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Se7en (1995) Poster

(1995)

Trivia

Jump to: Cameo (3)  | Spoilers (43)
As preparation for his traumatic scene in the interrogation room, Leland Orser would breathe in and out rapidly, so that his body would be overly saturated with oxygen, giving him the ability to hyperventilate. He also did not sleep for a few days, in order to achieve his character's disoriented look.
New Line executives originally balked at the film's ending, but Brad Pitt refused to make the film if the ending was changed.
David Fincher told Kevin Spacey and Brad Pitt "this is not going to be the movie that you're remembered for, but it may be a movie you're incredibly proud of."
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Brad Pitt fell while filming the scene in which Mills chases John Doe in the rain. Pitt's arm went through a car windshield, requiring surgery. The accident was worked into the script. Coincidentally, the original script called for Detective Mills to be injured during the sequence.
Brad Pitt bought his own ties for the movie. He wanted Mills to have poor fashion sense.
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Denzel Washington turned down the part that went to Brad Pitt, telling Entertainment Weekly that the film was too "dark and evil." Washington later regretted his decision upon seeing a screening.
All of John Doe's books were real books, written for the film. They took two months to complete, and cost $15,000. According to Morgan Freeman, two months is about the time it would take the police to read all the books.
The filmmakers decided it should always be raining for two reasons: It added a sense of dread; and they never had to worry about bad weather.
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The film's brooding, dark look was achieved through a chemical process called bleach bypass. The silver in the film stock was not removed, which deepened the dark, shadowy images in the film.
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David Fincher thought that Morgan Freeman would turn down the role, thinking he'd feel the film was "too down market." But he was the first one to eagerly join the cast.
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David Fincher said that he wanted someone who was incredibly skinny, around 90 pounds, to play Victor. When Michael Reid MacKay auditioned, he weighed 96 pounds. Fincher gave him the part, and jokingly told him to lose some more weight. Much to his surprise, MacKay had lost another six pounds when filming started.
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David Fincher was impressed with Gwyneth Paltrow's work in Flesh and Bone (1993). She was his first choice for the role of Brad Pitt's wife. Paltrow was initially not interested, so Fincher asked her then-boyfriend Brad Pitt to convince her to meet with him.
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Make-up for the 'sloth' victim took over fourteen hours.
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David Fincher said on the DVD commentary that he felt bad for the actor who had to wear all the hot, heavy gluttony prosthetics, so to compensate, he made him well-endowed.
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This was the seventh highest grossing film of 1995.
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For the gluttony scene, seven crates of cockroaches were released on the set and poured on Bob Mack. Something had to be put in Mack's ears and nose to stop the cockroaches from crawling in. It didn't stop them from crawling into his underwear.
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Brad Pitt said that Gwyneth Paltrow's character is "the only sunshine we have in the film."
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When Mills lists motives that killers give, one of them is "Jodie Foster told me to do it." John Hinckley, Jr., who was obsessed with Foster, attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981, in order to impress her. Mills also says "My dog told me to do it." David Berkowitz, a.k.a. the "Son of Sam", a serial killer who terrorized New York City in the summers of 1976 and 1977, claimed that his neighbor's dog was possessed, and told him to commit murder.
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David Fincher wanted the credits to look like a killer had written them.
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The primary influence for the film's screenplay came from Andrew Kevin Walker's time spent in New York City while trying to make it as a screenwriter. "I didn't like my time in New York, but it's true, that if I hadn't lived there, I probably wouldn't have written Se7en."
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Andrew Kevin Walker had a very hard time getting a studio to buy the rights to his script because he was a complete unknown in Hollywood. Allegedly, he put together a list of agents that represented writers that work in the crime and thriller genres, and called each one until he got a positive response.
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David Fincher was determined to make the film without compromising his vision. On his first film, Alien³ (1992), Fincher battled with the studio and was fired three times.
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Brad Pitt said one reason he took this role was "to escape the cheese" after Legends of the Fall (1994).
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Brad Pitt considers this to be one of the most perfect films he's ever made.
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David Fincher told his crew he wanted to make a black and white film in color. To do this, he used cinematographer Darius Khondji, who was known for his perfume ads.
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Brad Pitt praised Kevin Spacey's performance saying, "He's got more control on it than I do."
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In 2001, the Patriot Act gave the government the ability to monitor library records, something which at one point halfway through the film is stated to not be necessarily legal.
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According to Brad Pitt, there was originally a scene where Mills and Somerset discussed "thumb recall"; cut off the thumb of anyone convicted of a violent crime, and there's no way they'd be able to fire a gun. The scene was ultimately cut from the film, because they were afraid someone would "roll with it."
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This was regarded as the first "A" production for New Line Cinema, proving that they could attract "A-list" directors and cast.
