Social Network: Interview with Director David Fincher

The Social Network poster

This movie, at least on the surface, is a departure for you. Dealing with characters whose primary means of expression is verbal is not something you’ve had in your other movies – did you like that?

DAVID FINCHER: It was fine, but I think it’s more like this – I don’t know what directors are supposed to do except what the script wants. That’s what the script was, and that’s what it needed.  Are you supposed to hoard your little corner of the Monopoly board? Are you supposed to say, I’m Park Place and this is what I do. That seems kind of dull.
 
The language is what’s up front, but the thing that supports the language is the mouths out of which the language comes, the clothes on the bodies that carry the mouths from which the language comes, the houses and the rooms that the bodies inhabit. To me, the Chinese checkers of it is this: you get a couple of Aeron chairs and some computers, and the guys rattle off their dialogue in the way that they’re supposed to. 
 
But the three dimensional chess of it is to try and steep the viewer in the world of the movie, and to do so in a way that’s effortless for him. I knew that I needed to make the surroundings of everything – where these people are, what they’re wearing, all those details – feel right for Harvard, and right for these kids and their expertise. The fun of it is not only to find a handful of really bright, incredibly watchable kids to say these lines, but also to forge a world around them that makes them look like the kind of kids that would be saying this stuff. 
 
 
A world in which the events of the story are possible.
 
DAVID FINCHER: Yes – but also a world in which they’re essential. Inevitable. You want to build the drama — the inevitability of the fact that these kids can’t be friends or the fact that they’re going to have to divide the spoils – by seeing this place that they all come from, with its bad prefab furniture and scratchy sheets and fire alarms in the middle of the wall and fireplaces that don’t work. A lot of people think of Harvard as being like Camelot, or Hogwarts – but it’s not. Of course Harvard is old and it’s stately, but physically it’s really this odd, colonial, kind of re-fabbed and refurbished place where every 10 or 15 years more conduit gets put on the walls and it falls apart a little bit more. Visually, these kids do sort of come from nothing. Whatever their family life was like – and I’m sure the Winklevosses lived well – you’re trying to find this level playing field where they all meet. Everybody is peering into what each other’s personal strengths or deficits are but you’re not really privy to that. You’re not seeing the Winklevosses in a Grey Poupon commercial. And that was great, I thought. 
 
 
When you read the script, did you know right away that this would be your approach? Did you immediately know how to do it?
 
DAVID FINCHER: No. Again, it’s not that you “know” how to do it — I don’t have a map for how to get there, I don’t necessarily know how to get through the woods — but I know where there is. You know what I mean? It’s not like you look at the thing and say, I’ve got to head east for a while and then I can cut back — that’s the reality of what you’re presented with on a daily basis — but you can see Mt. Kilimanjaro in the distance and you can know where that is. I can look at that and feel like I know these kids — part of me is this guy, part of me is that guy. I know people like that, and I know what it’s like to be that pissed off at somebody that you’ve known for so long, and I know what it’s like to have that conversation where you go, This is where it ends. But any director that says they see the whole movie in their head is a liar. 
 
 
Unlike other movies that you’ve done, you came into this one with what was very close to a finished script – and yet it’s very obviously a David Fincher film. How did you achieve that?
 
DAVID FINCHER: I look at my job first and foremost as an interpreter. You’re taking the written word and you’re trying to have it make sense in terms of where people are in space, where they are in the frame, where they are in focus. I don’t look at it as, Oh my God, I have to find a script where the lead character is from MarinCounty and grew up in the 70s. It would be just as boring for actors to do only what they know. I think you go into something like this and you say, Here’s a situation and here’s a group of people — what do I know and what do I understand about this? What can I bring to this given situation?   I’ve been Mark Zuckerberg – there are times in my life where I’ve acted that way. There are times in my life where I’ve been Eduardo Saverin – where I’ve gone and made a scene and regretted it and where I’ve been emotional and felt silly and stupid. And there are times when I’ve felt self-righteous and I’ve acted out in this other way. You look at the whole of it and you make a patchwork quilt of what you relate to — what something looked like, what something felt like at a certain time — and that’s what you draw on. And then you go in, and you get really good people to bring their trip to it and you sort it out. I don’t think there’s any way not to put your stamp on a movie because you’re basically editing behavior. That’s your job. Yo
u’re basically responding to a behavior and saying, I believe that or I don’t believe that – and so you’re going to, in some pretty basic way, inform how the people behave.
 
