The upcoming release of “Mank” will mark the end of a decades-long journey for David Fincher. The director’s father, journalist Jack Fincher, started writing the “Mank” screenplay before David went into production on his feature directorial debut “Alien 3.” “Mank” tells the story of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he completes the script for “Citizen Kane” and battles Orson Welles for proper credit. In a recent interview with Vulture, Fincher said his father’s original “Mank” script “was [about] a great writer obliterated from memory by this showboating megalomaniac,” which he only realized was “limited in scope” after his nightmare experience directing “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 title for a multinational, vertically integrated media conglomerate, I had a different view of how writers and directors needed to work,” Fincher said. “I kind of resented [Jack’s] anti-auteurist take. I felt that what the 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 skill sets in the making of a movie, but if you’re not acknowledging it, you’re missing the side of the barn.”
The first draft of the “Mank” script “just felt like revenge,” according to Fincher. The production of “Alien 3” gave Fincher a front-row seat to how a director’s vision and intentions can get disrupted by industry powers much larger than him. Fincher directed “Alien 3” as the script continued to be written and rewritten during production, and he disavowed the film when it opened theatrically. Fincher’s “Alien 3” experience made him realize “Mank” just couldn’t simply make a villain out of Welles.
“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,” Fincher said. “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?'”
Netflix will be giving “Mank” a limited theatrical release beginning November 13. The drama will make its streaming debut December 4 on Netflix.