With “Mank” in select theaters (only a handful, to be honest) and arriving on Netflix in a matter of weeks, David Fincher is doing his press tour and shedding some light on what many believe is his most ambitious, unique feature to date. And as he said to Variety, this also might be the project that has taken the most time to finally see the light of day, but thanks to Netflix, he finally was given the chance to direct “Mank.”
If you somehow missed all the hype surrounding the film, “Mank” tells the story of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his struggle to receive the credit he felt he deserved during the making of “Citizen Kane.” It’s a project that Fincher has been working on since the early ‘90s and is based on a script written by his father, Jack Fincher. And at one point, the film looked like it was going to be made in the ‘90s, but there was a major snag that put the film back in development hell.
According to the report, the ‘90s version of “Mank” was set up at Polygram, and Fincher had already begun the process of casting. He was hoping to get Kevin Spacey (pre-#MeToo, obviously) to star as Mankiewicz with Jodie Foster on board as Marion Davies, the longtime mistress to William Randolph Hearst. (The roles would eventually go to Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried, respectively.) Unfortunately there were issues with Fincher’s insistence on shooting in black and white that prevented the deal to film to ever get made.
“Polygram got cold feet because of all kinds of truly stupid boilerplate stuff involving output deals in Central America,” said Fincher. “We would have had to have shot the film in color and then corrected it and do a black-and-white version. It completely fell apart.”
Now, more than 20 years later, Netflix is on the verge of releasing “Mank” on its streaming platform. And the streaming service didn’t balk at the idea of shooting in black and white or the price tag that is associated with a David Fincher film. But this comes at a major cost to many filmmakers—the theatrical experience. However, this isn’t something that Fincher is necessarily worried about in 2020.
“Let’s be real: The exhibition experience is not the shining link in the chain right now,” explained the filmmaker.
In fact, Fincher went on to explain why he loves working with Netflix. (Which makes sense considering he revealed that he recently signed a 4-year deal with the streaming service.)
“I’ve never been happier working at a place than I am at Netflix,” Fincher said. “They’re building a repository. It’s a nice thing that movies have a place to exist where you don’t necessarily have to shove them into spandex summer or affliction winter. It’s a platform that takes all kinds. You can be a dark, sinister German movie or a bizarre Israeli spy show. They want them all.”
He added, “I know that I’m no picnic. They want people who are self-starters; they want people who want to tear it up and try different things and show up for work and tax the system.”
And while “Mank” might not be a film that garners a big box office and is a little difficult to market to the mainstream, it’s a film that Netflix is putting all its money behind, as the studio is clearly on the hunt for awards consideration. As for Fincher, it’s obvious that he’s just excited to finally have the feature made.
“Mank” arrives on Netflix on December 4.