Costume Designer Trish Summerville on Diving Into Hollywood’s Past in “Mank”

Susannah Edelbaum
January 25, 2021
The Credits (MPA)

David Fincher’s black and white epic, Mank, revisits the storied Hollywood era of the late 1930s when Orson Welles was writing what would go down in history as one of the best films of all time, Citizen Kane. But did he write it alone or with the help of Herman Mankiewicz, a once sought after screenwriter fallen prey to twin drinking and gambling problems? In Fincher’s version of events, based on a screenplay by his father, Jack Fincher, Mank the man (Gary Oldman) may have burned through the industry’s goodwill, but he was indubitably a co-writer on the film. However, the question isn’t central to Mank the movie.

Instead, the film’s focus is a gloves-off look at the gilded lives of Depression-era honchos Louis B. Mayer (Arliss Howard), William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), and Irving Thalberg (Ferdinand Kingsley), and the effect their political meddling and pay machinations have on the vast army of writers, grips, costume designers, and makeup artists who work beneath them. For Mank costume designer Trish Summerville (Red SparrowThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), “one of the things I really enjoyed about the film was that we got to dress every walk of life of the 30s and 40s.” Though much of the film is set in an out-of-the-way house where Mank has been set up to heal from an injury and dry out, and spends most of his time in bed in a robe, Summerville’s work spans ample plebeian daywear to Marion Davies’s (Amanda Seyfried) furs (a high-end faux fur hand-painted to mimic silver mink) and gowns and the sharply tailored suits favored by Los Angeles power brokers of the day.

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David Fincher’s Longtime Casting Director Breaks Down Helmer’s Approach: “He Wants to Be Surprised”

Maya Tribbitt
January 23, 2021
The Hollywood Reporter

Laray Mayfield worked with the two-time Oscar-nominated director on his biggest features and has developed a great relationship as well as a shorthand with the auteur.

When he came back for his first feature film in a half-decade, Mank, David Fincher brought his trusted casting director Laray Mayfield into the fold. Over the past few decades, Mayfield has cast nearly all of the features (and even Fincher’s foray into television, Netflix‘s Mindhunter) that make up Fincher’s portfolio, including Fight ClubThe Social Network and Gone Girl. The pair is quick to praise each other’s style, work ethic and personality.

“Our working relationship is amazing. I am so fortunate to have worked with Dave for as long as I have. We have been working together since 1986. It is creative, lively, challenging in the best sense of the word and warm because we are also dear friends,” Mayfield says of Fincher. “We have a shorthand that has been developed over 35 years. I do usually have an idea of what David will like because we like the same things in actors, but I try to surprise him because Dave always gives me a safe place to experiment and really think outside the norm.”

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Essence and Embodiment | Casting David Fincher’s Mank

Netflix (YouTube)
January 13, 2021

David Fincher on ‘Mank’: ‘ I Don’t Want Sympathy for Mankiewicz, I Want Empathy’

Tim Gray
January 15, 2021
Variety

There are a lot of reasons to like “Mank.” 1. It’s great filmmaking. 2. It has an irresistible backstory: David Fincher wanted to pay tribute to his late father, Jack, by directing his screenplay; 3. It tackles a well-known topic (Hollywood in the 1930s-‘40s) from an unusual angle. 4. It’s not what people expected, always a good thing in a film.

It’s not about the making of the 1941 classic. “I hope this movie exists as more than just an addendum or footnote to ‘Citizen Kane,’ ” Fincher tells Variety. “I hope there is enough human behavior and an interesting enough look at humanity that it doesn’t require a master’s degree in film theory.”

Among other things, it is a character study of Herman J. Mankiewicz, including his risky decision to write “Citizen Kane.” It’s also about the times he lived in, and how events fed into his creativity.

Fincher says Gary Oldman doesn’t look like Mankiewicz, but has the writer’s disarming charm. “I needed  an actor’s actor, to play someone who walks into a room and everyone would say ‘That’s the guy.’

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IndieWire Influencers: David Fincher & Sound Designer Ren Klyce

Influencers: Through their decades-long partnership, the pair have constantly refined how sound can be used to shape a viewer’s emotional response.

Chris O’Falt
January 13, 2021
IndieWire

David Fincher and Ren Klyce came of age during a seminal time for Hollywood: when the pair were just kids, a group of ’70s filmmakers was reshaping what it meant to make movies, right from the pair’s native Bay Area. In a biographical detail almost too perfect to be true, George Lucas rented a house in Marin County to edit his “THX 1138,” that just so happened to be located right next door to the Klyce family’s home. A single suburban lawn is all that separated a then-9-year-old Ren from the great Walter Murch, just as he was starting to change modern movie sound forever, work he’d continue throughout the decade with another NorCal auteur, Francis Ford Coppola. And it would be on a Lucas-produced animated feature, “Twice Upon a Time,” that future sound designer Klyce would meet his Coppola, a then-19-year-old Fincher.