 
As a director, is that what makes every movie personal to you – or is it something unique to this one?
 
DAVID FINCHER: Look, what Mark does is no different than directing a movie – it’s what I do for a living every day. You grow something, and your job is to grow it well and to make sure it gets enhanced and to take care of it. That’s the subject of the movie. And if you have to hurt people’s feelings in order to protect that thing, that’s what you have to do. It’s a responsibility. 
 
You want to love every character in the movie. You want to be able to understand them. You want to be able to see what’s there. You want to be able to see their humanity. You want to be able to relate to them. But, as a director, the characters’ behaviors are inevitably related to facets of moments in your own life. You look at the work and say, Maybe I do know what that is.
 
I’ve been the angry young man. I’ve been Elvis Costello. I know what that’s like. The anger is certainly something I felt that I could relate to — the notion of being twenty-one and having a fairly clear notion of what it is you want to do or what it is you want to say and having all these people go, Well, we’d love to, we’d love you to try. Show us what it is that you want to do.  It’s that whole condescending thing of having to ask adults for permission because the perception is that you’re too young to do it for yourself. And that’s why I understood Mark’s frustration. You have a vision of what this thing should be. And everyone wants to tell you, Oh, well, you’re young. You’ll see soon enough.
 
 
And the movie, on some level, is a testament to Mark’s work ethic — his relentless ability to execute that vision.
 
DAVID FINCHER: Right. Mark does what no one else in the movie does and he’s the guy who reaps the rewards — but he also pays a price. He was the one saying, Advertising? I don’t know — that’s a way to go about it but I don’t know if it’s the only way. And I totally concur with that. 
 
 
What is the movie saying about success? Is it something about the moment at which your fantasy of success collides with actual success?
 
DAVID FINCHER: It’s hard for me to even imagine the kind of success that the movie is talking about.
 
 
But you had some significant degree of success when you were young.
 
DAVID FINCHER: I do liken it, in a way, to the fraternity of the outsider that existed at a point in time with a commercial company that I started when I was 25 or whatever. And that was very much a bunch of people getting together because they couldn’t find representation, because they couldn’t make the jump from being music video directors to being commercial directors with this Catch-22: You can’t do it until you’ve done it. But you can’t have done it until you do it.  Nobody was going to give us our shot. It was a point in time when we were with Propaganda, during the whole movement of music videos becoming mainstream, and advertisers were looking for the MTV look. There was definitely a point where we were like, Nobody at Pepsi is going to tell us that what we’re doing is not going to sell records or sell soft drinks or sell sneakers. We’re going to continue to do what we do until the world revolves and turns around and they beg us to come make television commercials for them. Even though the impetus for us to be at MTV was that no one would hire us for television commercials. So I do understand what it is to stake your claim in the margins, to wait for the sun to illuminate your part of the world. And I think there’s a little bit of that in Mark — he saw that if he could link all these things then people could have this sort of immediate connection in the same way as cellular phones. That’s what it is – it’s a cellular phone immediacy in the remaking of your image of yourself. This is not who I am. This is who I want you to see that I am. It’s Narcissus.
 
 
Is it your experience with Propaganda that made you want to do this?
 
DAVID FINCHER: That certainly helped form my understanding of Mark and those guys – but it was before that. I graduated high school in 1980 — and for three years, everybody just hung out on the weekends looking at BetaMax and VHS tapes of movies. You have those little fraternities of people who are all movie makers or future movie makers or movie maker wannabes, all watching movies on technology that exists at the time and going, He shouldn’t have done that, he should’ve done this. This is where he went wrong and this is what’s wrong with the narrative and here’s why this lighting sucks and this is why this notion of being something could’ve been great but isn’t. You go and you do all that stuff as a young man. And then finally you get your opportunity. You get your “at bat.” So I related to the notion of that, but I didn’t go to college. I didn’t have the dorm experience. I didn’t have the fraternity experience. But I had my own dorm and my own fraternity.
 
