When it was announced that Disney was launching a new trilogy of Star Wars films, lots of names popped up to potentially direct the lead-off film. There were the obvious choices like Steven Spielberg and Brad Bird, and then there were some less obvious picks, like David Fincher. Fincher has a stellar track record in Hollywood, particularly in the critical realm, but space opera blockbusters have never really been his thing. The closest he's gotten to a franchise was Alien 3, his debut feature, and that didn't go so well. Now he's changing that with a gig directing the sequel to World War Z, but when Star Wars came calling, Fincher wasn't exactly psyched.
With the premiere of his new Netflix series Mindhunter this month, Fincher's been making the rounds in interviews, including an in-depth conversation on The Empire Podcast. In that discussion, he re-confirmed that he was indeed considered to direct Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but had reservations from the start that kept him from wanting the gig. Here's how he explains it:
“I talked to [producer Kathleen Kennedy] about that and look, it’s a plum assignment. I don’t know what’s worse: being George Lucas on the set of the first one where everyone’s going, ‘Alderaan? What the hell is this?’ Where everyone’s making fun, but I can’t imagine the kind of intestinal fortitude one has to have following up the success of these last two. That’s a whole other level. One is that you have to endure the withering abuse of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, and the other is you have to live up to a billion or a billion-five, and that becomes its own kind of pressure."
He added: "You’d have to really clear your head, I think. You’d have to really be sure this is what you wanted to do, because either way it’s two years of your life, 14 hours a day, seven days a week.”
So Fincher walked away from Lucasfilm and the gig went to lifelong Star Wars fan and franchise-filmmaking veteran J.J. Abrams. Though a Fincher-led Star Wars film would be fascinating, and would no doubt look unlike anything we've seen in the franchise before, it was probably the right call. A key ingredient in making a good Star Wars film seems to be enthusiasm, and if Fincher didn't have that, he was right to turn down the gig.