Coming Of Age

Mark Twain once quipped that the best part of life came at the beginning and the worst part at the end. The comment stuck with fellow writer and fan, F. Scott Fitzgerald—so much so that he turned it into a short story.

"My name is Benjamin Button and I was born under unusual circumstances. While everyone else was aging, I was getting younger—all alone." And so begins The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the feature film adapted by Eric Roth and directed by David Fincher, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.

Benjamin Button was born at the end of World War I in 1918 with the body of an 80-year-old man. Abandoned in a nursing home by his father in New Orleans, Benjamin begins aging backward and lives a journey that’s as unusual as any man’s life can be. This is a time-traveler’s tale of the people and places he bumps into along the way, the loves he loses and finds. As the film progresses, he and the love of his life (Blanchett) struggle to deal with the issue of one growing younger while the other grows older.

Imagine trying to use the tools of Benjamin Button’s era (1930s) to capture his life—heavy cameras, extremely slow film stock, very big lights—quite a hindrance to the scope of this unusual story filled with romance and adventure.

Now, put this same story in the hands of an innovative director like David Fincher (Zodiac, Fight Club), who loves to stretch the limits of new technology, and you have a scope that’s almost limitless—and a creative eye that can do justice to what he terms "a beautiful story. One of those kinds of movies that Hollywood doesn’t make anymore—old-fashioned in a kind of great way."

For the creative team behind Roth’s script and Fincher’s vision, there would be an interesting array of creative choices. How much of the process would be done in-camera? How would they handle the de-aging process? What tools would best support Fincher’s vision? And, once those choices were made, how could they bring everything together in one coherent look?


"David and I have often used commercials to test out our ideas for feature work," explains cinematographer Claudio Miranda, who served as gaffer on two Fincher projects, The Game and Fight Club, and has shot major commercials with him for Nike and Heineken. "From the beginning, we began to pursue a different approach for this project," says Miranda. "My first task was to do side-by-side tests of various cameras in determining format."