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What Fincher said about 'Social Network'

 

The New York Times thought it was Page One material that Facebook is upset over David Fincher's forthcoming "The Social Network," which opens the New York Film Festival next month. 

But Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg has long been a controversial figure, accused of hogging credit and manipulating other people's ideas well before the publication of Ben Mezrich's disreputable source book, "The Accidental Billionaires." (Aaron Sorkin also based his script on court documents and additional interviews.) At least partly because Zuckerberg never told Mezrich his side of the story, in the book he comes off as at worst a heartless user, at best a ruthless genius so divorced from normal human discourse he doesn't even know he's ruthless.

Still, the movie's director, David Fincher, isn't likely to take a one-sided view of his characters. I spoke to him when he was shooting last fall at Johns Hopkins (which doubled for Harvard). When asked if Zuckerberg would seem more sympathetic in the movie, the man who directed "Fight Club," "Zodiac" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" said, "I'm not the one to talk about the need for 'likable' or 'sympathetic' characters."

You could sense a bit of "Benjamin Button" behind Fincher's statement that "how you judge a man can change; as you view him over the course of a whole life, you look at him differently." Indeed, Sorkin's script for "The Social Network" cuts back and forth between the events leading up to Facebook and legal depositions taken four years later.

Fincher said one conflict in the movie was between the oldest Old School traditions of Harvard's social life and business culture, resting on fortunes made over decades of invention, innovation or investment (and then handed down to future generations), and the fame and/or wealth generated in months by someone like Zuckerberg.

"What did it feel like for someone like him to be 17 to 21 and have all these venture capitalists tapping him on the shoulder and saying, 'Come over here'?" he asked. "If success accelerates the process of you becoming who you really are, how does that work when success happens so rapidly?" More important, said Fincher, "How we feel about Zuckerberg is not how I see the story." With his arm reaching out to embrace his mock Harvard, he said, "The way I see drama, the context is the story."

Are Facebook users looking forward to this movie? Based on the trailer, do you fear that it will paint an unflattering group portrait of "the social network?" And are movie fans simply looking forward to seeing a Fincher movie with a cast including Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerman, future Spider-Man Andrew Garfied as his one-time partner Eduardo Saverin, and in a smaller role, Rooney Mara, the future Lisbeth Salander?

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