Fact File – No.3 – Se7en (1995)

In this regular Film ‘89 feature we put a classic film or TV show under the microscope to unveil some juicy trivia. Some of these facts you may already know but hopefully you’ll find something new to enrich your experience and understanding of an important work of popular culture. Next up we have a seminal serial killer thriller from director David Fincher regarded by many as one of the greatest movies of the ‘90s.

Se7en (1995)

Director: David Fincher

1. The film could have had a very different feel:

Guillermo del Toro turned down the chance to direct because, as a romantic, he didn’t subscribe to the script’s dark view of the world. David Cronenberg also turned down the chance to direct the film. At the time, David Fincher had not read a script for a year and a half after his negative experience on Alien 3 (1992). He said, “I thought I’d rather die of colon cancer than do another movie”. Fincher eventually agreed to direct the film because he was drawn to the script, which he found to be a “connect-the-dots movie that delivers about inhumanity. It’s psychologically violent. It implies so much, not about why you did but how you did it.” He found it more of a “meditation on evil” rather than a “police procedural”.

2. The faces on the film’s poster could have been a lot different:

Brad Pitt’s role as Mills was turned down by Denzel Washington who called the script “too dark and evil”. Sylvester Stallone also turned it down and Kevin Costner and Nicolas Cage were also briefly considered. Val Kilmer turned down the role of John Doe, which was eventually played by Kevin Spacey. Prior to Morgan Freeman coming on board, Al Pacino was considered for the role of Somerset but he declined due to scheduling conflicts. Robert Duvall was also offered the role but turned it down. Prior to Gwyneth Paltrow. Christina Applegate turned down the role of Tracy. Robin Wright Penn auditioned for it but was rejected.

3. Everything happens for a reason:

According to David Fincher, Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman were perfect during the first read-through of the script. Fincher also told Kevin Spacey and Brad Pitt “this is not going to be the movie that you’re remembered for, but it may be a movie you’re incredibly proud of.”

4. Keeping it real:

Cinematographer Darius Khondji used US reality show Cops as inspiration for his camerawork, with the camera peering over the shoulder in the backseat as the cops go about their work.

5. A full swear jar:

The F-word is used 74 times in the film.

6. A twist in the tail:

New Line executives originally balked at the film’s ending, but Brad Pitt refused to make the film if the ending was changed. The original ending saw Kevin Spacey killing Brad Pitt’s character instead and then being shot by Morgan Freeman. The studio were keener on this.

7. Surprise!

After signing on, Spacey had one demand of his own, to not be billed or featured in any advertising. He was coming off The Usual Suspects and Outbreak and figured if his name was featured alongside the two stars, it would be obvious that he was the killer. As he told Games Radar in 2004, “I felt very strongly that it was the right thing to do for the movie.”

8. Stranger than fiction:

There’s a line in the film in which Mills names motives that killers give; one of them is “Jodie Foster told me to do it.” He is referring to John Hinckley, Jr., a man that was obsessed with Jodie Foster and attempted to assassinate then President Ronald Reagan in order to impress her. The other that Mills says, is “My dog told me to do it”, a reference to David Berkowitz, a.k.a. the “Son of Sam”, a serial killer who terrorized New York City in the summers of 1976 and 1977 and claimed that his neighbor’s dog was possessed, and told him to commit murder.

9. Keeping it in the family:

Alfonso Freeman, Morgan Freeman’s son, had a cameo in the movie as a fingerprint technician.

10. A trip to the mall:

Brad Pitt bought his own ties for the film. He wanted Mills to have poor fashion sense. Initial plans called for Mills to be something of a hipster, but Pitt pushed back against that. One of his contributions in that regard was the series of sports-themed ties that his character wears. He thought they were a perfect illustration of the character’s naiveté.

11. A bug’s life:

The room constructed for the “gluttony” scene was wrapped in plastic so that the cockroaches let loose inside of it couldn’t escape into the studio. A cockroach wrangler was also on set to keep the bugs in line.

12. Why we’ll never see Ei8ht:

A rumoured sequel was set to follow Somerset whilst Mills would have been in a mental hospital. The director quickly put an end to his future involvement though. When asked about a potential sequel, David Fincher said, “I would be less interested in that than I would in having cigarettes put out in my eyes.”

13. When two heads come together:

Before filming began, Kevin Spacey asked David Fincher if he should shave his head and he told him, “If you do it, I’ll do it” and so they were both bald for the rest of the film.

14. A painful rewrite:

While filming the scene in which Mills chases John Doe in the rain, Brad Pitt fell and his arm went through a car windshield requiring surgery. This accident was worked into the film. Coincidentally, the original script did call for Pitt’s Detective Mills to be injured during this sequence although originally not an injury to his hand.

15. Ghost writer:

Andrew Kevin Walker, Se7en’s screenwriter, appears as the first corpse.

16. A change of direction:

Brad Pitt said one reason he took this role was, “to escape the cheese”. Pitt didn’t take his shirt off in the film because Legends of the Fall (1994) had just made him a sex symbol. He still ended up winning the MTV Movie Award for Most Desirable Male for this role.

17. A city of inspiration:

Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker was inspired by the brutal conditions of New York City where he lived. He says in one of the film’s audio commentaries that he could walk down the street and without looking very hard, could easily observe one of the Seven Deadly Sins being committed most days.

18. A hard days work:

Actor Leland Orser, who plays the man forced to kill the prostitute representing “Lust,” stayed up all night to get into a deranged mindset. Alas on the planned day of shooting, he learned that he wouldn’t actually be filming until the next day so he stayed up another night. On the actual day of shooting he spent the time between takes sitting in the corner of the interrogation room breathing rapidly so that he could hyperventilate during the scene. “It was quite torturous, but it all served the intensity of the scene at the end” he wrote in a Reddit AMA.

19. Seeing is believing:

Years after making the movie, Fincher got into an argument with a woman who told him she thought that he was wrong to have shown Tracy’s head in the box. He hadn’t of course ever shown her head but took this to mean that the power of audience suggestion was as strong as he’d planned it to be.

20. Lucky number Seven:

All the building numbers in the opening scene of the movie start with 7. At exactly seven minutes into the film, Detective Mills gets a phone call about the first of the seven murders. With exactly seven minutes of the movie left, Detective Somerset tells Mills, “he will win,” in regards to John Doe. Brad Pitt earned seven million dollars for the film.

Sources: IMBD, Short list, Yahoo! Movies, The List Love.

One Reply to “Fact File – No.3 – Se7en (1995)”

  1. Jacob Rivera

    One of my all time favorite films & I like the series approach with fun facts. One correction, although Pitt’s shirt doesn’t officially come off he does show a little skin during the chest shaving scene toward the end.

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