Gary Oldman steps into familiar real-life-character territory in Netflix's Mank

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Oscar winner Gary Oldman plays the Herman J. Mankiewicz, the man who co-wrote the 1941 drama Citizen Kane. (PHOTO: GALLO IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES)
Oscar winner Gary Oldman plays the Herman J. Mankiewicz, the man who co-wrote the 1941 drama Citizen Kane. (PHOTO: GALLO IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES)


Based on the life of movie writer Herman J Mankiewicz , aka Mank, Gary Oldman takes the lead in this Netflix film about old Hollywood. 

Mank is the man who co-wrote Citizen Kane, which is by considered by many to be one of the greatest movies ever made. 

The film tells the tale of the down-on-his-luck writer’s life, between 1933 and 1940. Using alcohol as a crutch, Mank, a former journalist, gets through each day either drunk or hungover and becomes acquainted with William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), one of the wealthiest men in America, and his mistress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried).

Realising that influence and power shifts in the industry trump morals and loyalty, Mank has to use his own methods to settle a grudge and produce some of his life’s greatest work.

Gary (62), who took home the best actor Oscar for his performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour (2017), described playing Mank, another real-life character, as a “journey of discovery”. “I knew very little about Herman, and so it was in some ways coming to it like it was a fictional character,” he said. “The more I found out about the man and the more I read on what he had achieved and what he had done, it was quite amazing.”

Amanda Seyfried and Gary in a scene from the film.
Amanda Seyfried and Gary in a scene from the film. (PHOTO: NETFLIX)


London-born Gary, who’s played roles as varied as Sid Vicious (Sid & Nancy) to Beethoven (Immortal Beloved) to Count Dracula (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) and Lee Harvey Oswald (JFK), believes he’s been lucky in Hollywood. “Well, I’ve had more than my fair share [of great roles]. I’ve really had my go at that over the years, and I really cannot complain. Some of the roles that I’ve played, I look back and think, ‘You know, I was very lucky, I’ve done pretty well’.”

His performance as Mank, he says, was “the most challenging of any role that I've had”. 

“He was a very complex individual. I mean, he was a functioning alcoholic, and that of course comes with its own baggage; an egomaniac with low self-esteem; all of that, the grandiosity of alcoholism – but that comes also with a lot of shame, a lot of, as you say, a lot of self-loathing.” 


The film, directed by David Fincher (Gone Girl, The Social Network) is already getting Oscar buzz.

“David said, ‘I want you as absolutely as naked as you've ever been. There's no wig, there's no teeth, there's no forced noses. Just you’,” Gary says. “I do like the odd disguise to hide behind. But above and beyond that, you’re playing a man who has such self-loathing.”

Gary’s co-stars in the film include Lily Collins; Ferdinand Kingsley; Tom Burke; and Amanda Seyfried, who describes him as “absolutely at the top of his game”.

  • The film was shot entirely in black and white, something film director David Fincher has experience in, after working on pop icon Madonna’s music video for her track Vogue in 1990.
  • The real Herman Mankiewicz was known for his work on old classics The Wizard of Oz and The Pride of St. Louis. 

Mank is streaming on Netflix now


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