“Gone Girl," one of the most anticipated movies of 2014, was expected to be a major player on the festival circuit in advance of its Oct. 3 release date. The film, based on the Gillian Flynn novel of the same name, stars Academy Award-winner Ben Affleck as a man who becomes the prime suspect after the mysterious disappearance of his wife (Rosamund Pike). Many expected it to premiere at the Telluride, Venice, or Toronto film festivals in late August or early September -- but that now looks unlikely.
According to Variety, “Gone Girl” will open the New York Film Festival (NYFF) on September 28, and a cushy berth essentially rules out any other fest appearances earlier in the month. Sorry, Toronto!
It’s not the first time that director David Fincher has picked NYFF for his film debuts over other fests on the fall calendar. He and the fest have history! In 2010, many expected “The Social Network” to be also be a major presence on the festival circuit, but the Academy Award-winning film was absent from all but the New York event. It’s a relationship that Fincher and studio 20th Century Fox seem happy to continue with NYFF.
But could there be politics at play here? Where film festivals are concerned, there are always politics involved.
Exclusive premieres are a huge deal for events like NYFF and TIFF, with fest programmers jockeying with rival fest programmers to secure berths for buzzy films. Studios also value primo placement at marquee festivals like Telluride, Venice, Toronto, and New York, and they'll often shut out one event if it means better placement for their movie at another. TIFF has increasingly found itself at odds with Telluride in this regard.
It’s also very possible that TIFF’s lukewarm reception of “Gone Girl” star Ben Affleck's directorial effort "Argo" played some part in the fest getting snubbed by the Fincher film. The thriller, which depicts a real-life hostage rescue known as "The Canadian Caper," did not go over particularly well with Toronto audiences because it inflated the role of the American characters. We'd like to think that Affleck didn't take it personally, but Hollywood egos are notoriously fragile things, so who knows?