume design in addition to Fincher’s superb direction and the performances of Gyllenhaal, Ruffalo and Downey.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (2008)

Although Fincher’s films had been nominated for Oscars before, this is the first one for which Fincher was nominated himself as Best Director, one of the film’s 13 overall nominations. The fantastical story of a man who lives his life backwards was brought to life by Eric Roth from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story. Brad Pitt earned a Best Actor nomination in the title role opposite Cate Blanchett as his long-suffering wife. Taraji P. Henson received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of the woman who finds and raises him. The film won Oscars for Art Direction, Makeup and Visual Effects.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010)

Fincher’s most ambitious film to date follows Harvard student and genius computer programmer Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg, from the invention of what would become known as Facebook in 2003 to his becoming the world’s youngest billionaire five years later. Andrew Garfield as his discarded partner Eduardo Savarin and Armie Hammer as the Winklvoss twins who claimed he stole the idea from them lead the huge supporting cast. The filmed earned 8 Oscar nominations, including another one for Fincher, and 3 wins for Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing and Score.

MANK (2020)

Utilizing a screenplay by his late father, Jack (1930-2003), Fincher’s film follows writer Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) during the writing of the screenplay for Citizen Kane for which he signed a contract as a writer for hire by Orson Welles who was to have been given sole writing credit. Along the way, he changed his mind, threatened to sue Welles, and ended up with Welles as co-winner of an Oscar for the screenplay. The film co-stars Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies, Charles dance as William Randolph Hearst, Arliss Howard as Louis B. Mayor, Joseph cross as Charlie Lederer and Tom Burke as Orson Welles.

DAVID FINCHER AND OSCAR

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) – nominated – Best Director
  • The Social Network (2010) – nominated – Best Director

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