'Gone Girl': Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike on Spousal Deceit and "Becoming Batman" on Set
"The book asked really hard questions about marriage and relationships ... sometimes you find out ugly things when you ask hard questions"
Although David Fincher's Gone Girl rarely shows onscreen couple Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in the same scene, the mystery thriller about a disappeared wife plays less like a whodunit and more like what Affleck called "David's subversive take on a dark look at marriage."
"We really dissect — we put a marriage under a microscope, don't we? From the giddy, early days," said Pike to an AMC Loews theater full of reporters after a screening of the film on Friday night, just after walking the red carpet of the New York Film Festival's opening-night feature at Lincoln Center across the street. "It's a film about intimacy, really, and the wonderful things that go with intimacy, and the treachery that can come with intimacy, when you know someone so well that you can just screw every little nut," she continued, hauntingly slowing her speech.
Affleck added, "The book asked really hard questions about marriage and relationships. It didn't want to gloss over the things we don't like to look at in others and in ourselves. Sometimes you find out ugly things when you ask hard questions."
Fincher found the film to also highlight one's "narcissistic armor" or "the vision of ourselves that we project and construct for our parents and teachers before we go out into the world and try to mate, and you seduce your mate and enter into a contract with someone … and the resentment that that might engender."
When asked if Nick Dunne evolves during the film, Affleck answered by sharing his observation that reporters' responses to his role in the film have been divided by gender. "I've seen different reactions to the Nick character — it's complicated, he does change, but a lot has to do with the audience's perception of him," he said. "Women and men have very different reactions to this character. Women journalists go, 'What was it like playing a dick?' And men, most of the men just go, 'Yeah,' " he nodded in understanding, drawing laughs from the audience.
Pike said it was "very fun to be every kind of woman" with "a fragile sense of self" to play the equally unreliable Amy Dunne. "I don't think she could’ve been a man; the way her brain works is purely female," she said. "People don’t like me for saying that, but I think it's true. In a lot of movies, a strong woman is being like a man, but she's strictly female." Novelist and screenwriter Gillian Flynn added of her title character, "I see Amy as someone who knows all the tropes. She is someone who knows all the stories, she's seen the Lifetime movies, she's seen everything about what it's about to be a woman, and she's not afraid to use that to her will. She can play any role she wants.… She is someone who was made of a bundle of stories that were pulled together over the years."
Pike liked the challenge of shooting scenes out of order, according to her character's weight fluctuation. She said of Affleck, who also just happened to be physically transforming, "Ben was becoming Batman before my eyes — by the time we were in the shower, I was with Batman!"
The actors were thrilled to be working with Fincher on the thriller. "I'm at this point in my career where I've decided it's all about the director.… I would’ve done the phone book with David!" said Affleck, adding that he always watched Fincher's Seven before directing a new project. "It was a true learning experience, I loved it and I would do it again and again and again. And David, despite his reputation, is a very funny and nice guy, not just a demon."
Tyler Perry, who plays Nick's lawyer in the film, said Fincher "does a lot of takes, but what I realized early on is he sees everything at once. He doesn’t see regular humans, he sees this perfect tableau and if something's out of place, it has to be redone.… I walked away hopeful that one day I'll do better in my own films." Pike agreed, saying, "It's not unbelievable pressure … you feel you've got the time, and you've got somebody who's really, really watching."
Neil Patrick Harris, who plays Amy's ex-beau, added of the director, "I love that David has an amazing vocabulary and demands a high amount of excellence when you're performing … and yet when he communicates with people, it's calm and confident.… The way he gave you notes was in a way that made you feel you were on the right path. He was talking with you, not at you." Harris was drawn to the role because "all the characters were relatively suspect throughout.… I like that I'm creepy in the movie, but there's pathos to it."
Fincher responded with why he cast each of the actors alongside him: Perry's Tanner needed to be "calm, someone who makes you feel like you're heard," and Harris' Desi would be played by "the most watchable, most present, quicksilver person you can find." He was appropriately puzzled by Pike in other movies — "I never got a sense of who she was," he said — and joked that Affleck was the man for the lead because "Ben was available, and all he had to do was shut down his movie at Warner Bros. and send everyone he hired home," also noting that Affleck was possibly offered the opportunity to direct Gone Girl himself.
Flynn was overjoyed when she learned Fincher was directing the adaptation, particularly because "he's known for dread, claustrophobia and sense of place, but he's underrated for those weird bursts of dark humor," she explained, particularly in showing how the media further magnify "the idea that someone else's tragedy is something we're consuming … and what that means to package it, and someone becomes the villain and someone else becomes the hero." The director also noted of his initial idea for the score, "I said I hear those ambient loops that one hears over and over again when you're at a spa, that reassuring assuaging music."
Gone Girl hits theaters Oct. 3.