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David Fincher named the detectives in Fight Club (1999), Andrew, Kevin, and Walker, after this film's screenwriter, Andrew Kevin Walker. Needless to say, Walker did uncredited rewrites for Fight Club (1999).
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During the scene before Mills and Somerset walk into the District Attorney's office, the camera zooms onto a newspaper announcing the murder. A small article in the corner of the front page says "Housekeeper Held Hostage By Child's Possessed Gerbil Three Days of Terror". Another says "Neighbors Beagle Scares Teen Cures 8-Year Bout With Hiccups".
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Brad Pitt earned $7 million for starring in this film.
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For the greed scene, Gene Borkan, who plays the victim, was hog-tied and only wearing his underwear for most of the shooting. He was covered in over two gallons of fake blood and the blood was so thick and sticky that his knees became stuck to the floor.
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Originally, Morgan Freeman drew his pistol with his finger on the trigger. Police officers that were on the set as technical advisors quickly corrected him, as that is not correct police procedure.
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A cockroach expert used Vaseline to keep bugs on the set.
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At the time, David Fincher had not read a script for a year and a half since after the frustrating experience of making Alien³ (1992) for 20th Century Fox; he said, "I thought I'd rather die of colon cancer than do another movie". However, producer Arnold Kopelson had a very low opinion of the executives at Fox at the time, and remembered how actress Sigourney Weaver had defended the young director in the media. He pitched the concept of the movie to Fincher, who eventually agreed to direct the film because he was drawn to the script, which he found to be a "connect-the-dots movie that delivers about inhumanity. It's psychologically violent. It implies so much, not about why you did but how you did it". He found it more a "meditation on evil" rather than a "police procedural".
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Andrew Kevin Walker wrote the script over a two-year period while working at a branch of Tower Records.
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According to David Fincher, Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman were perfect during the first read-through of the script.
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The Mills' apartment is built on a shake-able platform. The crew would trick visitors to the set with "instant earthquakes".
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The police badge used in the film does not identify the setting, it only says 'Metropolitan', similar to the Police Academy franchise.
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Val Kilmer turned down the role of John Doe.
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When writing the script, Andrew Kevin Walker thought that Doe and Somerset should be of equal intelligence.
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This was voted the eighth scariest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
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The word "fuck" and its derivatives are said a discernible 74 times throughout the movie, mostly by Brad Pitt.
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The box full of photographs at the "sloth" scene has written on the side "To the World, from Me."
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Sylvester Stallone turned down the role of Mills. He told "Ain't It Cool News" that this was a mistake.
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The autopsy of the first killing, as originally scripted, was incorrect according to the research of make-up man Rob Bottin (who viewed a real human autopsy as part of his prep work). The scene was truncated from the original script, and shows only the sewn-up corpse of gluttony, not the actual autopsy.
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Guillermo del Toro turned down the chance to direct, because as a romantic, he didn't subscribe to the script's dark view of the world.
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When Mills and Somerset go to Wild Bill's Leather Store looking for information about John Doe, the clerk says that Doe "had a limp". Behind them, outside the store, a man limping is shown watching the detectives.
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The film was the subject of a lawsuit brought by a photographer, whose work was used in the background of John Doe's apartment. The case was decided in the filmmakers' favor. Sandoval v. New Line Cinema Corp., 973 F.Supp. 409, 412-414 (S.D.N.Y. 1997).
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A metronome, shown in one of the scenes, is often symbolic of patience, steadiness, and making order from chaos. It also marks the passing of time as Somerset waits and waits.
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The original script had a strange, dwarf-like woman as part of the forensics team, appearing in every one of the "clean-ups" after a murder and hurling foul language and epithets at Somerset and Mills.
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Before Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt were cast, Al Pacino and Denzel Washington were early choices for Somerset and Mills, respectively. Pacino declined, as he was already scheduled to film City Hall (1996), and Washington turned down the offer, deeming the film to be "too dark." Both actors have expressed regret in not taking their individual offers.
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An edited-out sequence near the beginning had Somerset looking over the country house into which he's planning on moving. He uses his switchblade to cut loose a rose on a fragment of silk wallpaper and carries it with him throughout the movie. The rose falls out of his jacket as he is taking off his gun, before eating with the Mills family. (This touch was edited out, too. Both sequences are in the supplementary section of the Criterion LaserDisc.) The rose is briefly visible in the opening scene, sitting atop a handkerchief on Somerset's dresser.
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According to David Fincher, the camerawork was influenced by C.O.P.S. (1988), "how the camera is in the backseat peering over people's shoulder".
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This movie spent four consecutive weeks at the top of the US box office charts.