In my life, I’ve been part of a
lot of different little creative cliques – of young men who had ideas about technology or ideas about filmmaking or storytelling.  I knew that world, and I felt like this tapped into it. It also seemed like it was talking a lot about where technology in the information age has taken us as far as innovation is concerned.  You’re talking about a world that no longer requires you to build a workforce and a factory to get a product out.  Someone can disappear into his dorm room with a couple cases of Red Bull and, a few weeks later, come out with a beta of something that can be on six hundred desktops within nine days, and six hundred million within six years.
 
 
Mark, for example, goes from being in the cracks to becoming completely mainstream.
 
DAVID FINCHER: He owns the mainstream. He is the mainstream. He’s the portal to the mainstream.
 
 
Right. You can’t get to the mainstream without him. Is that a good thing for him? What do you want us to feel about that?
 
DAVID FINCHER: I don’t want to feel anything about it. I don’t think it’s necessary to the story. I think it’s ironic. I think it’s ironic that creativity has to happen on the fringe. It has to. Creative change happens on the fringe of everything. It’s always on the edge, it’s in the margins, and then it’s adopted by the herd. And I think it’s ironic that a guy who seems to have issues with being able to communicate with other people has invented one of the greatest tools for communicating with people.
 
 
Is it that failure to communicate that drives Mark?   Mark says, I built this thing and I’m going to hang onto it – and it’s never going to be finished. What is underneath that?
 
DAVID FINCHER: I think that there’s an anger or this sense of not being appreciated — or rather there’s anger for not being appreciated, at least for the right reasons or as completely or as much as Mark feels he should be. And I think that’s human across the board. Everybody goes, You know, I’m not so sure my parents appreciated me enough. I’m not so sure my siblings appreciated me enough. I’m not sure my friends appreciated me enough.   This story frames a slightly more exaggerated view of that feeling, but — as it relates to the notion of Mark never wanting to finish something — I think that’s just the reality of invention in the information age. Nothing is ever going to roll off an assembly line and be somebody else’s responsibility. It’s going to reside on a desktop computer and provide a continuing relationship with that user and that user base, and I think Mark brilliantly understood that in a way that few people do. In the information age, Steve Jobs has a relationship with not only his product designers, but with the people who are buying his product for more money than competing versions of it. That’s because of the relationship that he has to the design — the relationship that he has to the message of it all, the relationship that he has to the empowerment of owning these things. Steve Jobs is an example of this in a way that Bill Gates isn’t. And I believe that’s what Zuckerberg wants to be, and I think that’s what Zuckerberg has become.
 
 
Is there a price that Mark pays for what he becomes?
 
DAVID FINCHER: I think the price Mark pays is that, with every mounting hill he’s able to climb — from 500 early adopters to 500 million later adopters – he’s forced to realize the awesome responsibility of having your dreams come true. He learns that — if you want to be great at something — the next lap of the marathon you’re supposed to shave a few seconds off, you’re supposed to get a little leaner, you’re supposed to get a little stronger. And Mark will do that — in the end, you see a guy who has a million users, but that means he has to stay late while everyone else can go celebrate. He’s alone.  He got what he wanted – but he’s as alone as he is at the end of the first scene in the movie.
 
 
What are the ‘seconds’ that Mark shaves off — Eduardo and Sean and the Winklevosses?
 
DAVID FINCHER: I think that Sean is as close to a kind of soul mate to what Mark is trying to accomplish as anyone else that he meets, but I don’t think that any of those people you mention are willing to work as hard or as long, or think as deeply or completely or as uninterruptedly, as Mark is — and that’s why he is Mark Zuckerberg.
 
 
Because you have the vision, does that excuse the behavior?
 
DAVID FINCHER: Only if you’re right. One of the things that I always found very moving in this material is that it’s about someone who’s pursuing his own idea of excellence or his own idea of meaning. It’s Galileo, but Mark is the only guy who sees that.   Maybe it’s because his social deficits make it so that he, in some way, has to believe that there’s a future where you can connect in this other way — but I also think that there’s this way in which life frequently tells you that the thing that you think is going to kill you is actually the thing that makes you what you are.
 
