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What went wrong for David Fincher on ‘Alien 3,’ according to Holt McCallany

‘Mindhunter’ star opens up about Fincher’s maligned debut, which provoked the director to say he’d rather get colon cancer than oversee another picture.
David Fincher on the set of Alien 3
[Image: Getty]

Mindhunter was the most recent reminder of David Fincher’s prowess as a director. But while the likes of “Se7en,” “The Social Network,” “Fight Club,” and “Zodiac” have long earned Fincher his place amongst the cinematic pantheon his directorial debut “Alien 3” was such an unpleasant experience that he nearly quit feature films immediately.

Holt McCallany, who recently reteamed with Fincher on “Mindhunter,” also starred in “Alien 3” as Junior, while he worked alongside the director on “Fight Club,” too. Earlier this month I had the chance to talk to McCallany about “Mindhunter” and collaborating with Fincher again, which is when I brought up his maligned feature film debut “Alien 3.”

“You know it was his first film, and I actually thought he did an amazing job with ‘Alien 3’,” McCallany insisted. “It is very dark. It is set on a prison. We’re all convicts in outer space, and we haven’t seen a woman in years, and suddenly Sigourney Weaver turns up and starts creating havoc.”

“The problem he had was that the studio took it away from him and recut it and kind of destroyed it. Which is why the director’s cut is so much better. I mean he was like 27-years-old, it was his first movie, so they could get away with it. Nobody would try to do that to David now, after the success of ‘Se7en,’ which is a masterpiece, he doesn’t have those problems.”

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After ‘Alien 3’ underperformed at the domestic box office, and was deemed inferior to its predecessors by critics, Fincher didn’t just disown the film, citing deadlines and studio interference as the reasons why it failed, but he insisted that he would rather get “colon cancer” than direct another picture.

Andrew Kevin Walker’s script for “Se7en” helped to change Fincher’s mind, though, especially because of the final scene of the film, which has now gone down in movie folklore. During my discussion with McCallany I also asked the actor how Fincher has changed since they first worked together. 

“How is David different? The only thing I can point to is that he’s much more accomplished. He has become a tremendously successful director. But temperamentally, and when it comes to the work, and his personality, his sense of humor, and his intelligence, he’s the same guy. It’s funny, even though we haven’t worked together since ‘Fight Club’ in 1999, we picked up and it felt exactly where we’d left off. He’s the same guy.”

You can remind yourself of Fincher’s skills as a director by devouring “Mindhunter” in all of its glory on Netflix, especially as a second season of the critically acclaimed series has already been greenlit. 

 
 
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