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Surprisingly, this enjoyed some degree of success in post-revolutionary Iran, where it did well at the box office (this was prior to the hardline Iranian regime taking control, and effectively outlawing anything pro-Western). Its success in Iran can partly be attributed to the fact that the film's cinematographer, Darius Khondji, hails from that country.
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The diner that Somerset and Tracy meet at is the same diner that Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke meet at in Training Day. In fact, they meet in the same booth. It's the Quality Coffee Shop in downtown LA.
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The seven deadly sins are:
  • Lust: To have an intense desire or need. "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28).
  • Gluttony: Excess in eating and drinking. "For drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags" (Proverbs 23:21).
  • Greed: Excessive or reprehensible acquisitiveness. "Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more" (Ephesians 4:19).
  • Sloth (also known as laziness): Disinclined to activity or exertion: not energetic or vigorous. "The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway" (Proverbs 15:19).
  • Wrath: Strong vengeful anger or indignation. "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1)
  • Envy: Painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage. "Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation" (1 Peter 2:1-2).
  • Pride: Quality or state of being proud; inordinate self esteem. "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18).
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Brad Pitt didn't take his shirt off in the film because Legends of the Fall (1994) had just made him a sex symbol. Still, he won the MTV Movie Award for Most Desirable Male for this role.
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The third slowest film to reach $100 million at the U.S. box office, after Shakespeare in Love (1998) (which also featured Gwyneth Paltrow) and Unforgiven (1992) (which also featured Morgan Freeman).
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A remix of "Closer" by 'Nine Inch Nails' is one of the songs featured in the movie, but is missing on the official soundtrack album. Trent Reznor later won an Oscar for scoring David Fincher's The Social Network (2010).
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"Se7en" ended up setting an odd record when it was recognized by a popular electronic-trivia system used in the U.S. as part of a question that was easily the most wrongly-answered one in the system's history. The question was, "What city does SE7EN take place in?" Most respondents answered New York City, with the remainder being divided between other Northeastern cities (including Boston and Philadelphia) and only a few correctly answering that the location of the film is unspecified.
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David Fincher approached making the film like a "tiny genre movie, the kind of movie Friedkin might have made after The Exorcist (1973)."
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Although the location of the city is never explicitly given, there is a scene in a cafe where Mills and Somerset are waiting for Mark Boone, Jr.'s character where a poster behind them is advertising "New York pizza". Although this restaurant is called New York Pizza Express, it is actually in Hollywood, California.
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The Platinum Series DVD from New Line Cinema is mastered from a new HDTV transfer which was made directly from the camera negative. This required that the whole film had to be re-graded digitally, applying color and contrast correction to every shot under the director's supervision. The resulting HDTV master is now the official master of the film. The digital corrections are quite extensive in some shots as the DVD supplements demonstrate in detail.
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Shot over a period of 55 days.
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Andrew Kevin Walker named William Somerset after his favorite author, W. Somerset Maugham.
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At 7 minutes before the end of the film, smack in the middle of the most dramatic scene of the entire movie, a subliminal picture is shown for a fraction of a second, short enough to be unable to recognize it when the film is playing. Freeze frame the movie at 1 hour and 52 minutes and 53 seconds. At that particular moment blink once with your eyes and you have missed it, but if you freeze frame around that particular time then you will see Gwyneth Paltrow (Tracy's) face appear in a flash of a second. Note: Said subliminal picture comes on at 2:00:13 on the Remastered Blu-Ray version.
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R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe was briefly considered for the role of John Doe.
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One of the scenes was shot in the Ambassador Hotel, where Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.
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In Orthodox Christianity, despair is considered the eighth deadly sin; this fits with Someset's world-weary attitude to life.
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Like Mills, Andrew Kevin Walker didn't know all of the seven deadly sins until he did research.
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The "song" playing when Mills and Somerset arrive at the "lust" crime scene is called, of course, Lust. The song, which is only 56 seconds long, was created specifically for that scene in the film by sound designers Ren Klyce and Steve Boeddeker.
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David Fincher allowed Andrew Kevin Walker on the set while filming, for on-set rewrites.
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The credits of this film run backwards from top to bottom in comparison with traditional credits rolls, which run from the bottom to the top of the screen.
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David Fincher was initially turned off by the screenplay, because it sounded too much like a generic buddy cop movie.
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David Cronenberg was offered a chance to direct this, but he turned it down.
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Kevin Costner and Nicolas Cage were briefly considered for the role of David Mills.
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Mills and William Somerset discuss the book "Of Human Bondage", which was written by W. Somerset Maugham.
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David Fincher had his production designer Arthur Max look at films like Klute (1971) and Malice (1993) to give him an idea of what kind of world he wanted created.
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Gene Hackman was offered the role of Somerset, but turned it down because of too many night shoots.
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Howard Shore also scored The Silence of the Lambs (1991), another film about a serial killer.