 
That’s what I’m asking — does brilliance come with a level of e
ntitlement?
 
DAVID FINCHER: Yes, in some ways — but it also comes with that awesome responsibility, which Mark discovers.
 
Mark takes very seriously his responsibility to his creation, but he also takes very seriously his responsibility to himself — some will say he didn’t take seriously enough his responsibility to those around him. But we have as many articles that say, It’s ludicrous to think that Eduardo and I were best friends, as we have to the contrary.
 
The movie is very clearly not saying that Mark thinks Eduardo is his best friend. The movie is saying that Eduardo thinks that’s what Mark feels about him. It’s never clear that this is reciprocal. If Eduardo were to forget what people say and just look at what they do, he would realize that it doesn’t really matter what either of them is saying about their friendship. The fact of the matter is that they were young men trying to accomplish the same goal at the same time in the same room and, whatever their responsibilities were to each other, at some point there was a fork in the road. It’s traumatic because one of them gets left in the dust.
 
 
Who betrays whom in the movie? Does Mark betray Eduardo or does Eduardo betray Mark?
 
DAVID FINCHER: I think that they both betray each other – I never saw it as cut and dried as Mark pulling the rug out from under Eduardo. I believe that Eduardo has a failure of imagination. He can’t imagine that this thing could ever be worth anything or become profitable if he doesn’t sell advertising, and I think that was the crux of their fork in the road. That’s Eduardo’s failure of imagination. And the Winklevosses, they never got out of the merge lane.
 
 
There is an entire trope of American movies in which the Winklevosses would be the heroes and Mark would be the villain – and yet this is a movie in which Mark is the hero and the Winklevosses are the villains.
 
DAVID FINCHER: The only thing I can relate it to is this: in directing those scenes at the deposition, I would literally say to one side of the table, This little weasel ripped you off and he’s sitting in the chair that you should be sitting in, and without you, he’s nothing. 
 
And then I would walk to the other side of the table and go, Do you really think that there would be 15 billion dollars worth of Facebook if you had made the Harvard Connection? Look at those douche bags. There’s nothing — there are no spoils to divide — if not for the hard work and brilliance of Mark Zuckerberg. So look at them standing over there in their Brooks Brothers suits all smug trying to get a place at your table.
 
 
But you go to great lengths to say that Mark isn’t in it for the money — so what’s he in it for?
 
DAVID FINCHER: I believe that Mark is in it to fully realize his dream, which is to build an apparatus that allows him to connect to the world in a way that he’s unable to do in his own life. People talk about Mark’s borderline Asperger’s, his horrific PR style, but I think that Facebook required someone with those kind of limited social skills. If you’re going to create an apparatus like Facebook, you have to start with somebody who’s going to be able to understand how difficult it is to communicate.   That’s the progression.
 
 
What do you feel about somebody who would say that it’s not fair to make a movie about this guy who did all this stuff when he was nineteen and didn’t know any better?
 
DAVID FINCHER: I don’t know. Look, I don’t think anybody involved ever thought we were sharpening our knives for Mark Zuckerberg. I think we thought of him as a compelling, interesting character for a movie – in the same way that Travis Bickle is. The same way that Rupert Pupkin is. The same way that the narrator in Fight Club is.
 
 
You could also say Charles Foster Kane.
 
DAVID FINCHER: Yeah, exactly. And I would. I think the two are correlative. What we were able to glean from YouTube videos and 60 Minutes interviews is that Mark Zuckerberg is a young man, and a very young man at a time when this thing really caught fire. But there’s no doubt that this is not a guy who goes to great lengths to ingratiate himself. So, I don’t know how much of it is him. I don’t know how much of it is youth and I don’t know how much of it is lack of socialization.
 
 
Is it the perfect storm, then? This cultural need for Facebook, the business need for it, and the vision of a nineteen year-old kid who somehow found himself typifying the experience of an incipient Facebook user all colliding at the same time?
 
DAVID FINCHER: I wasn’t aware of Facebook as it was groundswelling, as it was a rumor, as it was furtive whispers. I was only aware of it as it became an inevitability. So I can’t really
speak to it as an early adopter. By the time I knew about it, it was K-Mart. 
 
