Carrie Coon already had a Tony Award nomination to her name when she stepped on the set of Gone Girl, but switching mediums and jumping into your first feature film can still involve quite the learning curve. And on top of that, Coon was taking that plunge with a David Fincher film.
Coon plays Margo Dunn in the movie, the sister of Ben Affleck’s character, Nick. Based on the acclaimed Gillian Flynn novel, the film digs into what happens when Nick’s wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), suddenly goes missing. Pike went on to score an Academy Award nomination for her work, and Gone Girl also scooped up a whole bunch of other nods and accolades that awards season.
Not only is Fincher known for doing many, many takes on his sets, but when Jake Gyllenhaal looked back on the making of Zodiac with The New York Times, he said that Fincher “paints with people,” and added, “It’s tough to be a color.” So what’s it like for a first-timer stepping on a set like that? Coon detailed the experience during her episode of Collider Ladies Night:
“I had the sort of blessing and curse of ignorance. There was so much about making films that I didn’t know anything about, basic vocabulary I didn’t know. It was absolutely my first film. I had shot like three guest star spots and the pilot of The Leftovers, in which I do a speech. So, what I discovered about David is that he’s a perfectionist and I’m a perfectionist and it was my first film, so if you want me to do 70 takes, that’s all the more time I get to practice! And try to do better. And once I figured out that and, you know, I tell this story on set about sort of saying, ‘Remember you hired a beginner and I don’t know the language so you have to explain what you’re asking me for,’ and he became such an extraordinary teacher to me. He would show me the frame, why he needed me to do what he was asking me to do. And you can’t take it personally. You have to understand that he’s looking at the whole picture. And you know when he’s focused on you, but so many other times he’s not and if you’re going to start taking it personally, you’re gonna get in your own way. And that doesn’t help anybody. Also, people think of him as a perfectionist, but he loves mistakes because to him, those are often the most human moments.”
Coon also recalled one specific scene during which Fincher embraced one of those mistakes:
“There was a scene where I’m calling Ben at the airport and I fumbled the phone in the air and then caught it and then I continued and then I broke and he was like, ‘Aww! That was it! That was so great!’ So, I think there’s kind of a misconception about what David’s after. He’s after what he finds to be the most human behavior and he thinks actors have a lot of bad habits.”
Even with Fincher serving as an excellent teacher on set, Coon did address her own hesitancy to ask questions and highlighted how Tyler Perry set an excellent example for her when it came to changing that:
“One of my crosses to bear is that I’m a real know-it-all, and it takes a lot of humility for me to admit when I don’t know something. The older I get, the more humble I get and the easier that’s getting to admit that I’m wrong. And I have to say, it was really inspiring to be on set with Tyler Perry because Tyler, who I love, would always say to David, ‘I don’t know what that word means.’ And I learned from that! I learned, let’s cut through the bullshit and do the work. Don’t let your ego get in the way. So I learned a lot from the way people around me were asking questions and because David made me feel that I belonged there, that he wouldn’t have cast me. That’s what you can trust too, is that he wouldn’t have you there if he didn’t think you could do it. I had to just trust that instead.”
If you’d like to hear more from Coon, we’ve got a ton of content for you in that department! Click here to get her thoughts on the series finale of The Leftovers and here to hear about her decision making process when she was first offered a role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You can also click here to watch her full episode of Collider Ladies Night.