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The film is included on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list.
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Robert Duvall was offered the role of Somerset, but turned it down.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Christina Applegate turned down the role of Tracey.
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Titled "Se7en", the film runs for 127 minutes long, and the 35mm prints are made up of 7 reels.
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In the opening credits, a reworked version of "Closer" by 'Nine Inch Nails' can be heard. Trent Reznor (the lead in the band) would later attach to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), The Social Network (2010), and Gone Girl (2014), all David Fincher properties, to create the musical scores. Additionally, although Reznor was only involved by proxy in this film, the opening title sequence won awards, as did the music in the following three films.
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As evidenced by one of the crime scene photographs, Gluttony was discovered dead on 20 June 1995.
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When Somerset is in his apartment, he can be heard listening to a radio broadcast of John F. McClellan. McLellan was a Boston disc jockey (among other things) who did live Tuesday night broadcasts from the Boston club Storyville, on WHDH radio in the early 1950s. In the clip in the movie, you can hear McLellan's voice announcing some of the members of the band at Storyville that night, including Charlie Parker with Herb Pomeroy on trumpet.
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David Fincher and Brad Pitt's first film together.
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At one point, Harrison Ford was considered for the role of Somerset.
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57 minutes into the movie Gwyneth Paltrow's character meets with Morgan Freeman's at a diner. The source music (music being played through the diner's speakers as opposed to score) is the theme from the movie The Third Man.
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Somerset reveals to Mills and Tracey that his first name is William. William is Brad Pitt's real first name.
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According to earlier versions of the script, the unspoken name of the police Captain is Captain Lucas.
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A rejected version of the credits had the same scratchy handwriting and Coil-remixed "Closer", but used static images instead of the jumpy, blurred footage used currently. (This credit sequence is in the Criterion LaserDisc supplement section.)
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Jeff Cronenweth started as a camera operator in the film, but when Darius Khondji moved to Stealing Beauty (1996), Cronenweth and Harris Savides did about two weeks of additional photography inserts and pickup jobs for the movie. They ended up shooting the entire end sequence again, at a remote desert area.
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The name of Jodie Foster is mentioned in this film as a reference of murderer's obsessions. Jodie Foster starred Panic Room (2002), directed by David Fincher.
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Andrew Kevin Walker envisioned William Hurt as Somerset. William Hurt would go on to play a police detective in Dark City (1998).
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Included among the American Film Institute's 2001 list of 400 movies nominated for the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.
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The Glimmer Twins is the nickname of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. David Fincher won a Grammy for directing The Rolling Stones' video for "Love is Strong."
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The U.S. Criterion Collection LaserDisc includes a new widescreen (2.35:1) digital transfer supervised by David Fincher, new surround sound mix supervised by sound designer Ren Klyce, optimized for home theater listening, Discrete 5.1 channel Dolby AC-3 soundtrack, screen-specific audio commentary by Fincher, Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, production designer Arthur Max, and special make-up effects designer Rob Bottin, deleted scenes, outtakes, dailies, crime scene photographs, production design sketches, and storyboards, a study of the opening credit sequence, including storyboards, and an early version with commentary by designer Kyle Cooper, a visual essay and commentary by Rob Bottin, The Killer's photographs, with notes by photographer Melodie McDaniel, The Killer's diaries, hundreds of behind the scenes photos, production and publicity stills, and proposed promotional artwork, the original widescreen theatrical trailer, eight television spots, and behind-the-scenes footage.
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Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey appeared together in Outbreak (1995) same year Se7en (1995) was released.
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When Mills and Somerset are sitting in the diner, you can see a poster with the words "New York City Pizza."
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Jeremiah S. Chechik was attached to direct at one point.
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Both R. Lee Ermey and Reg E. Cathy passed away in 2018, Cathy in February and Ermey in April.
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Morgan Freeman and Mark Boone Junior would later appear in Batman Begins.
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John C. McGinley and R. Lee Ermey both starred together the previous year in the Steven Seagal action film "On Deadly Ground".
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David Fincher directed Alien 3 (1992), while LeLand Orser starred in Alien: Resurrection (1997).
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The U.S. LaserDisc suggested retail price was $49.99.
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The Japanese LaserDisc suggested retail price was ¥8000.
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"When I was studying French, I could not figure out why they would call a library a bibliotheque and a bookstore a library, but that's what they do. They're a backwards people. Hahaha, don't do that. I love the French." Morgan Freeman talking about the French language on the commentary.
