Brow Beat

David Fincher Is Making a Biopic About Citizen Kane Screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz for Netflix

 David Fincher at a Netflix event for Mindhunter in 2018.
Is it a movie? Is it TV? All we know for sure is it’s not HBO.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

David Fincher, whose last feature film was 2014’s Gone Girl, is finally returning to making movies, at least to the extent that transitioning from “directing television shows for Netflix” to “directing movies for Netflix” counts as a transition at all. Variety reports that the director’s next project will be Mank, a biopic about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz. Fincher will direct from a script written by Fincher’s father, Jack, who died in 2003. Gary Oldman is attached to star as Mankiewicz, and the production is going to be shot in period-appropriate black and white.

Mankiewicz was a journalist-turned-screenwriter who most famously co-wrote Citizen Kane with Orson Welles, a collaboration that almost immediately dissolved into controversy over who had done what. Both men shared an Oscar for the screenplay—the only Academy Award Citizen Kane won—but neither attended the ceremony. Mankiewicz was also the first writer to work on MGM’s Wizard of Oz adaptation—it was his idea to flesh out the Kansas scenes—and as the head of Paramount’s scenario department in the 1920s and 1930s, he worked on a staggering number of classic movies. Mank, which Fincher originally wanted to make after 1997’s The Game, will reportedly focus on the production of Citizen Kane.

Fincher’s partnership with Netflix has been long and fruitful: Back in 2013, he produced House of Cards—remember House of Cards?—and directed its first episodes; he’s directed several episodes of Mindhunter, which he also produced; and he’s producing the animated anthology series Love, Death, & Robots. We have a little time before Mank hits Netflix, but it’s never too early to start practicing for the inevitable national conversation about what counts as a movie and what’s more of a two-hour-long television show. In the meantime, there’s always Citizen Kane.