As one of Hollywood's most notorious perfectionists, filmmaker David Fincher has a reputation for demanding shot after shot from his actors in every scene, to the occasional tune of hundreds of retakes of a single scene. The cast of Fincher's latest movie Mank learned just how well-deserved that reputation was. In an interview with Total Film Magazine, Amanda Seyfried, who plays the role of Marion Davies, compared doing innumerable retakes for Mank to getting stuck in a Groundhog Day scenario.
"It was definitely hard. But at the same time, it's like theatre in that you have the luxury of really nailing the tone and the emotion. It does feel like Groundhog Day, in a way, but that's how he captures things that most people don't."
Seyfried was far from the only actor to find the numerous retakes challenging. Charles Dance, who plays the role of media giant William Randolph Hearst in the movie, recalled a particularly tricky scene in which Gary Oldman's character crashes a dinner party again and again, in retake after retake, until the veteran actor was finally goaded into protesting.
"We did take after take after take after take. And [Oldman] said to David at one point, 'David, I've done this scene a hundred fucking times.' And Fincher said, 'Yeah, I know, but this is 101. Reset!'"
Mank tells the story of Hollywood screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his battles with director Orson Welles over screenplay credit for one of the greatest movies ever made, Citizen Kane. In the lead role of Herman, Oldman has received rave reviews from critics for his performance. But David Fincher readily admits that his quest for perfection must have been particularly difficult for his leading man.
"It was exhausting in the beginning, I think, for him. Because I'm fairly didactic about, 'These are the things that the scene needs to accomplish for me, and we will continue to play, to look for ways to underline these ideas that are as subtle as we can make them. It's a hard thing to say to actors, 'I want a cohesive, great performance in the master [shot]. And then I want a cohesive, great performance in the alternate master. And then I want a cohesive, great performance in the over-the-shoulder. And I want a cohesive, great performance in his over-the-shoulder on to you. And then I want the singles.' Because I don't want to cut a scene based on where you are at personally on Tuesday. I don't think I could go into the edit room knowing that I was going to have to cut around somebody who didn't deliver. Part of it is you cast really great people and get the fuck out of the way!"
Directed by David Fincher, Mank features Gary Oldman, Tom Burke, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tuppence Middleton, Arliss Howard, and Charles Dance. The film arrives in theaters in November, and debuts on Netflix on December 4. Games Radar brought this news to our attention first.