David Fincher made his feature film debut in 1992 with Alien3. In 1995, he directed the dark thriller Se7en which starred Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt. He worked with Pitt again on Fight Club in 1999 and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 2008.
His new movie The Social Network seems to be a departure for him. It deals with the warring perspectives of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and his super-smart young friends, who each claim to have been there at the inception of Facebook.
This movie, at least on the surface, is a departure for you. Dealing with characters whose primary means of expression is verbal is not something you’ve had in your other movies – did you like that?
It was fine, but I think it’s more like this – I don’t know what directors are supposed to do except what the script wants. That’s what the script was, and that’s what it needed. Are you supposed to hoard your little corner of the Monopoly board? Are you supposed to say, ‘I’m Park Place and this is what I do.’ That seems kind of dull.
The movie, on some level, is a testament to Mark Zuckerberg’s work ethic – his relentless ability to execute that vision.
Right. Mark does what no one else in the movie does and he’s the guy who reaps the rewards – but he also pays a price.
What is the movie saying about success? Is it something about the moment at which your fantasy of success collides with actual success?
It’s hard for me to even imagine the kind of success that the movie is talking about.
I do liken it, in a way, to the fraternity of the outsider that existed at a point in time with a commercial company that I started when I was 25. And that was very much a bunch of people getting together because they couldn’t find representation, because they couldn’t make the jump from being music video directors to being commercial directors with this Catch-22: ‘You can’t do it until you’ve done it. But you can’t have done it until you do it.’ Nobody was going to give us our shot.
So I do understand what it is to stake your claim, to wait for the sun to illuminate your part of the world. And I think there’s a little bit of that in Mark – he saw that if he could link all these things then people could have this sort of immediate connection in the same way as cellular phones. That’s what it is – it’s a cellular phone immediacy in the remaking of your image of yourself. ‘This is not who I am. This is who I want you to see that I am.’ It’s Narcissus.
Is there a price that Mark pays for what he becomes?
I think the price Mark pays is that, with every mounting hill he’s able to climb – from 500 early adopters to 500 million later adopters – he’s forced to realize the awesome responsibility of having your dreams come true.
He learns that – if you want to be great at something – the next lap of the marathon you’re supposed to shave a few seconds off, you’re supposed to get a little leaner, you’re supposed to get a little stronger.
Mark will do that – in the end, you see a guy who has a million users, but that means he has to stay late while everyone else can go celebrate. He’s alone. He got what he wanted – but he’s as alone as he is at the end of the first scene in the movie.
You go to great lengths to say that Mark isn’t in it for the money – so what’s he in it for?
But you had some significant degree of success when you were young.
I believe that Mark is in it to fully realize his dream, which is to build an apparatus that allows him to connect to the world in a way that he’s unable to do in his own life.
People talk about Mark’s borderline Asperger’s, his horrific PR style, but I think that Facebook required someone with those kinds of limited social skills. If you’re going to create an apparatus like Facebook, you have to start with somebody who’s going to be able to understand how difficult it is to communicate. That’s the progression.
What do you feel about somebody who would say that it’s not fair to make a movie about this guy who did all this stuff when he was nineteen and didn’t know any better?
I don’t know. Look, I don’t think anybody involved ever thought we were sharpening our knives for Mark Zuckerberg. I think we thought of him as a compelling, interesting character for a movie.
Do you think there’s a value to Facebook?
Do I think it’s worth 25 billion dollars?
No, do you think Facebook is fundamentally a good or bad thing?
I think that, like anything that is so flexible and so powerful, it’s obviously both – it’s alternating current, sixty times a second. It’s like cell phones. Are cell phones good or bad? No – thank God we have them but do we spend too much time on them?
Do they create the impression in minds that don’t want to delve too deeply that we’re somehow connected everywhere, when really all we are is riding around in a car filling our empty lives with, Hey, what are you doing?’ ‘Nothing’ ‘Okay, call you later.’
I had a friend with one of the great quotes. I said, ‘So, do you have an email address yet?’ and he goes, ‘Nah, I’m not really into the internet.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ And he goes, ‘I don’t like CB radio that you type.’ And I thought, ‘That’s kind of an interesting way of looking at it: CB radio you type.’