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Mank cast on working with David Fincher: "It does feel like Groundhog Day"

David Fincher's Mank
(Image credit: Netflix)

There are few directors as infamously meticulous as David Fincher. Amanda Seyfried – who appears in Fincher's upcoming movie Mank, about the writing of Citizen Kane – previously revealed that one scene took around 200 takes to capture properly. For the latest issue of the magazine, Total Film asked the team behind Mank about working with Fincher, with the director himself being the first to admit that he can be quite demanding. 

“It was exhausting in the beginning, I think, for him,” Fincher says of leading actor Gary Oldman. “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!”

One scene has already become quite a large talking point: a scene in which Oldman's Herman J. Mankiewicz – the Mank of the title – crashes a dinner party. Charles Dance, who plays media giant William Randolph Hearst, remembers the filming process. "We did take after take after take after take," he recalls. "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!’"

“It was definitely hard,” says Amanda Seyfried, who plays Marion Davies, the screen star (and Hearst’s mistress) who was the inspiration for Citizen Kane’s opera singer Susan Alexander. “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.”

Tuppence Middleton, Lily Collins, and Tom Burke also spoke about their time on Mank – which arrives on Netflix December 4 – in the latest issue of Total Film. Pick up a copy of the new issue when it hits shelves real and digital this Friday, November 13. Check out the new covers of Total Film below: the one on the right is on its way to subscribers right now:

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(Image credit: Total Film)