The helmer of Fight Club and The Social Network sat down for an interview with the Telegraph to talk about the film industry, and he took aim at the controversial but largely well-received Joker to highlight his point. Promoting his latest Netflix endeavour Mank—starring Batman veteran Gary Oldman—Fincher remarked that studios aren't willing to green-light films unless they believe they will "make them a billion dollars."
"Nobody would have thought they had a shot at a giant hit with Joker had The Dark Knight not been as massive as it was," he explained. "I don’t think anyone would have looked at that material and thought, ‘Yeah, let’s take [Taxi Driver’s] Travis Bickle and [The King of Comedy’s] Rupert Pupkin and conflate them, then trap him in a betrayal of the mentally ill, and trot it out for a billion dollars." Todd Phillips' Joker has received plenty of comparisons to Martin Scorsese's two films, both of which star Robert De Niro, as did Joker.
He contrasted the studio attitude to that of his own movie, Fight Club, as it took quite a lot of convincing to get the project green-lit. Fincher even remarked that after early screenings, "the general view...among the studio types was, 'Our careers are over.' The fact that we got that film made in 1999 is still, to my mind, a miracle."
Ultimately Fight Club was a moderate success at the box office, but compared to Joker, which Warner Bros. were rightly confident in the commercial potential of, it wasn't exactly a home run.
Fincher's comments come just as Mank, a moderately budgeted biographical drama, has debuted on Netflix. The director is still in an exclusive deal with the streaming platform—he gave them one of their first original TV hits, House of Cards—and he recently revealed he still has four years left on the deal.