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Originally the film was to open with Detective Somerset, going to look at an old house in the country that he is planning buying. The character tears a piece of the wallpaper off and carries it with him. Originally the opening credits were supposed to play over Somerset's train ride back to the city, but the production ran out of money before they could film this sequence. David Fincher felt the train ride tied this opening to the city and the darkness Somerset must face there, so the whole scene was cut. Moments with Somerset and the piece of wallpaper were filmed to be included throughout the film, but they were forced to be cut, as well. According to Morgan Freeman, if a character can wear a hat, the added prop will add a sense of who that character is to the performance. He used this technique for Somerset. "You put the hat on, and you look, and you see the character. You know who he is," says the actor.
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As David Fincher explains, the opening credits came from a "practical place." "Oftentimes, some of the most mundane things inspire," says the director. His crew wanted to get Findlay Bunting, who shot the footage for the opening credits, a pin register camera, because they believed the titles needed to be steady. Fincher questioned this and felt that a shaky, uneven, dirty looking opening credits would fit closer to John Doe's mindframe. The director also felt these credits gave the audience an awareness of how ugly the film would potentially get.
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"I've found all the best directors make sound effects when they're describing scenes," says Brad Pitt.
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The first time Lynn Harris, the co-executive producer, visited the set was when they were filming the Gluttony victim. The set was so dank and disgusting the spaghetti sauce used in the scene had been sitting there for weeks before shooting commenced the producer took one look, agreed that everything was going fine, and walked off set. Fincher also notes the first time Morgan Freeman saw this set, he let out a long sigh of disgust.
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For the Gluttony victim, actor Bob Mack had to wear his makeup and prosthetics for 10 hours a day, and that was before shooting would even begin. Fincher and Pitt joke about the size of the character's member in the fiberglass dummy used in the autopsy scene. Fincher also jokes that he wanted that dummy at the after party with a bowl of bean dip and Fritos between its knees. The party actually took place at the New York Public Library.
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R. Lee Ermey, auditioned for the role of John Doe. David Fincher recollects the former Marine drill instructor made the serial killer character completely unsympathetic. "Not that Kevin's more unsympathetic," says the director. But he felt Ermey's take on the character was "cut and dry," without much room for any gray area.
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David Fincher remembers Kevin Spacey saying he had heard they had cast someone else for John Doe but called him at the last minute to fill the role. Fincher and Brad Pitt don't remember it that way. According to them, they fought for Spacey to get the part, especially Pitt who was floored by the actor's audition. Fincher remembers the production didn't have the money to cover what Spacey was asking for. Pitt's tenacity in getting Spacey the part was what eventually convinced the studio to cover the cost.
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During the rain chase between Mills and John Doe, Brad Pitt slipped and smashed his hand through a windshield. The injury was worked into the screenplay, but earlier scenes had to be shot after that, as well. For these scenes, Pitt did a lot of "pocket acting" where he keeps his hand in his pocket or hidden from view some other way. David Fincher remembers Pitt showing him the wound after the accident and how he could see the white of bone in the actor's hand. Pitt says this was the only time he has ever seen the director "turn green."
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At 24 mins.) - On the commentary, Brad Pitt says Morgan Freeman has the "voice of God."
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On the commentary, Morgan Freeman talks about his days on The Electric Company. Up to that point, he didn't stay with jobs where he would become stagnant, sticking with the same role for too long. The Electric Company was the first, long-running job he had, and he remembers he grew to dislike it. He does recognize the good the show did for children and even notes a lot of children have told him the show taught them how to read. "Fine," says the actor. "That's interesting. Did I teach you how to understand what you were reading?"
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There was originally a moment when Somerset and Tracy Mills, and her head, first meet when the scrap of wallpaper he had cut from his country home falls out of his jacket pocket. When Tracy sees the wallpaper piece and asks Somerset about it, the detective says it's "his future." Tracy responds that he "if David saw that, he'd say you were a fag." The moment was cut because they had edited out the earlier scene with the country house completely.
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David Fincher wanted something different for the chase sequence with Mills and Somerset chasing John Doe through the apartment building. Brad Pitt told the director he hated chase scenes where the chaser always seems to know where the person being chased is. Fincher took this idea and ran with it, and he and Pitt worked out how Mills should be reacting during the chase, reluctantly going around corners and not knowing where John Doe was at any moment. "I like the idea of the guy with clay feet going, 'I don't wanna get shot.'," he explains.
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Peter Frankfurt, who created the opening credits as well as the opening credits for Wild Wild West (1999) based the shot of Will Smith kicking a door open on Brad Pitt kicking John Doe's door open.
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David Fincher mentions something he learned while working at ILM, that a director should look at a scene with the left eye for composition, because it goes to your right brain. Focus or technical side of a shot should be looked at with the right eye or left brain, as it's more of a technical eye. He also mentions his eyes are two, different colors, so all bets might be off at that point.
