'Mindhunter' director David Fincher admits he took 75 takes for one 9-and-a-half minute scene during season 1
Netflix's original series 'Mindhunter,' based on the true crime book 'Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit,' has garnered the praise of critics as well as audiences and has already been renewed for a second season. The thriller has been lauded for its cinematic visuals and meticulous attention to character development, though as producer David Fincher recently revealed, that was a product of some mind-numbing perfectionism at work.
Speaking at an FYC event about what went on behind-the-scenes on the thriller, Fincher was joined in the panel by Jonathan Groff, who plays special agent Holden Ford, Holt McCallany, who plays his partner Bill Tench, Anna Torv, who portrays psychology professor Wendy Carr, Cameron Britton, who plays serial killer Ed Kemper, and casting director Laray Mayfield.
As reported by Indie Wire, Groff asked Fincher, who is notorious for his meticulousness and eye for detail, "What was the longest scene we had? Seven minutes?" to which the director responded in the negative and proceeded to explain a scene they were shooting for the first season.
"No, no. The scene with Happy [Anderson] was 11 pages. We had three cameras outside the cage, and we’d do a nine-and-a-half-minute take. Then I’d walk in with a yellow pad [filled] with single-spaced notes: [to Groff] 'OK, that’s a joke, you can’t toss that off. And this? This is a statement. Make sure that’s a statement.'"
"And Jonathan would be there going, 'OK, OK.' [nodding] Then we’d do another nine-minute take and he’d do all that stuff [I asked], and I’d go to Holt and go over four pages of notes with him. And Happy was like, 'What? We’re really going to do this [every time]?'"
Fincher then estimated how many times in total they may have run through that one particular nine-and-a-half minute scene, eventually suggesting that they may have had as many as 75 takes, adding that the crew didn't take a break all day except for lunch.
Fincher is currently one of the most highly-regarded directors in Hollywood for his work on psychological thrillers such as 'Seven,' 'Fight Club,' 'Panic Room,' 'Zodiac,' 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,' and 'Gone Girl' as well as movies such as 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' and 'The Social Network.'
And understandably, the movies would not have come out the way they did without his now-notorious perfectionism at the helm. 'Gone Girl' similarly reportedly averaged 50 takes per scene and actors such as Jake Gyllenhaal and Neil Patrick Harris have come out to describe what it's like to work under the director.
McCallany, however, doesn't seem to mind. "I find when you do something over and over again, you discover things. When you guys would say 'take 14’ or ‘take 20,' suddenly something becomes apparent to you that you didn’t really realize," he said.
He continued: "It’s not that we were making huge changes, but the subtle adjustments we made or small adjustments David will give you can make a big difference in the way a scene plays out. So I’m a fan of doing a lot of takes."