David Fincher's Gone Girl (Opening Night, NYFF52). Photo: Merrick Morton

The World Premiere of David Fincher's Gone Girl will open the New York Film Festival, the Film Society of Lincoln Center said Thursday. The film, starring Oscar-winner Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tyler Perry, will launch the 52nd annual festival September 26 at Alice Tully Hall, while later that night the after-party will return to Tavern on the Green.

Gone Girl, based on the global best seller by Gillian Flynn, features Fincher's return to the festival after The Social Network opened the 2010 New York Film Festival. 20th Century Fox and New Regency will open Gone Girl in theaters on October 3.

“Even when I was writing the book I'd thought that Fincher should direct this,” Gillian Flynn, who adapted her hugely successful thriller for the screen, told FilmLinc on Wednesday. “It's a rather grand notion to think of having a great filmmaker [like him] direct your book but there were so many scenes in Gone Girl that I'd see through his lens. I thought he'd understand the sense of tension and dread but at the same time there's this dark humor that runs through his films. Gone Girl has a lot of dark humor and I knew he wouldn't back away from that.”

The Film Society noted that Gone Girl is “at once a grand panoramic vision of middle America, a uniquely disturbing exploration of the fault lines in a marriage, and a comedy that starts pitch black and only gets blacker, Gone Girl is a great work of popular art by a great artist.”

Ben Affleck and David Fincher on set. Photo: Merrick Morton

A portrait of a recession-era marriage that simultaneously indicts celebrity-media culture stars Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne whose wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary. He is a prime suspect in her disappearance. Neil Patrick Harris is Amy’s former boyfriend Desi, Carrie Coon is Nick’s sister Margo, while Kim Dickens is Detective Rhonda Boney, and Tyler Perry is Nick’s superstar lawyer Tanner Bolt.

“The movie [questions] how well you can possibly know one another,” Flynn said of her look at a relationship in which one member is a suspect in the disappearance of another. “We're so steeped in pop culture and so steeped in different roles. How can you possibly combine with another person and have that truth exist in a relationship. The [story] definitely plays off of that idea.”

“My fondest dream,” Flynn explained, “is that it will be the date movie that breaks up couples nationwide. Maybe people will walk out of there and think, 'Maybe not. I don't know if I know you well enough.'”

When Fincher's Social Network opened the New York Film Festival in 2010, the event moved its opening night party to the Harvard Club and this year the filmmaker ushers in the event's return to New York City's Central Park. Tavern on the Green will again be the site of the NYFF Opening Gala. The legendary location had long served as the festival's opening night post-screening celebration, but that tradition ended when Tavern closed in 2009. In May, owners Jim Caiola and David Salama reopened this New York landmark, decorated to evoke the original Victorian Gothic structure.

Gone Girl is so many things at once: sharp as a razor about many aspects of American life that have been untouched by movies, very tough and just as funny, brilliantly acted, and 100% entertaining—a wild ride from start to finish,” said New York Film Festival Director and Selection Committee Chair, Kent Jones. “In short, a great American movie based on a literary phenomenon, directed by one of the best filmmakers alive. I’m so proud to have the world premiere of this film as our opening night.”

NYFF has typically featured some of the year's pivotal films throughout its more than half-century early fall run, including its anticipated Opening Night selections. Luis Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel screened as NYFF's first Opening Night film back in 1963. Some of the other landmark selections that have screened in the slot include Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville (1965), Paul Mazursky's Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), François Truffaut's Small Change (1976), Agnès Varda's One Sings, the Other Doesn't (1977), Bernardo Bertolucci's Luna (1979), Lawrence Kasdan's The Big Chill (1983), Petro Almodóvar's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), Joel Coen's Miller's Crossing (1990), Robert Altman's Short Cuts (1993), Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994), Lars von Trier's Dancer In the Dark (2000), Stephen Frears's The Queen (2006), Alain Resnais's Wild Grass (2009) and last year's selection, Captain Phillips by Paul Greengrass (a full list of NYFF openers can be found below).

