David Fincher interview: "There’s really only two seasons for movies: 'spandex summer' and 'affliction winter'"

David Fincher
(Image credit: Getty Images)

David Fincher’s Mank was a long time coming. The director has been drumming up interest in the story of Herman J. Mankiewicz, the screenwriter behind Citizen Kane, since 1997 – as soon as his writer father Jack Fincher (a journalist and author) had finished the script.

"Unless you’re making a tentpole movie that has a Happy Meal component to it, no one’s interested,” Fincher tells Total Film for the latest issue of the magazine, headlined by Mank. However, after many years fighting for Mank to get made, the perfect opportunity presented itself when Netflix asked what Fincher would like to make next (the filmmaker had worked with the streamer on House Of Cards, Love, Death & Robots, and Mindhunter).

One of the great things about working with Netflix, Fincher says, is that there's not the same pressure on opening weekends as when a movie is released through a theatrical distributor, and that the film will live on in the service’s library. He jokes that “it’s not particularly a smart business plan to make a love letter to another movie that’s on [rival streaming service] HBO Max... But, listen, if we only did the stuff that was smart, there’d probably only be Marvel and Star Wars and Jurassic Park movies.”

David Fincher's Mank

(Image credit: Netflix)

With Mank finally reaching Netflix this December, the movie seems primed for awards season. Yet, the whole awards conversation is anathema to Fincher, who douses it with his trademark cynicism and wit. “Look, the only reason we have these kind of conversations is because of the lack of imagination on behalf of the people who have behaviourally modified the audience’s expectations," he says. 

"There’s really only two seasons for movies. There’s ‘spandex summer’ and there’s ‘affliction winter’. You’re making your movie for one of two seasons. And if you miss, you’ll fall into one of those other two seasons, which are nominally dumping grounds. Does that make sense?” 

Of course: there’s no director working today with a shrewder grasp on the industry’s machinations. Fincher, after all, went through the wringer with his debut movie Alien 3 but has since found acclaim – both from critics and award bodies – thanks to The Social Network, Fight Club, and Gone Girl.

“I’m not really just a jaded fuck,” he concludes. “I’m an informed, jaded fuck.”

Mank launches on Netflix on December 4. For much more from Fincher and his collaborators, pick up a copy of the new issue of Total Film magazine when it hits shelves real and digital this Friday, November 13. Check out the new covers of Total Film below: the one on the right is on its way to subscribers right now:

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(Image credit: Total Film)
Matt Maytum
Deputy Editor, Total Film

I'm the Deputy Editor at Total Film magazine, looking after the long-form features there, and generally obsessing over all things Nolan, Kubrick and Pixar. Over the past decade I've worked in various roles for TF online and in print, including at GamesRadar+, and you can often hear me nattering on the Inside Total Film podcast. Bucket-list-ticking career highlights have included reporting from the set of Tenet and Avengers: Infinity War, as well as covering Comic-Con, TIFF and the Sundance Film Festival.