David Fincher sums up the state of Hollywood in 2020 quite bluntly in a new interview with Total Film magazine, saying, “Unless you’re making a tentpole movie that has a Happy Meal component to it, no one’s interested.” Fincher’s latest project, “Mank,” is the farthest thing imaginable from a Happy Meal tentpole. The story of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and the writing of “Citizen Kane,” “Mank” is a dense critique of the Hollywood studio system shot in black-and-white and created to look, sound, and feel like it was made in the 1930s. Not exactly enticing material for a Hollywood studio.
Fincher set up “Mank” at Netflix, the home of his television series “Mindhunter” and “House of Cards.” The director told Total Film he enjoys working with Netflix because the streamer takes all the pressure out of delivering a big opening weekend gross number. “Mank” will launch on Netflix and live on Netflix indefinitely, which Fincher finds alluring. The director added, “It’s not particularly a smart business plan to make a love letter to another movie that’s on [rival streaming service] HBO Max…But, listen, if we only did the stuff that was smart, there’d probably only be Marvel and ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ movies.”
“Mank” is opening in theaters this week ahead of a December 4 streaming debut on Netflix, putting it in the thick of the Oscar season release calendar. Fincher lamented over the theatrical release calendar and how Hollywood openings have become so defined by tentpole season and awards season. If a film can’t exist in one of the two seasons, it’s dumped.
“Look, the only reason we have these kind of conversations is because of the lack of imagination on behalf of the people who have behaviourally modified the audience’s expectations,” Fincher said. “There’s really only two seasons for movies. There’s ‘spandex summer’ and there’s ‘affliction winter.’ You’re making your movie for one of two seasons. And if you miss, you’ll fall into one of those other two seasons, which are nominally dumping grounds. Does that make sense?”
“I’m not really just a jaded fuck,” Fincher joked. “I’m an informed, jaded fuck.”
“Mank” is Fincher’s first directorial feature since 2014’s “Gone Girl.” Head over to Total Film’s website to read more from the director’s latest interview.