Amanda Seyfried photographed for the LA Times

LA Times – How excited was Amanda Seyfried at the prospect of starring in a David Fincher film? “I would have played a piece of wood,” she says with a laugh. Luckily for all involved, the role as silver screen star Marion Davies for Fincher’s Netflix release “Mank” was nowhere near as stiff. In fact, Seyfried delivers a scene-stealing performance, one that neither of the two initially took for granted would happen for the story of “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his friendship with the actress and companion to media mogul William Randolph Hearst.

[…] Her character was a rare historical figure for Seyfried to portray. Over two decades, Davies starred in over 40 features spanning both the silent and talkie eras. Many of those films were financed by Hearst (portrayed by Charles Dance). To the general public, she was his mistress but, in private, their relationship was much more complicated.

[…] “I think Marion’s so smart and she knows how to play certain situations in order to get the most out of it,” Seyfried says. “She’s not someone who wants to create drama at all. She just wants everybody to enjoy themselves. But you have to be kind of smart in certain ways to know how to manipulate and negotiate your way through these big conversations that these big industry men are having. She knows how to survive and make the best of it.

Despite Davies’ catalog of motion pictures, researching how the actress behaved and sounded off screen was thorny. There were some audio recordings and an autobiography (Seyfried refers to it as “a bizarre read”), but it was films like 1936’s “Cain and Mabel” that gifted her with insight into Davies’ mannerisms. Seyfried notes, “Something that lived with me was just the way she listened and the way she would move her neck and her jaw. It was just very physical.

As the daughter of a father who still collects 16- and 35-mm film prints, Seyfried grew up with an education in classic Hollywood pictures of Davies’ particular era. Knowing the tone and the feel of the time wasn’t the issue. Finding the subtle “Brooklynese” that Fincher wanted in her voice was the trickier part.

I was like, ‘Can I do that? Is that how it’s going to be? Because I don’t know if I can,’ ” Seyfried says, noting the lack of reference material to her off-screen speaking voice. “She had a stutter in real life. We didn’t even go there in the film.

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