Fewer films have been more anticipated this year than David Fincher’s Mank. Even in a year without the devastating impact of the coronavirus on every element of the film and television industry, Fincher’s first film in six years would be an event. That he holds a personal attachment to it makes it all the more so.
Mank is 1930s Hollywood re-evaluated through the eyes of scathing social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish the screenplay of Citizen Kane for Orson Welles. The film is written by Fincher’s late father Jack Fincher. Although Fincher was an accomplished essayist, with works in Readers Digest, Saturday Review, The Smithsonian, among others, this is his first and only screenplay.
The film follows screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Academy Award winner Gary Oldman) during the the tumultuous development of Citizen Kane and features a rich cast playing a veritable who’s who of the Golden Age of Hollywood that includes Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies, Lily Collins as Rita Alexander, Arliss Howard as Louis B. Mayer, Tom Pelphrey as Joe Mankiewicz, Toby Leonard Moore as David O. Selznick, Tom Burke as Orson Welles and Charles Dance as William Randolph Hearst, the millionaire publishing magnate who went to the Earth’s end to keep Citizen Kane – a very thinly veiled examination of Heart’s life – from being released. The film also stars Sam Troughton, Ferdinand Kingsley, Tuppence Middleton, Jamie McShane, Joseph Cross and Monika Gossman.
This is only the second film to detail the process of creating Citizen Kane, following the semi-fictitious television film RKO 281 (1999) which starred John Malkovich as Herman J. Mankiewicz and Liev Schreiber as Orson Welles. In 2008, Richard Linklater wrote and directed the feature film Me and Orson Welles, starring Zac Efron a teenager cast in the Mercury Theatre production of “Julius Caesar,” directed by a young Orson Welles, played by Christian McKay. Mank is the third biopic directed by Fincher following Zodiac (2007) and The Social Network (2010) and his first centering on the film industry.
Fincher spares no expense with an all-star crew, most of whom have been by his side for multiple films. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Academy Award winners for Fincher’s The Social Network, return to compose. Trish Summerville marks her fourth collaboration as a costume designer (she previously designed costumes for 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Justin Timberlake Ft. Jay-Z: “Suit & Tie” (2013) and 2014’s Gone Girl). This is the 7th collaboration with production designer Donald Graham Burt (who designed sets for Zodiac (2007), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), The Social Network (2010), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), House of Cards (2013) and 2014’s Gone Girl) and the 9th collaboration with casting director Laray Mayfield (who has cast all Fincher films/shows since 1999’s Fight Club. Film editor Kirk Baxter also returns for his eighth collaboration with Fincher. Baxter first worked with Fincher as an additional editor on Zodiac (2007). He was credited as co-editor (with Angus Wall) on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), The Social Network (2010) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) (winning back to back Academy Awards for the latter two films), Gone Girl (2014) and all of the Fincher-directed episodes of both House of Cards (2013) and Mindhunter (2017). The one area Fincher breaks out of a bit is in cinematography, where Jeff Cronenweth has been by his side for 1999’s Fight Club, 2010’s The Social Network, 2011’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (the latter two earned him Oscar nominations) and 2014’s Gone Girl. Erik Messerschmidt takes over the lens for Mank, having first broke through as a DP on Fincher’s Netflix Mindhunter series. This is their first feature collaboration and the first film by Fincher to be shot in black & white.
The film is produced by Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth and Douglas Urbanski and co-produced by Peter Mavromates and William Doyle.
Mank is set for a Fall 2020 release exclusively from Netflix. Here is your first look, which today coincides with the 79th anniversary of Citizen Kane’s wide theatrical release.