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'Gone Girl': Why David Fincher cast Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike

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Gone Girl Rosamund Pike Ben Affleck
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

“We’re trusting you, obviously, not to, you know, quote us,” said Rosamund Pike with a smile, after her Gone Girl director David Fincher interrupted for the third time to prevent any mention of spoilers from his adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s twisty best-seller. Nevermind that this was during a Q&A after the audience had already seen the much-anticipated film, which opened the New York Film Festival on Friday night. If you’ve read the book, you know the big surprises, but Fincher, who’s put heads in boxes and helped bring Tyler Durden to life on screen, prefers to keep a few things hush-hush until the film opens in theaters on Oct. 3.

Flynn, a former Entertainment Weekly writer, adapted her novel about a five-year marriage gone bad and the media circus that erupts when charming Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) is suspected of murdering his missing wife, Amy (Pike). “The entire time when it was about to be purchased for a film, I was like, ‘Only I can adapt it. It has to be me. It has to be me. It has to be me,” said Flynn. “And then they were like, ‘It’s you.’ And I was like, ‘No, no! That seems like a little too much to take on.’ But once I started getting into it, I realized the important thing was to not be slavishly devoted to every plot line but to make sure that it ultimately felt like the book. I was very concerned with the tone and keeping the kind of dark heart of it.”

Pike, who’s expecting her second child in November, won the much sought-after role of Amy, a born and bred New Yorker who’s miserable when she and Nick lose their journalist jobs during the financial downturn and retreat to his hometown in Missouri to help with his ailing mother. Her parents are famous children’s book authors, and Amy’s childhood was the basis of their popular Amazing Amy books, making her a minor celebrity. Five years into her marriage, however, stuck in flyover country with a husband who might want to kill her, Amy is capable of just about anything. “Rosamund was someone that I had seen in four or five different movies over 10 years, and I never got a bead on her,” said Fincher, who was pleased that Pike was an only child, like Amy. “I never got a sense of who she was. And I pride myself on being able to watch actors and sort of know instinctivly what their utility belt is, and I don’t have that with Rosamund. I didn’t know what she was building off of. There was an opacity there and it was interesting.”

Affleck is perfect as Nick, evoking handsome tabloid villains like Robert Chambers and Scott Peterson. “Just because it’s perfect casting doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it” explained Fincher, referring to Affleck’s own history with the paparazzi during his single days. But Affleck claims he would’ve made any movie with Fincher, whom he reveres. Affleck admitted that before directing each of his own three films, he goes back to watch Fincher’s Seven, which he called “the most perfectly, meticulously, Swiss-watch made thing.” The two directors traded friendly barbs on the stage. When a questioner asked about how Affleck wanted to work with a director he could learn from, the new Bruce Wayne joked, “I’m about to do that [in my next film].”

“It was great to work with David and I learned a great deal from him,” Affleck continued. “David’s also, despite his reputation, a very funny and nice guy. Not just a demon.”

The demon reference refers to Fincher’s demanding production process, which is infamous for an exhaustive amount of takes. But the cast expressed universal appreciation for it and Fincher’s overall attention to detail. When asked about the film’s score, Fincher deflected a compliment by saying, “Hire the right people and get the hell out of the way.” He was referring to musicians Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, but he may as well have been describing his entire philosophy.

Ultimately, audiences will pick sides between Nick and Amy, just as they did when reading Flynn’s book. Both main characters behave badly and have dark secrets. “People say, “Do you like [Amy]?” said Pike. “And I say, ‘Well, I don’t know, [but] I understand her.'” The fault line seems to be generally a matter of gender, at least according to Affleck. “Most of the women journalists go, ‘What was it like playing a d-ck?” said Affleck. “Most of the men just kind of go, like, ‘….Yeahhh.'”