March 2, 2021

An Exclusive Look at the Making of ‘Mank’


The glitz and glamour, mystique and pathos of Hollywood’s Golden Age are on full display in David Fincher’s Netflix film Mank. Set in 1930s and 1940s Hollywood, the black-and-white period drama follows the trials of acerbic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (played by Gary Oldman) as he races to finish the screenplay of one of the greatest films ever made, Citizen Kane. Mank raked in six Golden Globe nominations recently, and in a new Netflix video, production designer Donald Graham Burt takes viewers behind the scenes to show the art department’s contribution to the film’s success.

Burt and set decorator Jan Pascale recreated the authentic world of studio backlots, dimly lit smoke-filled writer’s rooms, the historic Biltmore Hotel, the Trocadero nightclub, and more via present-day studios, soundstages, various California locales, and special effects. Of particular interest is the reimagining of the magical San Simeon estate Hearst Castle, the site of the film’s decadent gin-and-champagne-soaked dinner parties hosted by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) and his mistress, actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried). (For those who have never seen Citizen Kane, the character Charles Foster Kane in the 1941 classic was inspired by Hearst.) Burt and his team left no stone unturned when creating the opulent, extravagant design and decor of the “Gothic meets classicism meets Renaissance Spanish Revival” interiors and grounds.

As studio chief Louis B. Mayer says in the film, “That’s the real magic of movies, and don’t let anybody tell you different.” Watch below for a behind-the-scenes look at how it all came together.

And for a more in-depth look at the making of Mank, check out AD’s set design feature.



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