'True Detective' Director Cary Fukunaga on Rustin Cohle's Final Scene

Director also opens up about show's symbology and his favorite parts to film

Matthew McConaughey True Detective
Lacey Terrell/HBO
Matthew McConaughey in 'True Detective.'
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While creator Nic Pizzolatto is already plumbing the seamy underbelly of America's transportation system for True Detective's second season, director Cary Fukunaga spoke to Vulture about Sunday night's gripping finale and letting Matthew McConaughey do his thing for Rust Cohle's final soliloquy. (Spoilers ahead!)

"We only did three takes on that, and I think that was the last take that we wound up using," Fukunaga said. "I just let Matthew go. We rolled one take into the next, and that’s where he got to on his own. The conversations we’ve had about where he was at psychologically and physically were all part of getting to that but in terms of shaping his performance at that moment? I didn’t have to do anything."

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Elsewhere in the interview, Fukunaga addressed some of the finale's eeriest elements, like the labyrinth Cohle and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) track serial killer Errol Childress through. The scene was originally set in a cypress forest, but when they had to re-plan the ending, Fukunaga pitched Fort Macomb outside of New Orleans "as if the cult had taken over some factory or something on the bayou and repurposed it," said Fukunaga.

"Childress had turned it into some cat-and-mouse-like maze to entrap these children and adolescents," he said. "There was a bridal path described in the script that a larger section of chambers in the fort worked perfectly for. It’s hard to tell but there's a spiral-like nature to the maze and once you get to the final section before the altar room, the funnel grows smaller and smaller and smaller."

The many spirals littered throughout True Detective reached an apex during the episode as well when Cohle hallucinated a massive vortex before being attacked by Errol in the altar room. While Fukunaga wouldn't say how Pizzolatto originally envisioned that moment for fear he might get in trouble, he said the formation Cohle sees creates a neat bookend for that crucial symbol. "I liked the idea that we could actually see Carcosa and black stars," he added. "If you look really closely, you can see black orbs floating in it. It was important to me that if we're gonna talk about these things, let's see them one more time before we finish."

Fukunaga also spoke about striking a balance between the show's two detectives throughout the first season's run: While Cohle and his philosophizing became the centerpiece of True Detective for many fans, the director said he felt Hart's troubled relationship with his family was its true heart.

"I always felt those interactions with the family were the most tangible examples of how behavior affects those around you," Fukunaga said. "Cohle is this lone wolf on the outside and he can philosophize but you don't really see how he or his behavior affects other people. He's purposely isolated. There were more scenes with Hart's family that didn’t make it into the show, about his daughter and his relationship with Maggie. I always found that stuff the most interesting to shoot in terms of human drama."

While Pizzolatto will be behind True Detective's second season, Fukunaga will not return. Still, the director offered up some advice to whoever takes the helm next year: "'You can email me.' We didn't finish until a couple weeks ago. I guess, 'Start training now.' It's a doozy."

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