With Mank, director David Fincher realized a long-held dream to shoot a screenplay by his father Jack Fincher, who died in 2003. It’s story set in the Hollywood’s Golden Age and against the making of Orson Welles’ masterpiece Citizen Kane, a movie many consider still the greatest ever made. But as members of the ensemble cast say during a conversation about the film at Deadline Contenders Film awards-season event, the Netflix film is not about Welles but rather the man who he hired to write it, Herman Mankiewicz, who is played by Oscar winner Gary Oldman.
“It was a marvelous screenplay. Jack Fincher I felt had really done his homework and captured Mank,” said Oldman, zooming in from London and offering a quote referring to the man he plays: “It is a terrible thing doing something you hate, and then turn around and you’re an old man.”
“He was a script doctor who felt he wasted his talents and certainly drank them away,” Oldman adds in the discussion, joined on the panel by co-stars Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins and Charles Dance. He says Mankiewicz, who shared Kane’s only Oscar win with Welles (who later added his name to the script), had a wicked sense of humor to counter his own self-loathing.
Seyfried plays film star Marion Davies, whose relationship with William Randolph Hearst helped her friend Mank gain entry into his private domain and legendary parties, an experience leading to the fictionalized creation of Charles Foster Kane. “It was a challenge for me to fit into that world, to transport into the ’30s and believe myself to be in that position…but it was absolutely welcome for me as an actor,” she says.
Collins played Rita, an assistant to Mank and a kind of “moral compass” for him, as she describes her role, a rare ray of light. And Charles Dance joined from London to talk about playing the imposing Hearst, opining that perhaps Rupert Murdoch is the closest we have to him now.
“He was an extraordinarily powerful, and let’s face it, wealthy man who felt he could do whatever he wanted to do with his money,” Dance says of Hearst in what is definitely an understatement.
Check out the panel video above.