David Fincher is a filmmaker who is as respected for his talent as he is feared by actors for making them do scenes again and again and again until he gets what he is looking for. Amanda Seyfried got a first-hand experience of this sort of specificity on the filmmaker's part on the set of his new movie Mank, starring Gary Oldman in the lead role as Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz. In an interview with Collider, Seyfried, who plays the role of Hollywood legend Marion Davies in the film, talked about the project being the hardest thing she's ever worked on.
"Honestly, it is the hardest I've ever worked. But I am so thrilled with it. First of all, it came out of nowhere. Then I spoke with David Fincher ... I had to download Zoom. Didn't know what it was. And I spoke to him for like an hour and a half hour about it, the script. I was pretty sure I was going to do it, but I didn't know, it was up to him. But I was just also like, how the fuck am I going to play Marion Davies? She had the accent. And how many takes? All of that stuff swarmed in."
Jumping into a new role can be an intimidating prospect, especially in a movie helmed by someone with the elevated status and reputation of Fincher. But Amanda Seyfried could not say no to working with the esteemed filmmaker.
"I was also like, this is such a get - to work with Fincher he's one of a kind. And I actually can't believe we did it. And we finished on February 21st, right before the quarantine. I can't believe it. And I was doing three movies back-to-back, so each blended into the next and my head wasn't on straight. I was flying to LA on weekends and doing rehearsals with David and Gary Arliss and all the cast. And then like going back in for my other movies, It was great. And uh, yeah, it's going to be amazing."
Fincher is well-known for his Kubrick-esque insistence on retakes to achieve a level of natural authenticity. In the filmmaker's own words, "I hate earnestness in performance... usually by Take 17 the earnestness is gone." For Seyfried, the retakes would take entire weeks to complete, and could number in the 200s.
"...I was part of scenes with tons of people in it and we would do it for an entire week. I can't tell you how many takes we did, but I would guess 200, maybe I could be wrong and could be way off. Um, I could be underestimating by five days of one scene when I didn't have one line... 'You think I can just relax?' No, because there are probably about nine or 10 different camera angles that had been on me at one point."
Mank tells the story of Herman J. Mankiewicz's feud with Orson Welles. The project wrapped filming earlier this year and is expected to debut on Netflix sometime this fall. This story originated at Collider.