Amanda Seyfried has one big regret about "Mank.”
Yes, the David Fincher film about “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz has earned her some of the best marks of her career and made her, for the first time, a top awards contender. Yes, her performance has helped reframe the narrative around silent movie star Marion Davies. Yes, she has even been able to push aside her self-deprecating nature and publicly admit that she’s proud of her work. But her father never got to come to the set. And it breaks her heart.
Classic movies are Jack Seyfried’s entire world. When she got the role, part of her was just excited to share in something he loves. He’s not just a casual Turner Classic Movies watcher (although the television is usually turned to the channel). He is an old Hollywood die-hard. Growing up, Seyfried said, there were projectors and nitrate films and reels “everywhere.”
“Every night after seven o’clock, the floor would be shaking. The whole house would rumble with the noise of the projector and the 60mm films, the 35mm films,” Seyfried, 35, said. “That’s his life.”
Over the years when she had auditions on studio lots, she’d try to bring him along to see the murals, the city streets, and, of course, the projection rooms. He was the first person she called when she did the hair and makeup test and really felt like Marion. The trip to California to see his daughter in action was scheduled for the first week of February last year. But he got sick. And soon after, “Mank” wrapped.
“This is the only time in my life that it was that important for him to be on set because everything was real. David Fincher creates a real world,” Seyfried said. “It’s just a huge regret.”
Seyfried threw herself into the role of Marion. She’d come to it having very few preconceptions about a woman who history had reduced to being the mistress of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. And, of course, there was the drunken and unsophisticated Susan Alexander Kane, the presumed stand-in for Marion in “Citizen Kane,” which didn’t help her reputation even if Orson Welles always insisted that character wasn't based on her.
Jack Fincher’s “Mank” script told a different story. Here, Marion was a smart, witty and talented woman who held her own with titans of industry and who fascinated even the immensely cynical Mank. Seyfried felt like she understood her before she’d even started her own research.
“Clearly Jack Fincher adored her," Seyfried said. "He knew how to change her legacy in this supporting part.”
Part of her worried that she was too contemporary, both in her look and her thinking, and wouldn’t “fit” into this 1930s world. It helped that she got to be more involved than usual in helping develop the character on screen. The costume and props department would lay out options and she’d get to choose her own purse or rings, for instance.
“I was able to claim parts of her in that decision making,” she said. “When you have that kind of power and control in creating the character that the audience is going to see, it really makes you feel closer to them.”
Seyfried’s nature is to be modest. About her talent. About the work. About her status in the industry. In her two decades in the business she’s had more than a few undeniable successes (think “Mamma Mia!” and “Mean Girls”). But she’s also had “plateaus” and she knows she needs to manage her expectations, if only for her own sanity.
When her agent called her to tell her that Fincher was making a new movie and was considering her for a role, her first thought was “David Fincher knows who I am?” She wouldn’t even let herself believe she had it until she was on set.
Awards were never her main goal, longevity was. But in the business of entertainment, she knows that nominations and wins can mean more and better opportunities. Ten years ago, she said, she’d probably have downplayed something like getting her first ever Golden Globe nomination. Now she’s not afraid to admit that she’s excited.
“I don’t know if necessarily means anything in the outside world, but within the business it is really important,” she said.
Her co-star Gary Oldman isn't surprised that she's getting this kind of attention. In fact, it's overdue.
“Sometimes it’s just the type of movie that one is in isn’t necessarily taken as seriously as other types of movies,” said Oldman. “But she’s incredibly talented. And I’m so chuffed for her. It couldn’t happen to a nicer girl.”
The “awards circus” isn’t entirely new either. She saw some of it on the sidelines with “Les Misérables,” going to all the parties and even performing at the Oscars. But that was before she had kids. Now with a 4-month-old and a toddler, she’s grateful that she can navigate everything from her farm in upstate New York.
“Doing it for my own performance is a privilege and I do not take it for granted for one day,” she said. “But I don’t know how I could have done it if it wasn’t virtual.”
Her mother is also on hand to help while her husband, Thomas Sadoski, is away working.
And it’ll be over soon enough. The Golden Globes are Sunday and Oscar nominations come out March 15. She missed out on a nod from the Screen Actors Guild, but so did Regina King who went on to win the supporting actress Oscar two years ago.
As for her father, he may not have gotten to see the machinery behind the San Simeon set, but he’s got something even better and more permanent: The film itself is only a click away on Netflix. And he couldn’t be prouder.
“He definitely thinks I captured the essence,” she said. “And that’s really the biggest part. We’re all trying to just capture the essence."