TV's colourful characters have viewers hooked

'GOLDEN AGE OF TV': Film-maker Fincher (left, with Gone Girl actor Neil Patrick Harris) believes the huge success of TV series holds important lessons for Hollywood.


    Oct 14, 2014

    TV's colourful characters have viewers hooked


    A TROUBLED detective hunting a serial killer in rural Louisiana, a chemistry teacher with inoperable lung cancer reinvented as a drug kingpin, a bisexual woman doing jail time for aiding and abetting her drug-mule former girlfriend.

    Hollywood's David Fincher says all the most interesting characters have gone to TV - and audiences have followed them.

    Fincher, who directed the first two episodes of online-streaming giant Netflix's House Of Cards, insists he hasn't given up on movies.

    His latest film - the mystery thriller Gone Girl - has just topped the United States box office on its debut weekend with estimated takings of US$38 million (S$48 million).

    But the film-maker, who directed Brad Pitt in Seven and Fight Club, believes the huge critical and commercial success of TV series such as True Detective, Breaking Bad and Orange Is The New Black holds important lessons for Hollywood.

    "They call it the golden age of television. Right now, people are discovering television because it's where all the most interesting characters have gone," he told reporters in Paris.

    "Those are the characters that get to say that they're about something, and then behave in a way that maybe refutes that. You don't get to do that in movies," he said.

    Breaking Bad, starring actor Bryan Cranston as teacher-turned-master criminal Walter White, won this year's best drama at the Emmy Awards, TV's equivalent of the Oscars.

    Comedy drama Orange Is The New Black, set in a women's prison, has also earned plaudits, while True Detective, featuring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, has been similarly hailed for its mastery.

    Fincher said Hollywood's love affair with big-budget "destruction" and "spectacle" movies meant there was inevitably less space for more character-driven films.

    "(It's all) 'I've just trashed Chicago, we've got to get to Toronto and destroy that too'. They're a much more hyper experience."

    The fact that Gone Girl was made for around US$50 million proved it "doesn't always have to be about people in spandex", he said.

    But he added that for most writers and directors, TV was the place that offered the most creative freedom.

    "For the most part, television is the place where you can take a character...and really look at what makes him tick.

    "The trade-off is that you're not spending US$20 million an hour, you're spending US$5 million an hour. So if you can work in a more intimate way, television has a lot (to offer)."

    Actors, too, have changed their attitude to TV, he said.

    "There's a blurring of the lines, whereas 10 years ago, it was very much actors going, 'I do movies, I don't want to do TV'," he said.

    "There was kind of this idea, 'I can't be bothered' and now I think people are going where the stories are."

    Fincher is the latest in a string of movie professionals to highlight the migration of talent from Hollywood to TV.

    At last year's Cannes film festival, Behind The Candelabra screenwriter Richard LaGravenese said TV now allowed greater scope for subtlety.

    "TV is where a writer can write his novel. You can have episodes that are purely character-driven...that are just about nuance and about shades of the human condition that you can't do in film any more," he said.

    In addition to his directing role, Fincher served as an executive producer on House Of Cards, the Netflix remake of the 1990 British political thriller.

    He said he had been attracted to the drama, in which Kevin Spacey stars with Robin Wright as the scheming Frank Underwood, because it was so "deliciously evil".

    He predicted that Netflix, which also made Orange Is The New Black, would prove to be a boon for onscreen drama.

    "(Netflix is) the film-maker's friend. I was enormously impressed with the way that it put the content first," he explained.

    "It's going to be one or two on its list of priorities as opposed to, 'Can we market it? Will young boys like it? Can we make a happy meal out of it?'

    "We don't need to fear Netflix."