David Fincher’s Mank is a movie about a movie—one that is considered to be one of the greatest cinematic masterpieces of all time—and the off-screen drama behind it all. It’s exactly the type of thing that Oscars voters go crazy first.
Citizen Kane, which was the first feature film directed by Orson Welles, is based on the life of American media tycoon William Randolph Hearst (with some composition of the biographies of Joseph Pulitzer, Samuel Insull, and Harold McCormick thrown is as well). Mank is the story behind the story—about “New York playwright and drama critic turned humble screenwriter” Herman J. Mankiewicz, who co-wrote the screenplay for Citizen Kane, originally outlining it primarily after Hearst (a friend of his until he was banished from his social circle).
The story goes that Welles gave him 300 pages of notes and a couple of months to finish the screenplay before Welles would go on to direct and star in the project. Mankiewicz later accused Welles of undercutting him and having the film studio remove his writing credits from the screenplay of the 1941 film. In 1942, Citizen Kane was nominated for Academy Awards in nine categories, but it only won one: Best Original Screenplay.
Mankiewicz wrote screenplays for The Wizard of Oz, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Pride of the Yankees, among other major successful films. His family became something of a Hollywood dynasty, with his son Don Mankiewicz and grandson John Mankiewicz becoming screenwriters, and his grandson Ben Mankiewicz going on to become the primary host of Turner Classic Movies. His brother Joseph L. Mankiewicz was also a screenwriter (known for writing the screenplays of All About Eve, Cleopatra, and A Letter to Three Wives) and director, as well as a producer.
A couple weeks ago, Netflix released a short teaser for the upcoming awards season contender. Now, the full-length trailer has arrived, giving more insight into the story behind David Fincher’s film (the first feature of his since the 2014 film Gone Girl). It’s not just that Mank is a film about 1930s and 1940s Hollywood and the drama surrounding the Citizen Kane screenplay, it is filmed and edited to appear as if it is a movie from the 1930s, filmed in black-and-white. Mank stars Gary Oldman as the titular character, with Amanda Seyfried playing Marion Davies (an actress and lover of Hearst’s) Charles Dance as Hearst, Lily Collins as Rita Alexander, Mank’s secretary, and Tom Pelphrey as Mank’s brother Joseph. British actor Tom Burke is left with the responsibility of playing the legendary Welles.
Netflix will begin streaming Mank on December 4, but the film will have a limited theatrical run throughout November as well.