The making of Se7en was fortunately not as intense as what ended up onscreen, although it was certainly eventful. Released in 1995, the film is widely considered to be one of the best, most harrowing pictures ever made about the quest for a serial slayer. In fact, it's so relentlessly dark and cynical that it makes The Silence of the Lambs feel like a Disney movie in comparison.
The story, of course, is about two detectives, Mills (Brad Pitt) and Somerset (Morgan Freeman), on the search for a psychopath whose crimes have been inspired by the seven deadly sins. Although very little violence occurs onscreen, the graphic aftermath of the killings is just as jarring today as it was decades. That's because director David Fincher made every effort to create a pervasive sense of dread, the likes of which few films accomplished before or since.
A lot went into creating that vibe and making the movie unforgettable. These Seven behind the scenes stories will reveal the actors who almost snagged the lead roles, the struggles of the performers who played the victims, the way the filmmakers took every precaution to make sure their challenging story wasn't compromised, and much more.
The Studio Accidentally Sent David Fincher The Wrong Script
Seven would not be quite the harrowing movie it became had a silly slip-up not occurred. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation director Jeremiah Chechik was originally slated to direct the film. He requested screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker eliminate the now-famous "head in a box" ending.
When Chechik ended up departing the production, David Fincher was courted as a potential replacement. New Line Cinema accidentally sent him Walker's original draft. Upon realizing their mistake, they then sent the softened version Chechik had ordered. Fincher replied that he had no interest in making that version of the screenplay, but he would definitely be interested in making the version with the shocking finale.
The Original Ending Was Even More Bleak
It's hard to believe that the ending to Se7en could have been even more bleak than it already is, but it nearly was. The version screened for test audiences ended just as Mills shoots John Doe, followed by 10 seconds of black screen and silence. Fincher wanted that moment to resonate in an uncomfortably with viewers, but also to cue them that the movie was over.
During that test screening, however, the projectionist threw the house lights on immediately, meaning the audience didn't get those 10 seconds to fully digest the implications of what they'd just seen. That led them to overwhelmingly reject the ending on their post-screening comment cards. At the studio's request, Fincher added a short coda to the movie that eliminated the abruptness of the conclusion, giving viewers a minute to breathe as Mills quotes Ernest Hemingway.
Leland Orser Stayed Up For Two Whole Days Before Filming His Big Scene
Actor Leland Orser is credited in Se7en as "Crazed Man in Massage Parlor." It was a relatively early role for the man who would go on to become a reliable and prolific character actor. He plays the guy who unwillingly commits the "Lust" slaying. To get himself in the right mindset and convey the the character's distraught and traumatized state, Orser decided to stay up the night before shooting his big scene.
There was just one problem. As Orser explained in a Reddit AMA:
My scene was scheduled to shoot on a Monday morning, and on Monday morning, after I'd stayed up the whole night before, I got a call from my agent saying that my scene had been pushed until the next day. So the big question was 'Do I stay up all night Monday night, and do I sleep and screw up my whole process if I do?' So I decided to stay up all night Monday night as well. So I was so stressed, and not hungry, so I was in quite a messed up state of mind when I arrived Tuesday morning. They said I was first up Tuesday morning, and then they came into my trailer and said 'Your scene has been pushed until the end of the day,' so it was quite torturous, but it all served the intensity of the scene at the end.
David Fincher Applied Fake Blood HimselfPhoto: Zodiac / Paramount Pictures
David Fincher is a hands-on director in the truest sense of the phrase. His attention to every detail, no matter how minor, is part of what makes him such a compelling filmmaker. According to Heidi Schanz, who plays the "Pride" victim, he even went so far as to personally apply fake blood to her.
Schanz told Entertainment Weekly:
My nose was taped to one side, and then my face was wrapped with gauze. I was in a negligee in bed, doused with blood [by Fincher]…I said, ‘David, you’re enjoying this way too much,’ and he said, ‘I have demons you can’t even imagine.'
Meanwhile, Cat Mueller, who played the "Lust" victim, also told EW that Fincher "tied me to the bed, gagged me, and poured refrigerated blood on me."