But you now have many portals into your life — you have doors and windows that allow you to walk out of your room and look out, and the facility of this technology has progressed to a point where you have a new window, you have a new door, and it doesn’t allow you to just see your backyard, it allows you to see a backyard in Uzbekistan. It allows you to see the sunrise in Egypt, and it’s amazing, the fact that you can so effortlessly and instantly take a picture with your phone, which is with you constantly, and, moments later, send it to somebody halfway around the world and say, This is my experience right now. Without that spark, you don’t have the fire that is Facebook. But how that relates to people saying, My God I almost forgot about you, we were neighbors in 2nd grade, I still don’t know.
 
With all of this coming to in the maelstrom of those forces colliding, I do think Mark figured out something – and there’s no doubt that it’s in some way connected to American narcissism: the need to be on the cover of one’s own Rolling Stone.
 
 
Do you think there’s a value to Facebook?
 
DAVID FINCHER: Do I think it’s worth 25 billion dollars?
 
 
No, do you think Facebook is fundamentally a good or bad thing?
 
DAVID FINCHER: I think that, like anything that is so flexible and so powerful, it’s obviously both — it’s alternating current, sixty times a second. It’s like cell phones. Are cell phones a good or bad? No — thank God we have them but do we spend too much time on them? Do they create the impression in minds that don’t want to delve too deeply that we’re somehow connected everywhere, when really all we are is riding around in a car filling our empty lives with, “Hey what happened?” “Nothing.” “OK, call you later.” You know, “What are you doing?” “Nothing, what are you doing?” “Nothing.” I had a friend with one of the great quotes — I said, “So do you have an email address yet?” And he goes, “Nah, I’m not really into the Internet.” And I said, “Why?” And he goes, “I don’t like CB radio that you type.” And I thought, that’s kind of an interesting way of looking at it: CB radio you type.
 
 
But isn’t Mark using the computer in a way that goes beyond that? Is this hacking element something you could relate to?
 
DAVID FINCHER: I didn’t necessarily relate to it, to be honest — I don’t really know any hackers – but I saw Mark as kind of like Banksy. I saw him as this outsider graffiti artist. Somebody who saw himself as a threat to society, in almost a fun way. I understand that there’s this world of people who look at intrusion and dissemination and other ideas of this sort, but I didn’t really relate to that as much as I related to the idea of a graffiti artist.
 
A lot of people have made movies about the Internet. There are a lot of bad movies about being sucked into a computer and having your life turned upside down — there’s all kinds of nonsense like that. I think that the only way to talk about this notion of web-preneurship is to be able to speak cogently about the Molotov cocktail of the hacker. The first act of our story is this guy who hacks a facebook at Harvard and decides, Wait a minute, people are drawn to this — it kicks off and sparks a whole different crop top that becomes something as ubiquitous as the Big Mac. Now, I think hacking is integral to the story, but I don’t think it’s essential – it’s essential when you’re discussing Mark Zuckerberg, I think it’s essential when you’re discussing Sean Parker. But I certainly don’t think it has anything to do with what the Winklevosses were about.
 
 
Or Eduardo?
 
DAVID FINCHER: Right. I think Eduardo said, Let’s give the people what they want. And I think that Mark is the other guy saying, I’m interested in doing something like this, and he stumbled onto something people would want, and he was able to see it as a next step. Meanwhile, the guy who was just thinking about giving the people what they want fundamentally couldn’t.
 
 
As an outgrowth of that, Mark reinvents himself in the same way that Sean Parker did — so what’s the difference between Mark and Sean?
 
DAVID FINCHER: I saw Sean Parker as a guy who’s a veteran of the whole VC world — he’s a veteran of having your ass handed to you by the people who would finance your dreams. He’s the older brother who’s been through it. I saw him way more as Wally than I did Eddie Haskell.   I saw him as the guy who – when you’re a kid – is the older brother of your friend, the one you look up to because he says, Don’t worry about that, worry about this. This is what’s important.
 
 
Is part of Sean Parker a cautionary tale to Mark? In other words, all the things in Sean that lead him to continually attempt to destroy himself, we watch Mark not do.
 
