David Fincher is famous (infamous?) for his demanding directing style, usually shooting countless takes until he feels the scene is his idea of perfection.
"One of the things I understand about why he does that amount of takes is that he's getting the actor so that the actor forgets they're being filmed. So that that's a part of the magic of the performances in each of his films, I think. He's looking for that moment where you forget you're there, you forget what's happening, and there's a purity and a vulnerability and an openness, and the audience responds to that in a deeply unconscious way. Suddenly there's no acting, there's no performing, it's just pure. I think that's a part of what he's looking for, and also, he's very precise. He can see it. I think he said this before, I don't think I'm misquoting him, 'It's like being a catcher in a baseball game.' "He doesn't know why it works, but when the pitch hits the glove just so, he can feel it. He's like, 'Okay. We got it. Moving on.' So he just has an instinctive trust, and the best directors I've ever worked with have that. Mel Gibson's that way. Scorsese's that way. A bunch of other directors I've worked with are that way. Mike Nichols. It's an instinctive, 'Oh, that was it. Got it. Done.' It's a body, gut kind of intuition."
The 38-year-old actor more specifically recalled a day on the set of The Social Network where he benefitted from Fincher's persistence the most:
"Jesse [Eisenberg], laptop smash, that day, that long g—damn day, and Fincher being such a good dad that day. He was the perfect sports dad. He was instilling me with, 'Keep doing it, and you can keep doing it, believe that you can keep doing... I know I'm going to ask you to do this a lot, and your voice is going to be tired, and your heart is going to be tired, and your body's going to be exhausted, and I know you're going to hate me, and that's okay, because we are going to get it absolutely perfect.'
"And then at the end, instead of saying, 'We're moving on,' I was sat on the floor after take 35, 40 of my closeup of that scene, which you can imagine would have been a lot of screaming and agony. And I'm sat on the floor, just wiped, exhausted, thinking we're probably going to go again another 10 times. He just walks up to me, up that corridor from this monitor, and he puts his hand out to me and pulls me up and shakes my hand, and he says, 'Moving on.' And that was that. So that was a beautiful moment. I felt very gratified. Leaving it all in the field. That was a beautiful day. I loved it."
The Social Network was directed by Fincher with a screenplay written by Aaron Sorkin.
The 2010 biographical drama depicted the high-stakes drama behind the founding of Facebook, specifically when Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg) is sued by twins Cameron Winklevoss (Armie Hammer) and Tyler Winklevoss (Josh Pence) for stealing their idea and by co-founder Eduardo Saverin (Garfield), whom he screwed over and squeezed out.
When asked if he's spoken to Saverin since portraying him in the Oscar-winning film, Garfield responded, "No, no. I wonder if I ever will. I'm open. I'm very, very open for that conversation. I would love to have a hang."
In the meantime, Garfield is gearing up for the premieres of two new movies in which he also portrayed real-life people.
The former stars Garfield as disgraced evangelical pastor Jim Bakker opposite Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker, Jim's then-wife. The latter spotlights Garfield in the lead as the late composer and playwright Jonathan Larson five years before he created Rent.
For more Garfield, read this Variety cover story from last week.