Like her fellow Oscar-nominated colleagues, costume designer Trish Summerville had the rare opportunity of working in black-and-white on David Fincher’s “Mank,” which meticulously recaptured the Golden Age of Hollywood in the ’30s. But their work was made easier by the monochromatic settings on their iPhones, allowing them to instantly translate the proper color tones. This way, the look of Summerville’s wardrobes would be in sync with the sets and decor. It was all part of strategic plan to create an authentic-looking monochromatic world.
“I had conversations with [production designer] Don Burt about what his color palettes would be so we wouldn’t have the rooms be so colorful,” Summerville said. “We wanted to have the tones blend. For us in costumes, it was more burgundies, purples, navies, blacks. And you could pump up from there to gowns with muted lilacs or dusty roses, which came in as nice light grays. We also had shell whites or cream whites and stayed away from deep black. It was also being mindful of prints and patterns that could be too bold or too busy. And how to use details that wouldn’t have too much contrast or disappear entirely. For instance, you couldn’t have navy buttons on a navy suit or it would look black.”
Mank actors Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried sit down with casting director Laray Mayfield to discuss their work in David Fincher‘s acclaimed film. Oldman discusses tapping the vulnerability of the eponymous screenwriter and using his actual physicality for the portrayal, while Seyfried speaks to Marion Davies‘s legacy and how it shaded Seyfried’s depiction of her.
Mank star Amanda Seyfried sits down with costume designer Trish Summerville, makeup department head Gigi Williams and assistant head hair stylist Colleen LaBaff for a deep-dive discussion of their efforts in bringing Marion Davies to life on the screen for David Fincher‘s black-and-white ode to Hollywood’s Golden Age.
It’s long been debated whether Shakespeare actually authored all of his acclaimed writings or if, instead, Christopher Marlowe was responsible for a significant amount of his body of work. And in the early 70s, a similar thesis developed: that co-screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz was in fact the primary writer on Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane. Though it’s solidly refuted by Kane scholars, the myth continues to flourish.
And now, Director David Fincher arrives with Mank: a screenplay by his late father about Herman Mankiewicz and his development of the screenplay for Citizen Kane. After a six-year feature film hiatus, Fincher tapped Erik Messerschmidt, ASC to DP, after working with Erik on Gone Girl as a gaffer and cinematographer for both seasons of Mindhunter.
Mank’s visual aesthetic is subtle, but not to be overlooked. Upon its release, the film’s cinematic elements were overwhelmingly acknowledged by critics and audiences alike. It’s an approach owing much to Erik, who saw the value in referencing the artistic quality of Citizen Kane while also developing a fresh lens through which the classic story could be seen.
Mank costume designer Trish Summerville walks you through her efforts on the period piece, from working with color and texture for black and white photography to preparing a vast ensemble for the “circus party” scene at Hearst Castle.
Costume designer Trish Summerville, who has previously worked with David Fincher on “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Gone Girl,” says she was very excited when she learned the director wanted to do a full project in black-and-white. The only time she had ever tackled crafting costumes was in flashback sequences, not a full-length feature. And who better to do it with than Fincher?
In “Mank,” Fincher takes audiences back to the golden age of Hollywood as screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) sets out to write “Citizen Kane.”
Summerville says her approach was “learning what his [Fincher’s] perception of black-and-white was. We had information to move forward with, but it was really him zoning in on exactly what that was going to look like and exactly how he was going to light it.”
The cast and crew of Mank, including costume designer Trish Summerville and actors Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Tom Pelphrey and Charles Dance, speak to the focus and concentration that a David Fincher set demands. The acclaimed filmmaker himself, meanwhile, takes you through the process of crafting his examination of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
The film was a passion project for Fincher, who even references certain deep focus shots from “Citizen Kane” while telling the story of his own tragic figure Mank, laid up after a car accident with a broken leg at a ranch in Victorville, Calif. ,with a looming deadline for “The American,” the script that would become “Citizen Kane.”
His personal drama is set against a pastiche of flashbacks to the time he arrived in Thirties Hollywood, with all its money and power politics, then driven not by liberalism but by the anti-socialist Republican Party. In one eerily familiar plot line, Mayer, Thalberg, Hearst and their cronies derail Democratic candidate Upton Sinclair using doctored newsreels in a moment of proto fake news. It’s this affront that inspires the antiestablishment Mank to base “Citizen Kane” on Hearst.
“Dave was particular about wanting to age film, and work in black-and-white, so for me, it was figuring out lighting and what type of camera he was going to use to shoot,” said Summerville, explaining that the old ways of working are harder than one would think. “I did a lot of swatching fabrics, going to rental houses, laying out different options and photographing them in the three different black-and-white settings of my phone. Then I would send them to him, and say give me a lead of where you are going. The closest thing was the monochromatic setting on my phone, he said, so I started photographing everything in that,” the designer explained.