Jodie Foster almost had a key role in David Fincher's The Game

Jodie Foster almost had a key role in David Fincher's The Game

The actress was finally selected for Contact, by Robert Zemeckis, but she would have loved to find Michael Douglas on this thriller.

The Game will return this Friday evening on France 5. At the end of 1997, David Fincher surprised the public with this twist film in which a rich businessman receives a surprising birthday gift. Played by Michael DouglasNicholas Von Orton will plunge into a downward spiral because of this concept whose rules he struggles to understand.

Alongside the star of Basic InstinctSean Penn (The Impasse) plays his brother, and Deborah Kara Unger (Crash) plays his wife. But the casting could have been very different: before choosing these actors, David Fincher initially wanted to hire Jodie Foster to play a key character in The Game. Let's rewind.

At the very beginning of the 1990s, MGM received a very original script by John Brancato and Michael Ferris. The bids climb and Propaganda Films recovers its rights. Director Jonathan Mostow (Breakdown) is then engaged to carry out The Game with Kyle MacLachlan, who was a hit at the time thanks to Twin Peaksand Bridget Fonda (JF would share apartment). Shooting was scheduled for February 1993, but when the film rights passed to the Polygram studio, the director threw in the towel: he would only remain producer of this project whose concept he liked.

It was another producer, Steve Golin, who then passed the script to David Fincher, hoping that he would want to direct it. He likes his starting point, but he finds that the main character is too “flat”so he hired Andrew Kevin Walker, his screenwriter for Seven, to make it more cynical. After six weeks of rewriting, he appreciates the evolution of his anti-hero, and agrees to make The Game his next project.

Except that in the meantime, Brad Pitt turns out to be available to film in Seven, which becomes his new priority. The success of this very dark thriller will allow the production of The Game to have a higher budget than expected, which reassures Michael Douglas, who had hesitated to accept the main role, knowing that PolyGram was a “little” studio.

Seven came out at the turn of winter 1995-1996, shocked the public who acclaimed its director, so the firm took advantage of this good reception to tease the arrival on The Game by Jodie Foster. Present at the Cannes festival film market that year, Polygram ensures that the star of Silence of the Lambs will face Michael Douglas.

David Fincher is delighted to be able to direct such a popular actress, but he fears that she will be destabilized by the fact that her role will be smaller than that of her male playing partner. The two actors being almost 20 years apart, there was talk of rewriting the script so that she would play Nicholas Von Orton's daughter, except that this idea did not really please Douglas, who would prefer that she played his sister. Or the character at the origin of the entire plot, since it is she who would offer her character the famous “game”. Jodie Foster accepts this idea, delighted to find Michael Douglas afterwards Napoleon and Samanthawhich she filmed alongside him when she was only 9 years old, and he was 28.

Would this age difference have profoundly changed the dynamic between the two characters? We'll never know, since Jodie Foster was ultimately cast on Contact, by Robert Zemeckis, which forced her to refuse PolyGram's offer. This abandonment also led to a lawsuit between the actress and the production company, because of their agreement concluded only orally regarding her participation in The Game. On the other hand, she remained on very good terms with her director, and when he found himself without a star for Panic Room (2002), its actress Nicole Kidman was injured a few days earlier on the set of red Mill !, she signed up at short notice to be the heroine. She even gave up the presidency of the 2001 Cannes festival to accept David Fincher's offer!

With Jodie Foster no longer in the game, the game resumed with a brother character, not a sister. Jeff Bridges was approached to play him, before the actor of Angels of the night accepts the role. The distribution as we know it is then made official, and filming can begin in San Francisco, mainly at night.

“What I'm most proud of about this film is that it's one of the few where you can't guess the ending, said Michael Douglas in 2015 to Collider. That's why I love sports so much: no matter the game, you can't guess what's going to happen. Whereas in most films, halfway through, we already know how it’s going to end. In The Game, you could not imagine the outcome. Not to mention that David Fincher is a talented director. The filming was very complicated, because it was very long (a hundred days, editor’s note), and filmed at night. But in the end I found it to be a very well-made, unexpected film and even today, I'm told that within my filmography, it's a film that people really like.”

At the house of First, if we recognize that the director took care of his aesthetic, we remained unmoved by the famous twist. Without spoiling it, we wrote like this in our top David Fincher filmsthat it was one of the weakest elements of his entire career:

“There is so much to admire in The Game : the magnificent chrome photo of Harris Savides, the mineral power of Michael Douglas in the last great role of his golden age, the undeniable thrill of excitement when the machine of “game” gets carried away, the psychoanalytic-cinephile threads intertwined by David Fincher around the relationship with the father, with San Francisco and with Citizen Kane… But no matter which way we look at this film, we always come back to the same problem: this “twist” zero (we didn't yet say “disappointing” at the time) which collapses the meticulously set up house of cards. A failure. Sumptuous, certainly, but a failure nonetheless.”

We may be a little harsh, but it must be said that Fincher is too: in 2014, the filmmaker explained to IndieWire that he and his wife and producer Cean Chaffin disagreed about The Gameand that in retrospect, he considered that she was right and that he had missed his end.

“She has always been frankly virulent towards The Game. She flatly advised me not to do it. In hindsight, I have to say: my wife was right. We didn't manage to get through the third act, and it was my fault, because I found it more fun to go all out, I thought it would be liberating. It was a mistake. You know, as a viewer, I like it when you don't know where a film is going. Lately, it's difficult to surprise the public at this level. People would like to watch the entire film from its 90-second trailer. Personally, I like to anticipate the energy of the public waiting for something to be revealed, to encourage them to say to themselves: 'Well, there's something special about this guy, we don't know how far it could go.'

Here is the trailer for The Gameto be seen again this evening on France 5:

Jodie Foster: “It’s as if my whole life as an actress had been my film school”

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