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When the film played for the first time in New York City, it had a different ending and cut to black as soon as Mills pulled the trigger on John Doe. David Fincher spoke with the theater beforehand, asking them to keep the theater completely dark after the final image to let the audience take it in. This didn't happen, and the lights in the theater came up as soon as the gunshot was heard. The audience was then immediately handed comment cards asking their thoughts on the movie, and the audience members had to begin thinking up answers to questions like "Who was your favorite character?" Fincher remembers three women who walked by after the screening and hearing one of them say, "The people who made that movie should be killed." It didn't help that the recruiting card to get people into the screening asked, "Would you like to see a new movie starring Brad Pitt (Legends of the Fall) and Morgan Freeman (Driving Miss Daisy)?" "I don't know what the f*ck they thought they were gonna see," says Fincher, "but I'm telling you, from the reaction of the people in there, they were bristling. They couldn't have been more offended." Someone else at that screening came up to Fincher afterwards and said, "Don't be depressed. You'll probably get another job."
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David Fincher thinks every marketing person sees their job as trying to save the film. "I've never heard a marketing guy go, 'What a great movie. That's a home run. We can't mess with this.'," he says. In Fincher's mind, marketing departments look at every film as something imperfect that they have to sell to as many people as possible. If that means hyping Brad Pitt from Legends of the Fall or Morgan Freeman from Driving Miss Daisy, who cares if the film the people are about to see doesn't match with those previous films' sensibilities? He does realize that companies are beginning to market films in more ambiguous ways, specifying DreamWorks and the marketing for American Beauty and What Lies Beneath, two films whose focal point on the poster is a woman's hand. Freeman says later in the commentary that he doesn't think any film is sold as well as it is with word of mouth.
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Neither Brad Pitt nor David Fincher are happy with the way the car ride at the end with John Doe in the back and Mills and Somerset in the front seat plays out. Their chief concern is that they were forced to loop the entire scene after the fact due to issues with picking up sound in the car on the day of shooting. Pitt feels including looped dialogue caused the scene to "lose its breath."
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Brad Pitt finds it interesting that the sun in the film comes out after John Doe has shown up. David Fincher points out that this wasn't intentional. If he could have soaked the end scene with rain machines, he would have.
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Footage of and from the helicopter in the end scene wasn't initially shot. The production ran out of time, and New Line told David Fincher they would give him extra time and money if they felt it was necessary from the footage he had shot. Naturally, they did, but the months between shooting ground footage and shooting footage from the helicopter had turned the locale from a lush green to a desert. Much of the footage shot on the ground was color corrected to make the location appear more desert-like.
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Originally, the end scene took place underneath the giant power lines, John Doe had selected this location, because it would mess with the communication between the two men on the ground and the helicopter. "Instead we all just got testicular cancer," jokes Brad Pitt. The truth of the matter is even funnier. Once they got out to shoot the scene, David Fincher and his crew found that communications really were messing up, and the actors had to be cued by cellular phone for many of the takes.
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According to Morgan Freeman, he's never seen someone's head in a box nor has he ever seen anyone's reaction to finding a head in a box. He isn't completely satisfied with the way he reacts when Somerset opens the box.
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For the final moments between Mills and John Doe, Brad Pitt references Sean Penn's performance near the end of At Close Range. "There was this complete change in him," says Pitt. "There was something that Penn did there that you knew, from that moment on, what he'd experience, life would never be the same again. He would never be the same." Morgan Freeman remembers the original ending as having Somerset shoot John Doe instead of Mills. He liked this ending, that the younger detective would still have a life after the events of the film. It was Pitt's argument that there was no way Mills wouldn't have shot John Doe for what he had done. Basically, if you're not sure who should be shot or who should do the shooting, just ask Brad Pitt.
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Cameo 

Alfonso Freeman: Morgan Freeman's son as a fingerprint technician.
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Andrew Kevin Walker: the first corpse.
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Charles S. Dutton: The cop who keeps the press out of the "greed" crime scene. Dutton had a substantial role in director David Fincher's previous movie Alien³ (1992).
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The producers intended that Kevin Spacey should receive top billing at the start of the movie, but he insisted that his name not appear in the opening credits, so as to surprise the audience with the identity of the killer. To compensate, he is listed twice in the closing credits: once before the credits start rolling, and once in the rolling credits in order of appearance. Another advantage from Spacey's point of view, as he saw it, was that he was excluded from the film's marketing during its release, meaning he didn't have to make any public appearances or do any interviews.
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When filming the "sloth" victim scene, the SWAT officers were not told that the victim was still alive. When the victim coughs and scares the SWAT officers, that reaction is real.
