Filmmaker David Fincher is well known for making his actors do take after take, sometimes to the tune of a hundred different takes of the same shot, in order to get the best performance out of them. Some actors have had issues with Fincher’s obsession with retakes, most notably Jake Gyllenhaal on the sets of Zodiac. Gary Oldman, who played the lead in Fincher’s latest film Mank, understands the reason for so many retakes, as the veteran actor explained to IndieWire in a recent interview.
“As an actor, you are contracted. You are work for hire. You have a 12-hour working day, you come in, and if the director wants to shoot it 10 to 60 to 250 times, I’m there to serve to the character, the story, and the director, and until I clock off, if that’s what someone wants to do, I’m happy to be there. But [David is] meticulous. He’s looking for perfection, and that means the performance might be great in particular, but you didn’t move your head far enough around and the key light didn’t hit you,” said Gary Goldman.
According to Oldman, it does not make sense to spend months in pre-production, creating the most elaborate sets and the most expensive costumes, only to wrap up a scene in two or three takes on the day of the shoot. The actor explained that motivation David Fincher had behind innumerable retakes is to not only make sure that the actor gave a good performance, but the elements surrounding the performance also fell perfectly into place.
“He wants all the elements to work so he has it in a master, in a medium close-up, and he has it in close. There’s a freedom in trying different things. Once the performance is there for David and he gives a thumbs up, he then comes in and gives notes between takes, and he’s looking for all the elements working. ‘We’re going again because this or this was great, but we need that to work now.’ He’s looking at the whole thing.”
Fincher’s habit of doing take after take of every scene has come in for a certain amount of criticism, not just from actors, but also from studios, since the filmmaker frequently goes over time and over budget due to the retakes eating up all the movie’s resources. Still, for Oldman, Fincher’s meticulousness is worth the effort, and it is due to those efforts that the actor described Mank as one of the most “transportive” movies of his long and distinguished career.
“It’s one of the few pictures I’ve done that is so transportive. It’s a luxurious thing to watch, even though I’m in it. I can get lost, it puts you in bit of a trance when you’re watching it. I’m amazed.”
Directed by David Fincher, Mank stars Gary Oldman, Tom Burke, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tuppence Middleton, Arliss Howard, and Charles Dance. The film is currently streaming on Netflix. Read the whole interview at IndieWire.