One of the big set pieces in David Fincher’s upcoming new film “Mank” occurs when a drunk Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) shows up to Hearst Castle unannounced and crashes a dinner party being thrown by media giant William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance). Among the many guests around the table is Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried), the Hollywood actress who was also Hearst’s mistress. In a new cover story on “Mank” for Total Film magazine, Dance reveals the “Mank” team performed over 100 takes of the dinner party scene.
“We did take after take after take after take,” Dance said. “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,” Seyfried added about filming so many takes of the scene. “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.”
Fincher admitted to Total Film that his preference for shooting multiple takes “exhausted” his leading man Oldman in the beginning of production, adding, “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],'” Fincher continued. “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 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.”
“Mank” begins streaming December 4 on Netflix following a limited theatrical release that starts Friday, November 13.