Initially troubled with issues of casting, special effects and location, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” took almost seven years to move from script to theaters.
Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1922 short story about a man who ages in reverse, the story demanded special effects but as screenwriter Eric Roth pointed out, “This isn’t ‘Jurassic Park.’ It’s a living, breathing character.”
However, director David Fincher says he didn’t question whether the film was feasible. “In the first five minutes of discussion of the film (with Roth), we dispensed with ‘Could this be done,'” said Fincher. “With my background in special effects, I knew we could.”
Casting Brad Pitt was something less of a sure thing.
“Brad has a process. It’s like clockwork. He gets excited and about six weeks out you get the phone call: ‘I’m the wrong guy for this,'” remembered Fincher. “His big caveat was: ‘If I play the guy, I want to play the whole guy.’ I thought it would be six or seven actors that would hand over the role like a relay. Brad said, ‘I don’t want to play seven years of a man’s life. I want to play the whole thing.”
Aging Pitt accordingly required subtle Hollywood wizardry to avoid looking hokey, especially when it came to have the 45-year-old actor revert to his teens.
“That’s the biggest special effect of it all,” Fincher said. “We have never seen (Pitt) as an 85-year-old, but we all saw ‘Thelma and Louise.'”