Over the last 25 years, as Hollywood has utilized the multi-channel surround technology pioneered by Murch to create bombastic soundtracks that all too often mask a lack of craft, Klyce has helped Fincher explore the subconscious underbelly of his own films, constantly refining how sound can be used to shape a viewer’s emotional response.

“To me, sound design is not about 96 channels all at 11, and two side cars giving you this sound pressure-gasm; to me, it’s very much about the detail and the nuance and maybe things that you wouldn’t even be aware that you heard until the second or third time you saw it,” said Fincher in an interview about his collaboration with Klyce. “I can’t talk more enthusiastically about someone [Klyce] I feel has very subtly pushed what sound designers do.”

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Trent Reznor and More on Scoring a Movie During COVID: ‘Like Trying to Be Intimate in Hazmat Suits’

Reznor, Atticus Ross, Daniel Pemberton and George Clooney talk about the challenges of recording music during a pandemic.

Steve Pond
January 12, 2021
The Wrap

When it comes to the postproduction process on movies during a pandemic, much of the work doesn’t have to change dramatically. Film editors, after all, are used to sitting in dark rooms, often by themselves; sound editors and visual-effects artists can also do their work in front of computer screens and share it with co-workers without needing to be in the same room.

But recording a movie’s musical score is different. Unless a composer both writes and performs everything him or herself, a film score involves getting people together to play music — in the case of orchestral scores, getting lots of people together to play music. 

Trent Reznor, composer of the score to David Fincher’s “Mank” with Atticus Ross, had a succinct and evocative phrase for working on the music to that film in the early days of the pandemic. “It wasn’t impossible, but it felt like trying to be intimate in hazmat suits,” he said.

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How Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross Became 1930s-Style Tunesmiths for ‘Mank’

TheWrap magazine: The Nine Inch Nails composers were hired to write the score but ended up also creating music to play over radios in David Fincher’s film, “(If Only You Could) Save Me,” a big-band ballad with a sultry vocal by Adryon de León.

Steve Pond
January 15, 2021
The Wrap

A version of this story about Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and “Mank” first appeared in the Race Begins issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.

The Design of ‘Mank’: How Costumes and Sets Energized David Fincher’s Homage to Old Hollywood

TheWrap magazine: Costume designer Trish Summerville and production designer Donald Graham Burt take us behind the scenes.

Joe McGovern
January 12, 2021
The Wrap

A version of this story about “Mank” appeared in the Race Begins issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.

“Fincher-vision” is the term that costume designer Trish Summerville uses while discussing her experience working with director David Fincher. “His mind is so clear about what he wants, but there’s still room for spontaneity,” she said. “That’s why there’s so much happiness in the craft departments on his films. And so much repeat business.” Production designer Donald Graham Burt echoed her sentiment. “When David starts telling me about a new film, he visually sees the whole thing in his head,” he said. “But there’s room for expansion creatively.”

Those qualities were essential to “Mank,” Summerville’s third project with the director and Burt’s sixth. (Burt won an Oscar for 2008’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”; Summerville’s other credits include “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “Red Sparrow.”) Fincher’s look at the screenwriter of “Citizen Kane” is a rich evocation of 1930s Hollywood that’s grounded in the reality of its time and place, though the film was shot in silvery black-and-white.

The two department heads talked often, ironically, about color. “There are some colors that don’t translate well,” Summerville said. “Salmon and chartreuse and acid greens are jarring in black-and-white. So Don and I talked a lot about our color palettes.” Summerville also reminded Fincher, making his first black-and-white feature, not to place too much trust in his eyes and instead view everything through the camera monitor.

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Making of ‘Mank’: How David Fincher Pulled Off a Modern Movie Invoking Old Hollywood

The director had to employ digital advances to achieve a vintage aesthetic in telling the tale of ‘Citizen Kane’ screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz: “If we had done it 30  years ago, it might’ve been truly a bloodletting.”

Rebecca Keegan
January 11, 2021
The Hollywood Reporter

Screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz never sought credit for conceiving one of the all-time great ideas in the history of cinema — the notion that the Kansas scenes in The Wizard of Oz should be shot in black and white and the Oz scenes in color. In fact, for much of his career in Hollywood from the late 1920s to the early ’50s, Mankiewicz seemed to view his scripts with about as much a sense of ownership as a good zinger he had landed at a cocktail party.

But what fascinated David Fincher was that when it came time to assign credit on the screenplay for Citizen Kane, which Mankiewicz wrote with Orson Welles in 1940 (or without, depending on your perspective), the journeyman screenwriter suddenly and inexplicably began to care. Precisely why that happened is the subject of Fincher’s 11th feature film, Mank.

“I wasn’t interested in a posthumous guild arbitration,” Fincher says of Mank, which takes up the Citizen Kane authorship question reinvigorated by a 1971 Pauline Kael essay in The New Yorker. “What was of interest to me was, here’s a guy who had seemingly nothing but contempt for what he did for a living. And, on almost his way out the door, having burned most of the bridges that he could … something changed.”