DAVID FINCHER: It’s the birth of the CEO gene in Mark. But I saw Sean as a guy who – maybe it’s not a chemical dependency – but certainly Sean’s weakness is that he likes a good meal, he likes a good drink, he likes a good friend. I saw him as Jedediah Leland. I saw him as the guy you need to have around you who says, No, be true to yourself. And in his being true to himself, he becomes a bit of an albatross.
 
 
One of the things in the movie that makes Mark sympathetic is that the world around him is moving so fast. He can’t keep up with what he created. How did you achieve that visceral feeling of everything moving at such a relentless clip?
 
DAVID FINCHER: I don’t know that I ever consciously took what was happening in front of the camera behaviorally and superimposed it onto the accelerated world that we live in. I can’t say that I knowingly used it as the graph paper against which to draw.
 
To me, it’s how fast can you go and still have the audience understand what you’re talking about. That’s Frank Capra. The whole idea is, Let’s not be boring. If you have to do this Parent Trap twins thing – which we did with the Winklevosses — part of what creates the impression that they’re two different people is the degree to which they finish each other’s sentences and cut each other off. It’s not even so much the proximity of one to the other, but rather the way in which their speech dovetails into the next guy’s idea because they’re so familiar with each other’s patois. They very quickly realize where that sentence is going and they can move on to the next thing, right over the top of their brother. To me, that was part of the speed — the effect of the text, and this hyper kind of righteous indignation, necessitated a pace and rhythm. The first scene in the movie is a girl saying, I’m really having a hard time keeping up with what you’re talking about. Mark better be talking pretty quickly otherwise we’re not going to have any respect for Erica, and we have a lot of respect for her — she’s the one who comes back in and sets our stuff straight. 
 
 
How is directing kids of this age different from directing Cate Blanchett or Brad Pitt or Ed Norton?
 
DAVID FINCHER: It’s a lot of fun. Of course there’s a lot to be said for having the right resources and skill sets from having made 15 or 20 movies and having Hollywood revolve around you. There’s a lot to be said for somebody who brings that to bear, but it’s also a much different and more pressurized situation for that person, when you have someone in your movie who makes the movie go. It’s a different thing for an actor like that, on a daily basis, than it is for somebody who has to be considered part of an ensemble. It’s like American Graffiti — you look at that movie and say, I don’t think Richard Dreyfuss has ever been better, but at that time and place, Susanne Somers had never been better. Ron Howard had never been better. It’s great to be able to find people who are at this crossroads where they’re no longer kids, and they’re trying to find their way and define themselves. I will say another thing that I think is really interesting, which is that I went into this saying, whatever happens, I’m not casting any of those Disney kids, and they’re all Disney kids, and they’re all great! Thank God for the Disney kids, because they’re awesome. Thank God for the Justin Timberlake and Brenda Songs of the world, and Joe Mazello, who grew up on movie sets. And Jesse! And Andrew. Andrew acted in his first movie when he was nine or something. I sort of said to myself, I’m not going to go for movie brats, or television brats – but now I have to say that they were so prepared. They were awesome. They knew how to work, and that was it. You want people who are going to come to this thing going, I know what to do with this,and then you want them to fall down a hill. You want to take them right to the edge and push them over so they find this other thing in it that’s not the preconceived notion of who they are. And yet, the reason we cast Andrew, for example, aside from his incredible skill set, is because he is human. He is that guy who can be hurt, he is that guy who cares that much — so wherever and however we’re going to lose our way, that is the guy who will feel it. And the same thing was true with Justin. My biggest problem with everybody that we looked at was, I need somebody who understands the world like an agent does, or like a record producer does — what it is to seat two people together and know that there’s going to be annuity. You can tell an actor over and over and over what that is, but if he doesn’t understand it, if he doesn’t have that little twinkle in the eye of knowing there’s money to be made here, that those two are getting along and there’s the fruits of my labor – he’s never going to get it.
 
I usually try not to get too bogged down with physical types, but we wanted to stay kind of true to the real people — but mostly to me it was the vibe. As far as directing 25 year olds, God, it was a ball. 
 
 
It seems like everyone is playing, to some degree, at least some aspect of themselves.
 
