Gary Oldman Chats About Challenges and Advantages in His New Film, “Mank”
Gary Oldman – known for his role as Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black, in the Harry Potter series – is in a new film called Mank. The film is set in 1930s Hollywood flashbacks while a snarky, witty, and intoxicated Herman J. Mankiewicz (Oldman) is hired by Orson Welles (Tom Burke) to write the screenplay for the well-known classic Citizen Kane (1941).
In an interview with MovieMaker, Oldman describes the character of witty Mankiewicz as one of the greatest comic reliefs in Hollywood, bringing people to laugh themselves to tears. Mankiewicz’s character goes deeper than this, though. Director Orson Welles claimed he was the perfect monument to self-destruction when it came to his addiction to alcohol. Oldman says that Mankiewicz’s drunk, fiery sense of humor left him a challenging character to play.
I thought that the challenge was how a lot of these one-liners that I have in the film could come across as really snarky. And how do you make them charming? You’ve got to be able to give the line enough charm in the delivery to make them palpable. Because he says some pretty weird things. And it would make me laugh when I was reading it, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to make the audience laugh. So that was a challenge.
Oldman, having struggled with alcoholism in his own life, did not see this role as a deterrent. Instead, he used his own experience to his advantage for the role of Herman Mankiewicz, noting that he has been sober for about 24 years.
So it is a while ago now. It didn’t worry me in that respect. I just felt that it gave me a deeper understanding of the role. I was just something ‘Oh! I happen to have that thing that I could use to put into the part.’ Now, I must say, the writing was superb, and Jack Fincher’s, I believe, father was an alcoholic. So there [are] things about the alcoholic that maybe you would recognize and maybe a nonalcoholic would not catch. He’s awfully cruel to Shelly when he watches the material, and for me, that’s a very alcoholic thing.
When asked about his relationship with the film classic Citizen Kane, Oldman said that it would fall at number three on his list of films directed by Orson Welles, right behind Chimes at Midnight (1965) and Touch of Evil (1958).
I’ve seen Citizen Kane in my life three times. And I watched it a fourth time, when this came along. I can admire the [film]. If you put it in the context of when it was made, it is a remarkable piece of cinema. I found it, this last time watching it, a little hokey. I think it’s aged a little, for me. But I can still see that cinematically, in terms of just the writing and the whole thing, what a remarkable achievement it is. And I am a fan of Welles.
Mank has gained praise and buzz, picking up six Golden Globe nominations, including Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director – Motion Picture, with Oldman picking up his own nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture. Watch the trailer below.
The film Mank is now streaming on Netflix.