NYFF previously announced the retrospective, Joseph L. Mankiewicz: The Essential Iconoclast, to take place during this year’s festival, as well as initial selections in the Revivals section of the festival to include Burroughs: The Movie, The Color of Pomegranates, Hiroshima Mon Amour, and Once Upon a Time in America.  

The 17-day New York Film Festival takes place September 26 – October 12. FilmLinc will have a full interview with Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn soon.

Tickets for the 52nd New York Film Festival will go on sale to the general public at noon on Sunday, September 7. Becoming a Film Society member before July 31 provides access to a pre-sale period for single tickets to festival screenings and events ahead of the general public on-sale date.

Subscription Packages and VIP Passes to NYFF52 gives the buyer the earliest access to tickets and are on sale through July 31. Depending on the level purchased, packages and passes provide access to Main Slate and Special Event screenings including those on the Opening, Centerpiece and Closing Nights of the festival. VIP passes also provide access to many exciting events including the invitation-only Opening Night party, “Evening With…” Dinners, Filmmaker Brunch, and VIP Lounge. For information about purchasing Subscription Packages and VIP Passes, click here. To find out how to become a Film Society member, click here.

The list of New York Film Festival Opening Night Films follows:

1963 The Exterminating Angel (Luis Buñuel, Mexico)
1964  Hamlet (Grigori Kozintsev, USSR)
1965  Alphaville (Jean-Luc Godard, France)
1966  Loves of a Blonde (Milos Forman, Czechoslovakia)
1967  The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, Italy/Algeria)
1968  Capricious Summer (Jiri Menzel, Czechoslovakia)
1969  Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (Paul Mazursky, US)
1970  The Wild Child (François Truffaut, France)
1971  The Debut (Gleb Panfilov, Soviet Union)
1972  Chloe in the Afternoon (Eric Rohmer, France)
1973  Day for Night (François Truffaut, France)
1974  Don’t Cry with Your Mouth Full (Pascal Thomas, France)
1975  Conversation Piece (Luchino Visconti, Italy)
1976  Small Change (François Truffaut, France)
1977  One Sings, the Other Doesn’t (Agnès Varda, France)
1978  A Wedding (Robert Altman, US)
1979  Luna (Bernardo Bertolucci, Italy/US)
1980  Melvin and Howard (Jonathan Demme, US)
1981 Chariots of Fire (Hugh Hudson, UK)
1982  Veronika Voss (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany)
1983  The Big Chill (Lawrence Kasdan, US)
1984 Country (Richard Pearce, US)
1985 Ran (Akira Kurosawa, Japan)
1986 Down by Law (Jim Jarmusch, US)
1987  Dark Eyes (Nikita Mikhalkov, Soviet Union)
1988  Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain)
1989  Too Beautiful for You (Bertrand Blier, France)
1990 Miller's Crossing (Joel Coen, US)
1991  The Double Life of Veronique (Krysztof Kieslowski, Poland/France)
1992  Olivier Olivier (Agnieszka Holland, France)
1993  Short Cuts (Robert Altman, US)
1994  Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, US)
1995 Shanghai Triad (Zhang Yimou, China)
1996  Secrets & Lies (Mike Leigh, UK)
1997 The Ice Storm (Ang Lee, US)
1998 Celebrity (Woody Allen, US)
1999 All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain)
2000 Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier, Denmark)
2001 Va Savoir (Jacques Rivette, France)
2002 About Schmidt (Alexander Payne, US)
2003 Mystic River (Clint Eastwood, US)
2004 Look At Me (Agnès Jaoui, France)
2005 Good Night, and Good Luck. (George Clooney, US)
2006 The Queen (Stephen Frears, UK)
2007 The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson, US)
2008 The Class (Laurent Cantet, France)
2009 Wild Grass (Alain Resnais, France)
2010 The Social Network (David Fincher, US)
2011 Carnage (Roman Polanski, France/Poland)
2012 Life of Pi (Ang Lee, US)
2013 Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass, US)