The filming of Mank. (Miles Crist/Netflix)
The director talks about his latest, Mank, a tale of Hollywood history, political power, and the creative act.
David Fincher’s 11th feature film, Mank, is a passion project like no other on the director’s résumé — a drama, shot in black-and-white, about the formative years of Hollywood’s sound era, the agony and the ecstasy of what he calls “enforced collaboration” between directors and writers, and the political ruthlessness of Golden Age studios, told through the journey of an unlikely hero — Herman J. Mankiewicz (played by Gary Oldman), the newspaperman turned screenwriter who co-wrote (or wrote, depending on your POV) the screenplay for Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane. Every frame of the movie, which opens in select theaters November 13 and will hit Netflix on December 4, brims with the director’s loving but unsentimental view of film history and of filmmaking — and also carries an unexpected wallop of political resonance with media manipulation and the creation of “fake news” disinformation that couldn’t possibly have been anticipated 30 years ago, when his late father, Jack, first wrote the script. Mank is an unusually personal film for Fincher, not only because it memorializes his work with his father (who died in 2003), but because, in a way, it continues a passionate conversation about movies that began between the two of them when Fincher was a young boy. Its history also spans Fincher’s entire feature career — the original draft was written just before he went off to direct his first film. In two interviews over a long weekend, the director talked about bringing it to the screen.