Amanda Seyfried gives new life to Old Hollywood.
Opening photo by
Tristan Fewings / Stringer
Marion Davies was a woman ahead of her time. One of the most glamorous actresses of golden-age Hollywood, the box-office queen wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.“She told it like it was,” says Amanda Seyfried, who plays Davies in David Fincher’s biographical drama Mank. “Not a lot of women did, especially in that era. She really had no shame about anything, and that was very modern.” Though Davies is often remembered as the mistress of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst (“She wasn’t that well respected when she was alive, which is interesting because she was an incredible actor,” Seyfried notes), it’s another relationship that grabs the spotlight here. Mank is the story of how screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) came to author the script for Orson Welles’s (Tom Burke) masterwork, Citizen Kane. And it’s Mank’s friendship with Davies that serves as the film’s beating heart. Seyfried inhabits her character as easily as Davies breezed through the parties she and Hearst threw at their palatial Southern California estate in San Simeon. Her career encompasses a fan-favorite performance in Mean Girls, leading turns in Mamma Mia! and Les Misérables, and triumphs in indie fare like Lovelace, Chloe, and First Reformed. In Mank, she finds a role that has changed her approach to the craft: “I can embody everything, embrace it all,” she says. She was born to play the part.
Queue’s Krista Smith spoke to Seyfried for her podcast Present Company.Krista Smith: I think what makes this film so strong is the relationship between Marion and Mank. Your chemistry with Gary Oldman is incredible.
Fincher is famous for his relentless pursuit of excellence. There’s nothing that is coincidence or happenstance. What was working with him like for you?
AS: Of course, I knew that he did a lot of takes. That’s the thing everybody talks about. They don’t talk about why often enough. I got to know why, and I never felt that we were doing too many. My impatience disappeared. There’s a reason for everything.
I’ve always wanted people to trust that I could perform, that I could play different roles. I just wanted to go from one extreme to the next.”
Marion’s so much smarter than she was given credit for. She was staggeringly beautiful, and people make that mistake all the time: the cliché of the dumb blonde. She was incredibly bright and emotionally very astute.
AS: The first role that anybody saw me as was Karen Smith [in Mean Girls]. It’s one of my favorite experiences of all time, but of course people saw me as the ditzy blonde because of that. I got a lot of auditions to play ditzy blondes or big-boobed teenagers. I imagine it was difficult for Marion to play against that — the madcap comedian, the ditzy blonde. She was playing a lot of the same characters. People just assume that’s who she was.
You grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and you came out of the gate fast. You were modeling, and then before you knew it you were on a soap opera. What was that driving force when you were a teenager to act, to pursue a career in show business?
AS: I wanted to sing, first of all. Singing was a big goal for me. I had an Annie audition. Annie came back up in revival when I was 10 — so ’96. From then on, I wanted to be a singer. I loved the way it made me feel. I loved listening to singers and watching concerts. That turned into: I want to be onstage. I want to perform in every way.
You have gotten to sing onscreen with Les Misérables, and to sing and dance with Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia! But you’ve also taken on some pretty daring indie roles.
AS: The diversity of my roles has been very intentional. Lovelace and Chloe, I did those movies for a lot of reasons, but I needed to break out of whatever people thought of me, especially in the industry. To be respected in the industry is, of course, important. I’ve always wanted that. I’ve always wanted people to trust that I could perform, that I could play different roles. I just wanted to go from one extreme to the next. I’d have to fight for a lot of roles, and that had nothing to do with keeping my career diverse, it was just: I need to play Cosette in this movie.
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Listen to Amanda Seyfried
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