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When it comes to crime thrillers, few can compare to the sheer iconography of David Fincher's Se7en. The film has become beloved by horror fans for its intense, psychological story, and legendary for its overwhelmingly grim twist ending. However, it turns out that the Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman-fronted classic almost didn't get made, and Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight director Ernest Dickerson recently revealed that he may have played an integral role getting the film out of development hell.
As the story goes, New Line Cinema was at a loss with regards to how they could get Se7en off of the ground. After several directors turned down the project (because it was "too dark"), Ernest Dickerson apparently went in and pitched them a version of the physiological horror film that took a restrained approach to the gore by keeping it less overt and more implied. The director felt satisfied with his take on the Se7en story, but recently recounted the aftermath -- in which the studio took his idea and hired David Fincher to execute it. Dickerson explained:
Beyond helping guide the overall direction of the film, it seems that Ernest Dickerson may have also played a significant role in the movie's development by suggesting a black actor for Morgan Freeman's role as Detective William Somerset, as well as the casting of Brad Pitt as Detective David Mills. The director continued his interview on the Post Mortem Podcast by explainng that he suggested the idea of casting Pitt after seeing him in Thelma & Louise, saying:
Of course, as intrigued as we are by the possibility of Ernest Dickerson's version of Se7en, we think things turned out for the best in the end. David Fincher's work on the project has become iconic for its disturbingly horrific, yet oddly cerebral storytelling. Beyond that, his collaboration with Brad Pitt ultimately led to a long working relationship with the movie star that would see the creation of projects like Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and the upcoming World War Z sequel. We love "what if" scenarios in Hollywood, but we wouldn't trade the Fincher/Pitt partnership for anything.
At the end of the day, can we truly confirm that this is how Se7en got made? Not really. Having said that, it's still a fascinating story and a rare look into the bizarre process of movie development. If Ernest Dickerson is actually responsible for bringing that 1995 classic back from the dead, then I think we all owe him an enormous thank you.