According to Reuters, William Faulkner wrote a script based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story all the way back in 1943, before studio chief Jack Warner axed the whole thing. It was revived in the 1980s when former agent Ray Stark got ahold of the rights and brought the project to director Ron Howard. At the time, there was simply no way to tell the story without using multiple actors to portray Benjamin at the various stages of his life. This, according to producer Marykay Powell, was ultimately “the key thing that kept it locked in development hell.”
And that’s exactly where the project stayed for decades, even passing through Steven Spielberg’s hands at one point before finally Eric Roth, a mutual friend of David Fincher and Brad Pitt, produced a new script draft. After Roth’s rewrite made the rounds, Fincher claimed he was, “deemed unfit” and told, “There’s not a body count here for you” — which there wasn’t. Roth’s script was full of much of the same romantic sentimentality as his screenplay for 1994’s “Forrest Gump.”
But Fincher, seemingly undeterred, got ahold of his “Fight Club” and “Seven” collaborator Pitt, who had also been sent the script, and talked over what they could do with a story devoid of any horrific murder tableaus or serial killers. And while the director’s prior films weren’t exactly going to convince Paramount that he was the man for the job, his plan to use one actor (Pitt) to play Button, alongside digital de-aging effects, was enough to convince the studio. In 2003, some 60 years after Faulkner had given it his best shot, Fincher was given the green light to finally adapt Fitzgerald’s short story. Unfortunately, he would still face a monumental task in bringing “Benjamin Button” to the big screen.