David Fincher got his start working on special effects for Return of the Jedi. In some rare footage from Alien 3, we get to see and hear how he works with the FX team to bring the destroyed Bishop android to life. Usually, footage like this would be considered an effects test, but when David Fincher’s doing it, it’s a rehearsal.
In the world of major film directors, only a handful are as deeply knowledgeable and involved with the technical side of production as Fincher. Most likely, James Cameron and George Lucas are the only ones who are even close to being in his league. But what I love about this rare clip is that you get a sense of what makes Fincher different than those guys. He’s directing this humanoid collection of gears and pumps like it’s just another actor. Whereas Cameron would probably be barking out specific technical adjustments or ordering new technology to go through a three-year R&D process, Fincher almost seems to be addressing the animatronic itself. Lucas would probably just be silent and passive-aggressive until the team got what he’s looking for. Fincher says things like, “I just want the yes to be a real like—he has to think, process it and then he’s, ‘yesss.’” Or, “ok, really violent when he goes out.” He’s directing a performance. For all of the great qualities of Cameron or Lucas’s films, the acting isn’t usually topping the list. This robot is giving a better performance than Hayden Christensen on any day of the week.
The Oscar-winning character effects house studioADI uploaded the clip to celebrate Alien 3's 25th anniversary, which is this month. It’s a ton of fun to watch them make adjustments, work out the timing and apply just the right amount of goop.