DAVID FINCHER: I wanted to find something human about everybody, and I never saw Mark as the villain. I don’t see Sean as the villain. I don’t see the Winklevosses as the villain. I don’t see Eduardo’s lack of imagination as villainy. I look at them all and go, They’re kids, they’re going to make mistakes, they’re going to fall into the right things for the right reasons, they’re going to fall out of the right things for the wrong reasons. It just happens, and so the thing was to find a bunch of people who wanted to do the work, have the fun, experiment, and n
ot know what they were going to do. Once we’d blocked the thing that they were going to do – we knew they were going to have no choice but to go out on a limb so I could hand them a chainsaw. 
 
 
Was it like that with Trent? Can you talk about how that collaboration came about?
 
DAVID FINCHER: Well, I knew Trent for a long time and we’d talked about the idea of working together. Now, I know how this sounds and I say this in jest, but all jokes have a little bit of truth to them — I really saw this movie as the Citizen Kane of John Hughes movies, and I heard the music in my head as being something from a John Hughes movie. I heard it as being this kind of cheeseball synthesizer stuff, and I thought that the synthesizer would be the perfect instrument for the world of the Internet — the hum of it, the drone of it, the pneumatics and the booting up, all this stuff with these weird sounds. And then I started thinking about the crush of that interfacing with something for that many hours a day — what your eyes feel like and what your skin feels like if you’ve been sitting in front of your computer. It’s that kind of dead irradiating feeling that you have, and I thought that the only guy I knew who would get that and understand how to take synthesizers and make them operatic – and also understand the horniness of being the dweeb outsider – was Trent Reznor. And so I called him up, and he said no – but I kept calling him, and finally just said, I don’t have a reputation of being a pain in the ass for no reason. I told him, You need to come and let me show you some of this movie so that you can understand what it is, because it’s one thing to read the script and it’s one thing to talk about it and it’s another thing to see. And so he came by and we showed him some scenes and at the end of it he said, I’m in — I get what you’re talking about. I also think that he was a little exhausted at that moment in time and I think that he felt that he was going to have to drive the thing somehow – and I think when he saw the sequences he sort of thought, Wow, I just need to interpret what the envelope is for this sonically. I need to help. I don’t need to provide the cake — I can just provide the icing. 
 
 
But on another level it’s a completely unexpected score. It would be very easy to imagine this movie with a Phil Glass kind of modal pulse score and you didn’t do that.
 
DAVID FINCHER: Right. Tangerine Dream. We talked about that whole thing, but in the end I honestly don’t know anybody more talented than Trent. People don’t realize that he has an awesome sense of humor and that he’s incredibly ironic, and I thought that he’d understand the irony of his involvement.
 
 
Almost the biggest and most striking thing he does in the movie is his first cue. To take that journey from the breakup to Facemash and to make that a journey that’s basically describing loneliness as opposed to energy is an enormously bold and brave choice. 
 
DAVID FINCHER: Yes – and it’s both of those things. It has that sort of screeching sound underneath it where you know somebody is just welling up with hatred and vitriol and at the same time it comes from this other place. That cue wasn’t written for that moment — he basically wrote fifteen or sixteen different eight or nine minute fugues and we took them and started moving them around and said, Well, this sort of fits here and this sort of fits there. He had seen the movie and he knew what the vibe of the movie was and he knew what we were talking about — and so he would just go and write. He just responded to it. It was gestural, it was empathetic. He and Atticus Ross would start sending us stuff and we would just try it over there, and try sticking it under here, and put this under there. And that piano piece that he sent — I remember when it came in an email – was just like boom. You played it and you just went, Oh my God, what is this? This has to be up front and this has to be the Zuckerberg cue — this is him. Of course we were trying to avoid putting it under the title sequence because I had this Elvis Costello piece that I wanted to put there, but it just became so apparent that the piece was exactly what the sequence needed. It had this incredible riptide kind of anger and revenge and darkness and then this intense childlike simple lonely piano over the top of it.
 
 
I think that’s the moment when you’re watching and you say, Oh, great movie – I wonder if they can go all the way with it.
 
DAVID FINCHER: And it’s only nine minutes in.  One scene with those two shots is nine minutes.  It’s the feeling you get with the driving cue at the beginning of The Shining, and the choice of using Ligeti there – it tells you immediately that there is more to it than a guy driving on a highway travelling to a hotel. There’s something larger at work.
 
