Usually, when a reporter asks an actor about his experiences working for a Notoriously Difficult Director, the aggrieved talent bites his or her lip, takes a deep breath, then holds forth on how artistically rewarding it was to work for a "perfectionist." But in Sunday's NY Times, a still-rattled Jake Gyllenhaal couldn't resist the temptation to speak "candidly" about the emotional scars inflicted upon him by Zodiac sadist David Fincher:
Mr. Gyllenhaal said he came from a collaborative filmmaking family: "We share ideas, and we incorporate those ideas." He added: "David knows what he wants, and he's very clear about what he wants, and he's very, very, very smart. But sometimes we'd do a lot of takes, and he'd turn, and he would say, because he had a computer there" — the movie was shot digitally — " 'Delete the last 10 takes.' And as an actor that's very hard to hear."
Mr. Gyllenhaal, 26, partly blamed culture shock; he'd just finished "Jarhead" for Sam Mendes, who gave him a much freer rein. Mr. Gyllenhaal stressed that he admired and liked Mr. Fincher personally. And he noted that other members of the "Zodiac" cast had far more experience, adding: "I wish I could've had the maturity to be like: 'I know what he wants. He wants the best out of me.' "
That said, Mr. Gyllenhaal spoke candidly about his frustration with Mr. Fincher's degree of control over his performance.
"What's so wonderful about movies is, you get your shot," he said. "They even call it a shot. The stakes are high. You get your chance to prove what you can do. You get a take, 5 takes, 10 takes. Some places, 90 takes. But there is a stopping point. There's a point at which you go, 'That's what we have to work with.' But we would reshoot things. So there came a point where I would say, well, what do I do? Where's the risk?"
Told of Mr. Gyllenhaal's comments, Mr. Fincher half-jokingly said, "I hate earnestness in performance," adding, "Usually by Take 17 the earnestness is gone." But half-joking aside, he said that collaboration "has to come from a place of deep knowledge." While he had no objections to having fun, he said, "When you go to your job, is it supposed to be fun, or are you supposed to get stuff done?"
Fincher later conceded that he might have been a little tough on his sensitive, dreamy-eyed star, admitting that his "delete the last 10 takes" game was nothing more than a Pavlovian experiment in talent manipulation, as the director found himself curious to discover how long it would take for him to induce involuntary tears of frustration in Gyllenhaal by merely placing his finger above the button that would erase hours of the actor's hard work.