With an elegantly frosted beard and cobalt-blue eyes, David Fincher paced and perfected his ginger ale’s mix of ice to fluid before he sat down to talk with The Hitlist about “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” his take on the best-selling – and, albeit in Swedish, already filmed – novel where punk hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) is hired by journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) to uncover a decades-old murder long hidden in the twisted branches and knarled roots of a powerful family tree. Fincher had just come from a press conference with a mass of press asking questions, where I had the chance to ask him one question, point-blank – not accusing him of hypocrisy, or of trawling through the depths with some of the more edgy material in “Dragon Tattoo” – at the same time, the director had given a hearty laugh referring to the film’s smoking as part of its “hard R.”
I asked the director about the fact that “Dragon Tattoo” is rated R for forced sex, violent sex and the discussion and depiction of sexually motivated torture-murd,er – and yet Steve McQueen’s “Shame,” which features consensual (and unhappy) sex and nude Michael Fassbender’s genitals is rated NC-17. Does that discrepancy in rating, I asked, reflect the ways in which the MPAA is a broken system or does it reflect the public’s tolerance for misogyny and murder? Fincher, with good humor, considering the question, answered, “I think all of that.” As the assembled reporters laughed at his bluntness, he clarified, “I don’t know; I haven’t seen ‘Shame,’ so I can’t comment on the movie.” But, I followed up, do you feel your film is deserving of an R rating? “Yes, I do – absolutely.” Do you, I continued, think that the film deserves an NC-17 rating? “No.”
Later, upstairs, as the director paced and moved with the elegantly energetic figure eights of a jungle cat in a too-small cage, we spoke about the need to cut while adapting, the question of length, and the precise difference between justice and vengeance. And even before we started, Fincher was shaking his head – not angrily, but with a kind of Zen acceptance – and talking about how tired he was of some of the process of promoting his newest film.