 
The major question that remains is the one, which has sort of permeated the conversation about the film: Is the movie true?
 
DAVID FINCHER: I think you can try to recreate every detail, you can make sure that people are wearing the exact same shoes that Lee Harvey Oswald wore, you can do all that stuff, but in the end, the thing that everyone will take umbrage with is, But that’s not the right point of view. You’re looking at it from the wrong way. You have to be looking at it from the point of view of the person who was wrong. Or you have to be looking at it from
the point of view of the person who won.
That’s the whole magilla of doing anything that is based on the real world – the Rashomon of it is the thing that ultimately was interesting to me. We weren’t here to sort out something. We’re not making JFK. We’re making a movie where the point is that these people don’t get along — the point is that these kids were friends, to whatever extent, and they were there in the basement in the beginning for the foundation of this thing. Whatever happened by the time they got to the mezzanine happened. The movie is about how people set off to do the right thing by each other, and the right thing by an idea, and how they eventually decide they can’t — that they won’t complete this journey together. That’s what is important.
 
Would this movie have been interesting had we made the exact same movie and called the thing “Mugbook?” And had the character be Mark Birkenstock? If we changed it all, would that have alleviated everyone’s concerns? I think that would be fundamentally worthless because the job here is to basically say, Here’s an agreed-upon set of facts. And our job is to take those facts and make a truth from it. Or three truths.
 
 
Did you enjoy the multiple perspectives? Was that liberating for you?
 
DAVID FINCHER: No, I thought it was essential to telling the story. I didn’t think there was any other way to do it. I wouldn’t have done it had it been a lynch mob going after somebody. I’m not interested in taking the successful down a few pegs — I just thought he was an interesting, compelling force. I thought that considering all the stories — to have the Rashomon effect – was necessary to make a good movie. Otherwise I think people would be bored. There’s also the idea, which Aaron and I have talked about, that one of the things we’re trying to say in this movie is, “No person is only one thing.” And the structure is a way of saying it. Otherwise it’s just a biopic.
 
 
There are big areas in the movie where you and Aaron are, in some ways, at opposite sides of the spectrum. Does it matter?
 
DAVID FINCHER: No.
 
 
Why?
 
DAVID FINCHER: Because he has his view of youth and he has his view of invention. To Aaron, invention is somebody sitting alone in a room and literally hitting his head against a wall until he comes up with something, and then his fingers move and it appears on a screen and he hits send. That, for Aaron, is invention – and, for me, invention is swindling the right people, and saying things a certain way, and saying it near a window in the right way, and somebody takes a picture of that, and then you take that and put it with this other thing. So invention is a very different thing for me than it is for Aaron, and I would think invention is a very different thing for Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the people in the movie. Everybody has his own take — you know you can spin anything in a lot of different ways, and thankfully that’s what the movie is about. 
 
 
Is it the multi-fold perspective on these events that allows you and Aaron to not necessarily agree on what the movie is saying about the characters? Is that why the movie holds both your points of view?
 
DAVID FINCHER: Yes, I think that is the case but I also think that it’s a dramatist’s job to essentially be reductive. Aaron is supposed to distill this whole breadth of events for us. And so even if Aaron is writing a story about this nerd — which may not necessarily be a subject I’m naturally drawn to — he described a character that I could totally relate to. We had these discussions about why the whole movie can’t be about getting revenge against girls — it can’t be that. It has to be about a moment in time and about an opportunity that presents itself that is so far beyond even the most delicious possible revenge. That was the scale of it – you’re talking about a kid who’s doing something that will literally set the world on fire and make him a billionaire.   So the two things encompass one another: one of them is driven by the groin and the other is driven by immortality, and there’s room for both. I think both of our ideas for the movie can be intertwined while retaining the dramatic core that runs through the whole thing. One of the things that makes Aaron great is that he can say, Here’s something that’s really dramatic and really simple. It’s a guy who feels slighted — this is the reason that he does itOtherwise, how do you explain his blog entries? So rooted in this character is very primitive hurt, and Aaron uses that as a jumping off point. 

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