Shot in black and white and in the style of a 1930s movie, Mank toggles between Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) writing the first draft of Citizen Kane from a remote house in the desert and flashback sequences of his life in Hollywood in the ’30s, including his friendship with newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), who inspired Citizen Kane, and Hearst’s mistress, actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried).

A filmmaker known for his compulsive attention to detail, Fincher had even more reason than usual to treat every decision with care on Mank, as he was working from a screenplay written by his father, journalist Jack Fincher, who died in 2003. Jack had taken up the subject in retirement in 1990, just as David was on the eve of directing his first feature, Alien 3, and the two would try throughout the 1990s to get the film made, with potential financiers put off by their insistence on shooting in black and white.

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Awardsline: The Big Picture

David Fincher brings the big screen to us for his latest picture. With a cast led by Gary Oldman & Amanda Seyfried, is Mank a love letter to cinema’s golden age or an indictment of the shadier side of the movie biz?⁠

Joe Utichi
January 6, 2021
Awardsline (Deadline)

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The Burning Question That Drove David Fincher’s Decades-Long Journey To Make ‘Man

Joe Utichi
January 6, 2021
Deadline

David Fincher turns Netflix homes into 1940s movie houses with his latest opus, Mank, which explores the life and frustrations of Citizen Kane’s screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, as he works his way through the draft of what will become Orson Welles’ seminal directorial debut. With its title role imbued with Mankiewicz’s world-weary wit by Gary Oldman, and from a script first drafted more than 20 years ago by Fincher’s father Jack, who passed away in 2003, the film reignites the debate about the authorship of a film Welles might nearly have taken sole credit for. But it is about more than that besides; a love and hate letter to the machinations of the movie business, a remarkably timely examination of the façade of truth in the news media, and an intimate study of tortured souls beaten down by the world around them and their own insecurities. Joe Utichi meets Fincher, Oldman and Amanda Seyfried—who rehabilitates the image of actress and socialite Marion Davies—for a closer look.

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Amanda Seyfried embraces the silences in David Fincher’s ‘Mank’

Actress Amanda Seyfried says she’s never worked so hard in her life as she did on “Mank,” but to do so with director David Fincher was a “dream.”
(Michael Nagle/For The Times)

Gregory Ellwood
January 4, 2021
Los Angeles Times

How excited was Amanda Seyfried at the prospect of starring in a David Fincher film? “I would have played a piece of wood,” she says with a laugh. Luckily for all involved, the role as silver screen star Marion Davies for Fincher’s Netflix release “Mank” was nowhere near as stiff. In fact, Seyfried delivers a scene-stealing performance, one that neither of the two initially took for granted would happen for the story of “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his friendship with the actress and companion to media mogul William Randolph Hearst.

Fincher recalls an initial 1 a.m. Skype with Seyfried after she’d finished a long day of shooting another film. As hard as it may be to fathom, the seminal director insists he was “sort of panicking” through his pitch to her. He was trying to convey aspects of the film he envisioned beyond what was on the written page but was having trouble expressing his thoughts.

“She was actively participating in helping me to find the right words to pitch her on this project. And it wasn’t like she did it two or three times. She did it, like, three times a minute for 45 minutes. After a while, it became obvious that this was sort of a second nature thing that she does to make other people feel comfortable or to make other people feel heard. And, by the end of it, when we hung up, I thought, ‘the woman who has to give semi-inebriated little Herman Mankiewicz a tour of her [private] zoo, has to have this skill or has to have this tributary to her behavior. It has to be something that’s sort of innate.’ It’s the den-mother thing.”

Even as Fincher was telling himself, “‘If she says yes, take her up on it,’ because there was something really special about that,” Seyfried was feeling an urgency of her own.

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How Territory Studio recreated 1930’s Hollywood for Fincher’s Mank

London-headquartered facility Territory Studio, has recreated the iconic LA street of Wilshire Boulevard for David Fincher’s 1930’s-set, Mank. The sequence using LED rear projection to evoke the traditional techniques used during the 1930s and 1940s which the movie pays homage to. Here’s how. 

Adrian Pennington
January 4, 2021
RedShark

Territory’s team led by VFX Supervisor Simon Carr and CG Supervisor Ashley Pay spent a considerable amount of time in LA in pre-production, working with Fincher and DP Erik Messerschmidt ASC. They used archival footage, maps and old photography coupled with their own research and black and white photographic references captured while driving on Wilshire Blvd to inform lighting and texture in the CG scene. They began to rebuild the famous street as it would have appeared when Herman J. Mankiewicz and Sara Mankiewicz drove down it in 1934. 

“We wanted to capture the imagery of a new city rising from the sand and dust, distinctly modern, yet with a sense of the Wild West,” Carr says.   

Territory was tasked with conveying the sense of lawlessness and neglect in a city without road markings or highway code. Scouting both on the ground in LA and via Google Maps, they drew out the ground plan: identifying shops, gas stations and cinemas from the archive footage along which to drive a virtual camera car.

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