J. Don Birnam
February 12, 2021
Below the Line
David Fincher’s Mank focuses on screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz as he puts the final touches on the script for Citizen Kane. The action, set in 1930s Hollywood, features luminaries from Irving Thalberg, William Randolph Hearst, and, of course, Orson Welles. Mank’s plot, however, it focuses on Gary Oldman as the principal character and on a magnetic performance by Amanda Seyfried as screen legend Marion Davies.
Given the setting—Hollywood on Hollywood—it is no wonder that Mank, in addition to an impressive cast, boasts production values that are also showy, including a Golden Globe-nominated soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (who won an Oscar for the previous Fincher collaboration, The Social Network), and black and white cinematography by Erik Messerschmidt.
The lack of color makes sense and is effective in recreating the mood and style that most viewers’ minds have of that era. But it is not without its own set of challenges. In particular, how could a designer draw up costumes and clothing for the characters to convey the high echelons of Hollywood history some of Mank’s characters occupy, while working within the black and white environment? To find out, Below the Line News spoke to Mank’s costume designer Trish Summerville, whose work is as notable and as colorful as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Gone Girl, about working in black and white for the first time.