Filmmaker David Fincher’s otherwise spotless filmography is marred by a single black mark, the 1992 sci-fi movie Alien 3. Fincher has been quite vocal about his bad experience making the movie due to the studio, 20th Century Fox’s interference. In a recent interview, Fincher explained how his new movie Mank reflects his personal nightmarish battles with the studio system while making Alien 3.
“Once I had gone to Pinewood for two years and had been through a situation where I was a hired gun to make a library t**le for a multinational, vertically integrated media conglomerate, I had a different view of how writers and directors needed to work. I kind of resented [Jack’s] anti-auteurist take. I felt that what [Mank’s] script really needed to talk about was the notion of enforced collaboration: You may not like the fact that you’re going to be beholden to so many different disciplines and skillsets in the making of a movie, but if you’re not acknowledging it, you’re missing the side of the barn.”
Mank tells the story of 1930s Hollywood screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish the screenplay of Citizen Kane for Orson Welles. Mank was originally conceived as a screenplay by Fincher’s father Jack, a journalist who wrote the story, according to Fincher, as being about “a great writer obliterated from memory by this showboating megalomaniac.” After Fincher’s experience making Alien 3, he realized the screenplay for Mank needed to be kinder to auteur filmmaker Welles, and his quest to bring his singular vision to the big screen.
“A script is the egg, and it needs a donor to create the cellular split that moves it into the realm of something playable in three dimensions and recordable in two dimensions and presentable to other people. So it was interesting for the two of us, because obviously I was rooting for [my father], but when I read his first draft, I thought, ‘This is kind of a takedown of Welles.’ When I was 12, he told me about how Welles had played every role – writer, producer, director, star. So I knew that part of him held Welles in awe. Then the script came in and I thought, ‘Whoa, who’s this?'”
If there is any current filmmaker who can understand what it means to be an auteur in an industry that focuses more on commerce than art, that filmmaker would have to be David Fincher While his movies, from Seven, to Fight Club, to The Social Network have all won great acclaim, Fincher himself has come under criticism for his exacting ways on set towards the cast and the crew.
It is understandable that Fincher would feel sympathy for Welles’ desire to create Citizen Kane exactly according to his personal vision, even if doing so made for a difficult collaborative experience with the rest of the film’s creative team.
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. This news comes from Vulture.