Coincidence or Insult: Did Nic Pizzolatto Attack Cary Fukunaga in Last Night's True Detective?

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One thing I completely missed in my review of True Detective earlier today was a piece of behind-the-scenes drama that seems to have played out very much in front of the camera. At one point in last night’s episode, Ray Velcoro and Annie Bezzerides visit a film set—it looks like an approximation of Mad Max, post-apocalyptic vibe and all—and meet a director. He’s not a good guy. He seems to be a bully and alcoholic and sex maniac, and when he’s finished answering questions, he says, “we’re burning dollars,” which we can all agree is a d-bag thing to say.

Here’s the issue: That fictional director looked a lot like Cary Fukunaga, the real-life director of season one with whom writer Nic Pizzolatto allegedly enjoyed a contentious relationship. See for yourself.

Last night:

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Now from the side—notice the bun:

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A Google image search for Fukunaga shows that there’s basically no way this is a coincidence. The question is, what’s the deal?

Vulture has a good summary of the supposed feud, and it’s really hard to pin down. They both claimed that any tension between them stemmed from normal on-set disagreements, yet in a Hollywood Reporter feature last year, it doesn’t seem quite so simple:

Rumors of a power struggle between Pizzolatto and Fukunaga — who directed all eight episodes of the first season and is responsible for the show’s rich cinematic look — have circulated since production got underway in early 2013. And they grew more intense when word got around that Fukunaga would not be back for season two. The director, who declined comment for this article, will remain attached as an executive producer…

Several others who spent time in Louisiana suggest those occasional clashes — which were said to have intensified during postproduction, when the two were working on opposite coasts — could be attributed to innate differences in style as well. Pizzolatto, a more vocal, aggressive creative, thrives on discussion and debate, and New York-based Fukunaga is a calmer presence whose laid-back nature could be construed as aloof.

When asked for a direct quote, both Pizzolatto and Fukunaga played it by the book, but it looks we got a clear answer last night: Something’s amiss, to the point that Pizzolatto went out of his way to take a shot at the (excellent) season one director. There are some obvious theories at play. For one, he might not love the attention Fukunaga gets, which seems divorced from the criticism directed at Pizzolatto, and the eagerness to blame him for any and all missteps within the show. Then again, if the division is bad enough for the whole thing to play out on screen, it probably stems from conflicts that occurred in private—the details of which we’ll never know.

In any case, it will be interesting to see where the feud lands next. My guess is that it’s over as of today—Fukunaga doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to add fuel to Pizzolatto’s fire, and if this first shot was a little puzzling, future attacks by the writer would look increasingly petty. As it stands, Fukunaga is enjoying the moral high ground, and Pizzolatto would be wise to just let the whole thing drop.