Mank is a 2020 American biographical drama film about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his development of the screenplay for Citizen Kane (1941). Directed by David Fincher, based on a screenplay by his late father Jack Fincher, the film was produced by Ceán Chaffin, Douglas Urbanski, and Eric Roth. It stars Gary Oldman in the title role, alongside Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Tom Pelphrey, Sam Troughton, Ferdinand Kingsley, Tuppence Middleton, Tom Burke, Joseph Cross, Jamie McShane, Toby Leonard Moore, Monika Gossman, and Charles Dance.
In 1940, Orson Welles is given complete creative freedom for his next project by RKO. For the screenplay, Welles recruits Herman J. Mankiewicz, who is in Victorville, California, recovering from a broken leg he sustained in a car crash. Herman dictates the script to his secretary, Rita Alexander, who notices similarities between the main character (Charles Foster Kane) and William Randolph Hearst. Producer John Houseman is concerned about Herman’s dense, nonlinear screenplay, while Herman’s brother Joseph worries that it may anger the powerful Hearst.
In 1930, Herman visits an MGM location where he and the female lead, Marion Davies, recognize each other. She introduces him to Hearst, her benefactor and lover, who takes a liking to Herman. In 1933, Herman and his wife Sara attend Louis B. Mayer’s birthday party at Hearst Castle with many Hollywood bigwigs. They discuss the rise of Nazi Germany and the upcoming gubernatorial election, in particular candidate Upton Sinclair. Herman and Marion go for a stroll, where they bond over discussions on politics and the film industry.
In 1940, Houseman grows impatient over Herman’s lack of progress. Rita is also concerned with the timing of the writing, as well as Herman’s alcoholism. He does finish the screenplay in time. Houseman is impressed but reminds Herman that he will receive no credit for his work.
In 1934, Herman and Joseph begin working at MGM under Mayer. Studio executives, including Irving Thalberg, actively work against Sinclair’s gubernatorial campaign. The studio produces propaganda films for a smear campaign, funded by Hearst, against Sinclair. Herman approaches Marion to pull the films, but is unsuccessful as she has already left the studio for Warner Bros. Herman and Sara later attend an election night watch party at the Trocadero Nightclub, where Mayer announces the winner, Frank Merriam. Herman’s colleague, director Shelly Metcalf, shoots and kills himself after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and guilt-ridden over his role in the smear campaign, in spite of personally supporting Sinclair.
In 1940, Charles Lederer picks up the screenplay from Herman to deliver to the studio. Joseph visits Herman after reading it, warning him of Hearst’s reaction and how it might affect Marion. He does, however, believe that it’s the finest thing Herman has ever written. Marion also visits and does her best to persuade Herman to change the screenplay but to no avail. She tells Herman she will try to stop the picture from getting made.
In 1937, Herman crashes a party at Hearst Castle, where he drunkenly pitches the idea for the film he will later write in 1940, offending everyone present including Hearst, Mayer and Marion. An enraged Mayer reveals that Herman is on Hearst’s payroll and calls him a court jester. Hearst tells him an allegory about a monkey and an organ grinder and sees him out.
In 1940, despite pressure from Hearst, Welles is determined to make the film and intends to do a re-write without Herman. He visits Herman and offers him a buyout from the studio. However, reneging on the terms of his contract, Herman requests credit for the script, declaring it his greatest work. An upset Welles tells Herman that he has gone to bat for him, before leaving angrily. Herman ultimately receives joint credit with Welles, and they win the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film (Citizen Kane) two years later.
Gary Oldman as Herman J. Mankiewicz
Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies
Lily Collins as Rita Alexander, Herman’s secretary, from whom Susan Alexander Kane gets her name.
Arliss Howard as Louis B. Mayer
Tom Pelphrey as Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Charles Dance as William Randolph Hearst
Sam Troughton as John Houseman
Ferdinand Kingsley as Irving Thalberg
Tuppence Middleton as Sara Mankiewicz
Tom Burke as Orson Welles
Joseph Cross as Charles Lederer
Jamie McShane as Shelly Metcalf, test shot director and Herman’s friend. Although Metcalf is fictional, Felix E. Feist was the test shot director at MGM, who shot the propaganda films against Upton Sinclair that Metcalf shoots in Mank.
Toby Leonard Moore as David O. Selznick
Monika Gossmann as Fräulein Frieda, Herman’s housekeeper
Leven Rambin as Eve Metcalf, Shelly’s wife
Bill Nye as Upton Sinclair
Jeff Harms as Ben Hecht
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