gone girl big sceneFirst off: a giant spoiler warning. Seriously: if you haven't seen "Gone Girl," David Fincher's brilliant new thriller (and box office champ), then head back now. Seriously. Consider this the biggest spoiler warning you can stomach. If you read beyond this paragraph, it's your own damn fault.

So one of the biggest, most memorable sequences in "Gone Girl" is the murder of one Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris) at the hands (and one very sharp blade) of Amy Elliot-Dunne (Rosamund Pike). It's a shocking sequence, for sure, with Harris fountaining blood from his neck and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross turning up the intensity on their immaculate score to the point that it reaches nearly Marion Crane-in-the-shower levels of nerve-shredding fury.

When we sat down with Harris and Pike last weekend, we had to get their thoughts on what it was like to shoot this sequence -- and what their reaction was when they finally saw it.

"It was very unsettling to watch," Harris said about viewing the final product. "I really loved the way it was edited, that once the act had happened, then it kept... It turned into a visual montage, with one shot fading out and another fading up, almost like you're losing consciousness. Plus the music is obviously very Hitchcockian."

Shooting it, however, was a different matter altogether. "It was the hardest thing to film because shy of watching videos of people actually dying, you don't have a lot to go on in terms of how to act like you're dying. And I didn't want to overdo it," Harris explained. "David was absolutely in line with that and wanted to make sure, because we didn't want to keep having to do that part, that we were on the same page in terms of what would happen if you got your throat slit. So we watched videos and he showed me technically how it was going to be done and he showed me all the tests and they were different thicknesses and colors and sizes of wound and pressures of air. He wanted it to look exactly like it would."

Acting through all of that was even more difficult, although Harris was totally up to the challenge (especially since this wasn't just a murder scene but a murder/sex scene). "I had to act like it hadn't actually happened, for a while. Because I think from a clean cut like that, you wouldn't feel pain. There would be no 'ouch' element, especially post-orgasm or mid-orgasm, I don't think you'd feel pain," Harris said. "So it became a thing like, Why is it suddenly wetter than I anticipated it being at the end of the sex? And then looking down and being so shocked and not being able to express anything vocally, because you've lost your windpipe. So he wanted gurgling sounds but also a slow motion element to it, like everything slows down while something horrible is happening underneath your chin. Once he realizes what's happening she has to restrain him and they get to watch each other while he bleeds out. So those were all really interesting things to have to play."

When we spoke with Rosamund a few minutes later, her immediate question was: "What did Neil say?" When we demurred, she explained things a little bit better.

"Apparently Neil said in the press that the sex scene was robotic. I thought it was awesome," Pike said, with some enthusiasm. She also shared in the excitement of being a truly messed up, positively Fincherian sequence. "It was amazing because you really think, I'm really part of a David Fincher vision. We got to develop it. We got to be as sordid and corrupt as we wanted to be. We said, 'Can we do this?' And the answer was usually, 'Yes.'"

Pike was also trying to get some things across in that sequence, as well. "You're trying to convey that a) these people might have dated in boarding school in this kind of idealized way but maybe never had sex. Maybe this is the consummation of that weird marriage of old," she said. "So you've got to get that in it – the thing he's lusted after and the thing she's never been able to save."

Technically, things got very slippery, though: "Then the set turns into a blood bath and the reset is enormous – of us, of the set of everything. But it was this kind of military operation of everybody being called on to do the best work that they can to make this happen. It was a big deal."

When she watched at the film's premiere at the New York Film Festival (which is where we saw it), it still proved startling to the actress. "Seeing it again on the big screen, I thought, What have I unleashed? It did shock me," Pike said. "Especially now, as a pregnant woman, I feel so far away from that person. You think, Who am I?"

"Gone Girl" is in theaters now and is really, really terrific.

categories Interviews, Movies