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The ending in the movie is the ending in the original draft of the screenplay that the actors and director had signed on to. Producer Arnold Kopelson had it re-written, and the ending was changed to John Doe kidnapping Tracy, with Mills and Somerset racing to save her life. When David Fincher, Brad Pitt, and Morgan Freeman read the new ending, they all demanded that the original ending be put back in, or they wouldn't do the movie. (From the Platinum Series DVD)
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The victim tied to the bed for a year was not an animatronic model, but a very skinny actor made up to look even more corpse-like. Rob Bottin used a set of exaggerated teeth to make the head look smaller and more shrunken from malnutrition.
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Kevin Spacey as the antagonist, John Doe, made his first appearance in the film as the photographer taking pictures of Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman at the sloth crime scene. If you pause the film, when Pitt's character is slapping the camera out of the photographer's hand (at around 54 mins), you can clearly see that it is Kevin Spacey wearing a wig.
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Morgan Freeman remembers the original ending as having Somerset shoot John Doe instead of Mills' doing it. He liked this ending, reasoning that the younger detective would still have a life after the events of the film. It was Brad Pitt's argument that "[Mills] has got to shoot the killer in the end. He doesn't do the 'right' thing, he does the thing of passion" that convinced everyone that it was Mills who would have to shoot John Doe in the end.
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Before filming began, Kevin Spacey asked David Fincher if he should shave his head and he told him "If you do it, I'll do it" and so they were both bald for the rest of the film.
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Kevin Spacey was cast two days before filming began.
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Even though he's probably one of the most horrifying and sadistic killers in cinematic history, John Doe isn't seen killing anyone on screen.
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It is raining every day in the movie except for the last day. The reason is less about thematic issues and more about continuity. It rained on the first day that Brad Pitt filmed so they kept it going as they were rushing to do all of Pitt's scenes before he left to go make 12 Monkeys (1995).
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All the building numbers in the opening scene start with 7. The climactic delivery was scheduled for seven pm
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To appease the producers, who wanted to soften the dramatic ending a bit, an alternate version of the ending was storyboarded (although the director and actors had little intention of ever filming it). In this ending, before Mills has the chance to kill John Doe, Somerset says that he "wants out", turns his gun on Doe and fatally shoots him. A shocked Mills asks "What are you doing?", to which Somerset replies "I'm retiring". By killing John Doe, Somerset prevents Doe from winning, and Mills from ending up in jail. In the mean time, the crew shot a test ending, which is basically the theatrical ending without some of the dramatic close-up shots. This finale was so well received in screenings that it convinced the producers to go along with it, and not even film the alternate ending.
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The director and actors wanted the film to end with a cut to black right after Mills shoots John Doe, followed by the end credits. New Line requested that a coda would be shot following John Doe's death, after poor test screenings regarding the dark ending. The ending narration of Somerset quoting Ernest Hemingway was added as a compromise, for which neither David Fincher nor Morgan Freeman particularly cared.
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At exactly seven minutes into the film, Mills gets a call that starts the seven murders. With exactly seven minutes left of the film, Somerset says to a distraught Mills: "he will win," regarding John Doe.
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The ending of the screenplay, with the head in the box, was originally part of an earlier draft that New Line had rejected, instead opting for an ending that involved more traditional elements of a detective thriller film with more action-oriented elements. But when New Line sent David Fincher the screenplay to review for his interest in the project, they accidentally sent him the original screenplay with the head-in-the-box ending. When New Line realized that they had sent Fincher the wrong draft, the president of production, Michael De Luca, met with Fincher and noted that there was internal pressure to retain the revised version; De Luca stated that if Fincher promised to make the movie, they would be able to stay with the head-in-a-box ending. Despite this, producer Arnold Kopelson tried to get rid of the head-in-a-box scene. However, after reading the initial script, Brad Pitt had actually agreed to do the film on the condition that "the head stays in the box"; he joined Fincher in arguing for keeping this original scene, noting that his previous film Legends of the Fall (1994) had its emotional ending cut after negative feedback from test audiences, and refusing to do Se7en unless the head-in-the-box scene remained.
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The script was re-written several times because the studio was uncomfortable with the bleak ending, and tried to soften it up a bit. In one version, there were additional scenes after the final confrontation between the detectives and John Doe. As Mills is preparing to shoot John Doe, Somerset tries to intervene with his switchblade. However, Mills quickly responds by shooting Somerset in the shoulder, and subsequently killing Doe. The scene then resumes two weeks later, as Somerset is recovering in the hospital. He is visited by the captain who tells him that Mills will be presented at court the next day. The captain also delivers a letter to Somerset from Mills. Opening it, it contains a note saying "You were right. You were right about everything."
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Mills' apartment number is 5A. The fifth deadly sin is wrath, which is the sin that Mills commits at the climax of the film.
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An alternate ending revealed that John Doe did not murder Mills' wife, only substituting a look-a-like. Mills then has no justification for killing an unarmed man, and will spend the rest of his life in jail. Somerset decides not to retire, and instead gives his country house to Mills' wife and her unborn baby.
