It was hard to know whether Fincher was saying this to be, as is his way, intentionally provocative, or if he was sincere. “Probably both,” Scott Rudin, the producer of The Social Network, explained to me later. Rudin, who sent the script for The Social Network to Fincher and who is also producing The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, finds Fincher to be intrinsically, rigorously contrary. “He has a giant brain,” Rudin said. “And he can have 19 conversations simultaneously in his brain and he doesn’t miss anything. He’s capable of taking any point of view and dismantling it until he comes to the conclusion that, for him, makes perfect sense. I thought of David for Social Network because, fundamentally, Social Network is a portrait of an anarchist, and I think David is an anarchist. Besides being brilliant, David has the same fuck-off arrogance as Mark Zuckerberg. David is hardwired to question authority and existing structures. And he likes nothing better than to blow them up.”
Fincher divides his work between “movies” and “films”—by his definition, a movie is overtly commercial, engineered for the sole pleasure of the audience. A film is conceived for the public and filmmakers: It is more audacious, more daring. By his reckoning, Fight Club and, especially, Zodiac (neither of which were box office successes) are films, while The Social Network (which is a box office smash—close to $100 million in America alone) is simply a movie.
“It’s a little glib to be a film,” Fincher maintained. “Let’s hope we strove to get at something interesting, but Social Network is not earth-shattering. Zodiac was about murders that changed America. After the Zodiac killings in California, the Summer of Love was over. Suddenly, there was no more weed or pussy. People were hog-tied and died. No one died during the creation of Facebook. By my estimation, the person who made out the worst in the creation of Facebook still made more than 30 million dollars. And no one was killed.”
Although a movie’s (or a film’s) worth should not be determined by its body count, Fincher will not be dissuaded. Zodiac may have special significance for him, as it harks back to Fincher’s youth. He is 48 and grew up in San Anselmo, a wealthy suburb outside San Francisco. The Zodiac killer had publicly threatened to hijack a school bus and murder children. “I remember coming home from school and asking my dad, who was a freelance magazine writer and worked at home, why highway patrolmen were following our bus. He pushed his glasses down on his nose and looked at me and said, very calmly, ‘It seems that there’s a serial killer with a high-power rifle who has said he plans to kill children.’ I was terrified. My father thought it was rubbish, that nothing would happen. That is, very clearly, when things changed for me: I became aware of evil. And death. And it also changed California, and then the country.”