Gone Girl will leave you breathless. Another David Fincher parable for our times, the film, adapted from the Gillian Flynn novel, is a dizzying display of unpredictable thrills and pitch-black cutting satire about our media and marital culture in the 21st century. Yet, if you’ve read all the buzzed about reviews since its New York Film Festival debut last week, including our own, you’ll notice that one name is leaving people the most shell-shocked: Rosamund Pike.
While Gone Girl is filled with characteristically unexpected casting from Fincher—such as Ben Affleck in the lead role of Nick Dunne, the man suspected of causing his wife’s grim disappearance—it is the inclusion of the English Ms. Pike as the icy cool Amy Dunne, the vanished spouse, that lingers after the film ends. Indeed, awards commentators are thinking it will linger all the way into next year’s red carpet season.
The hype stems from the realization of a unique character whose perspective and opinions on her husband (and thus the story) are shaded throughout the film. It’s an enigmatic performance that’s with complete balance.
So, when I asked Ms. Pike how she exactly threaded that needle during our pleasant phone interview, she said with a laugh, “You have a very good director.” Describing Fincher as brilliantly precise in what he wants, she felt that the frame was meticulously guided.
“I remember the first week that I was walking into [a house], and the camera’s looking at me from behind, and David said, ‘You’re not impressed enough.’ And the camera’s on the back of my head! And yet, you see all of that.” For Ms. Pike, creating Amy Dunne on the screen was the opportunity to build a character with every frame, even in the silence.
The character herself is an arguably confounding one, but Pike views that as incredibly relevant for both readers and viewers today.
“I read the book when David Fincher talked to me about doing the film, and you know, she startled me,” Pike said. “She’s a great character, and not just because she gives an actress a great range to play, but I think she points out something brilliant and something intelligent about being a woman and coming to a relationship in this narcissistic day and age.”
When asked if she likes Amy Dunne, with a clear reflection Pike said, “I don’t know. I understand her. Like or dislike doesn’t really come into it.”
During the New York Film Festival press conference following a screening, Pike had said that she did not think Amy Dunne could possibly be a man. When I asked her to elaborate on that, she said, “I think Amy’s responding to a very specific and [universal] feeling about relationships and marriage. I think the way that she sets about it is very feminine, in particular.”
Pike also talked about how rare Amy is as a character for an actress to play. “A lot of the time, a strong woman in a film has the qualities of a man, and she’s made female, or she uses her sexual power to get what she wants. And Amy can do that, but it’s not her modus operandi to use sex.”
Also during the press conference, Fincher had said that one of the deciding moments he had when casting Rosamund Pike was when they were having a three-hour meeting in St. Louis.
“It suddenly dawned on me,” Fincher said. “And I asked her, ‘Do you have any siblings,’ and she just said that no, she’s an only child. And [I realized] that Amy has to have that. This hermetically sealed social thing.”
When I talked to her, Pike agreed that such young social isolation was important to Amy’s character. As with Flynn’s literary portrait of the character, Amy Dunne is the daughter of wealthy New York writers that borrowed (or exploited) her childhood when they wrote a young adult book series entitled The Amazing Amy. As a result, everyone Amy ever met before that nice Midwestern fellow named Nick, associated her with her own literary counterpart’s far more idealized life.
“She’s been very worshipped since a young age,” Pike told me. “But she felt inadequate when compared to ‘The Amazing Amy,’ who was brilliant at everything she achieved [while] the real Amy felt like she failed.”
The casting, like so many aspects of a Fincher film, is a unique process on the film. However, all of it Pike savors as rewarding for an actress and an artist. When asked about Fincher’s well-known method of having dozens of takes for scenes, Pike countered, “Don’t you think it’s more interesting to ask the person who only does three [takes] why they don’t do as many?”
She adds that the time that Fincher gives all of his actors is incredibly liberating. “In any new work, being given the time [you] need, whether it’s as a writer or a craftsman, or you’re training or preparing a case at all, that time is so valuable.”
And that time has been used to unpack a new vantage on the modern marital status.
“It’s really about intimacy,” Pike said. “And the wonderful things that can go with intimacy, and the treachery that comes with intimacy, when you know someone so well that you can screw every little nut.”
Perhaps that is why Gone Girl will likely stay with viewers long after this weekend. Like Ms. Pike and Mr. Fincher, it knows how to get under the skin.
Gone Girlis in theaters today, October 3rd.