Cover Story

'Gone Girl'

David Fincher brings the best-seller to the screen, with Ben Affleck as the husband who either lost his wife -- or killed her

Rosamund Pike is missing.

Three weeks ago, the 34-year-old British actress phoned for an interview but hung up after the first question. "I don't think I can talk about that," she said, flustered and stuttering. She called back 20 minutes later, but again got spooked and ended the conversation after a few seconds. Now, days later, not even her assistant can track her down. She's just...gone.

Pike's new movie, as it happens, is Gone Girl, based on the 2012 word-of-mouth smash best-seller by Gillian Flynn. The thriller, directed by David Fincher and produced by Reese Witherspoon, autopsies the marriage of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and his wife, Amy (Pike), two out-of-work magazine writers whose marital bliss turns toxic when they leave New York City for small-town Missouri. Amy is a beautiful, sophisticated, and increasingly distraught fish out of water. Nick is a shifty, narcissistic liar. When Amy vanishes on their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick becomes the prime suspect in her murder — though, technically, it's unclear if she actually has been murdered. Maybe she's just been kidnapped? And maybe Nick had nothing to do with it? But the guy really does seem like a creep.

Flynn's novel was riveting and unnerving, and it boasted the year's most delicious, out-of-nowhere twist. For some readers, it was also enraging at times because of its untrustworthy narration and its deep cynicism about love and justice. If the cover of this magazine, which was shot by Fincher himself, is any indication, the movie (out Oct. 3) isn't going to play nice either. It takes a particularly ballsy filmmaker to create a cover image that appears to be a major spoiler.

The director readily admits he isn't interested in pandering to audience expectations. "All you need to do is look at my filmography to know that I have no idea what people want," says Fincher, 51, who has built his career with such button-hammering films as Se7en and Fight Club. He says that the lesson he learned from bringing Stieg Larsson's hit novel The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo to the screen in 2011 was that "we may have been too beholden to the source material." And he is unapologetic about his preference for unconventional characters: "I don't know what 'likable' is. I know people who are doting parents, who give to charity, drive Priuses, all those things, who are insufferable a- -holes.... I like people who get s--- done."

Long before she met Fincher, Flynn sensed he was a kindred dark spirit. "When I was writing Gone Girl, there were certain parts where I thought, 'David Fincher would really kill this scene,'" says the author, 42. "I thought he'd inject just the right sense of necessary malice." Typically, authors are kept far from the filmmaking process because they tend to resist the necessary cuts that make a story cinematic. But Flynn, a former ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY writer who also wrote the film's screenplay, wasn't just willing to kill her darlings but to slaughter them. "Ben was so shocked by it," Fincher says. "He would say, 'This is a whole new third act! She literally threw that third act out and started from scratch.'"

Hiring Affleck to portray Nick was a no-brainer for Fincher, partly because he likes the challenge of directing actors who've directed movies themselves. "No one will find you out faster than the guy who made Argo," he says. But the kind of fame that Affleck has enjoyed, and endured, played a role as well. As the murder investigation heats up, Nick becomes the center of a relentless media onslaught. "Ben knows inherently what that experience is like," Fincher says. "He knows what it's like to be hunted." And as Flynn notes, Affleck seemed perfect to capture the duality of Nick. "You have to wonder if Nick did horrible things to his wife, and you have to see him do some really not good things, but at the same time you have to be able to say, 'I'd like to have a beer with that guy,'" she says.

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