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The only murder that is shown on-screen is when Mills shoots John Doe while in police custody at the end of the movie. The rest of the murders occur off-screen with only their grisly aftermaths shown.
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A fake head of Gwyneth Paltrow that was created to be shown in the box ended up being used instead for an autopsy scene of the character she played in the movie Contagion (2011) some sixteen years later.
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Just before Detective Mills shoots John Doe, a single frame (1/24th of a second) of Tracy flashes, approximately at 2:00:13.
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R. Lee Ermey originally auditioned for the part of John Doe. After the part was given to Kevin Spacey, Ermey was offered, and took, the part of the police captain.
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It has been mentioned that at 7 minutes before the end of the film, a photo of Gwyneth Paltrow is inserted as a "subliminal message" and that viewers can't tell what the message is without pausing the film. In fact, this is not the case nor is the picture meant to be subliminal. The placement and timing of the picture of Paltrow is meant to show what is running through Mills' mind just before he shoots Doe. His wife's face flashed through his mind and he lost all reason so shot the man who murdered her. Nothing subliminal about it and the picture is very clear without pausing the film.
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One of the re-written endings of the film involved John Doe kidnapping Mills. Somerset discovers that John Doe was raised by an abusive priest in a church orphanage. He finally traces Doe to a decrepit church decorated with artwork depicting the Seven Deadly Sins, where Doe is intent on making Somerset murder him out of vengeance. As Somerset arrives, Doe has cut a cross in Mills' chest, has suspended him above an altar and shoots him. Mills finally dies in Somerset's arms as the church is set on fire. Doe and Somerset subsequently engage in a shootout, with Somerset wounding Doe and letting him die in the flames. The script ends with Mills' funeral.
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The delivery man of the box at the very end of the movie, during the most dramatic scene of the entire movie, is actor Richmond Arquette, who is a brother of 3 other well known actors called Roseanne Arquette, Patricia Arquette and David Arquette.
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After the first cut of the film was shown to the studio, they attempted to mitigate the bleakness of the ending by replacing Mills' wife's head with that of a dog, or by not having Mills fire on John Doe.
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The prison jumpsuit John Doe wears at the end of the film has the words "Bardach County Jail" written on it. Elinor Bardach was the costume supervisor for this movie.
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In the climax scene, Somerset sees the box and runs back in horror. John Doe has revealed his final plan to Mills. In this scene, we see Mills going through all stages of Grief namely, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.
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The film was made in L.A., California, although the city the film is set in is never named. However, as Mills and Somerset drive John Doe to the location of the final bodies, they drive past a sign showing that upcoming roads are Kern Ave, Vernon Ave and 51st Street indicating the film is indeed set in L.A. afterall.
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The first shot of Gwyneth Paltrow at the beginning of the film primarily shows her head, partially obscured, foreshadowing her eventual fate.
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The film cast includes four Oscar winners: Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Brad Pitt.
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Sloth is the third deadly sin, the sloth victim is found in a third floor apartment.
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The body count is 8. That includes John Doe, Tracy, and the homicide that Somerset was investigating before he meets Mills.
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The opening murder that Somerset is investigating in this film foreshadows the ending. Both are murders, or "crimes of passion".
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An early scene in the film foreshadows the ending. When Somerset lists the Seven Deadly Sins for the first time in the police precinct, at the last Sin he pauses and turns to Mills as he says "....and envy."
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When Detectives Mills and Somerset are searching John Doe's apartment, take a closer look at the receipt for Wild Bill's Leather Shop. The hand-written portion under the description section reads "CUSTOM LEATHER." The "C" in "Custom" is written in a way that could be seen as an "L." If you freeze-frame that moment, it looks like it says "Lust." This is a nod to one of Doe's next crimes he will commit pertaining to the 7 deadly sins.
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Detective Mills shoots John Doe six times.
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John Doe, the killer, doesn't fully reveal himself until 90 minutes into the film.
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In the car scene with Mills, Somerset, and John Doe Mills is shot behind bars just as John Doe foreshadowing where he's going to end up.
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Having played the victim of a serial killer, Leland Orser four years later played a cop who pursues a serial killer in Resurrection (1999), and a few months later he gets to play the perpetrator in The Bone Collector (1999).
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In the final act of the film, the characters Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey play become increasingly at odds with each other in a deadly game that Spacey's John Doe character wins. In the same year as this film, both Pitt and Spacey were in competition at the Oscars in best supporting actor category. Pitt was nominated for Twelve Monkeys and Kevin Spacey won for Usual Suspects.
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Body Count: 8
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Kevin Spacey played the previous year in The Usual Suspects where he also was the bad guy winning at the end.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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