Ahead of Mank’s release on December 4, Collins shares how she got into character, what has got her through lockdown and why she first met co-star Gary Oldman at the age of two.
Mank is such a passion project for David Fincher. How did you first get involved?
“I heard about it a couple of weeks before I was leaving for Paris [to film Emily in Paris]. David is someone that I never thought I’d have the chance to work with. I sent a tape just before I left, and then a few weeks into my job in Paris, I Zoom auditioned. When I found out that I got it, I was so confused [laughs]. I thought, ‘This is so weird. It can’t all work out like this!’ After that, I had to fly back to LA for fittings and rehearsals, but I was shooting Emily — I’m in every scene and I have no days off. So, I flew back twice for 24 hours. I flew on a Saturday morning after a night shoot in Paris, landed on Saturday morning in L.A., went to rehearsals, or a fitting, or a camera test, flew back, went to bed and woke up at 5 a.m. to be Emily again. It happened really quickly and I couldn’t stop and think about it because the end result was going to be that I could work on both, one after the other.”
Was it dizzying to finish Emily in Paris and go straight into Mank?
“When I flew back to Paris the second time [from LA], they were just starting to film Mank. It was before I finished Emily, but my part didn’t start until I got back. I had two weeks after that, before I went in. But, it wasn’t that hard because Emily and Rita are polar opposites. Not only is Emily bright, bold, and a little bit obvious personality-wise, but she’s also in a bright, bold, and obvious world, whereas Rita is in a black-and-white world. She’s harder to read, more no-nonsense, more poised in a sense, and British. So, I could disassociate the second I got on a plane.”
What did David want the character of Rita to represent?
“Rita is, of course, a real person, but there’s little information to be found about her, other than the fact that she’s a stenographer from England and her husband was in the war. I think I saw two photos of her. So, in terms of creating her persona, it was about what she represents for Gary [Oldman]’s character, because he’s at his most vulnerable when he’s with her. They’re each other’s confidantes. For a woman of that time and in that position, Rita was very bold. She believed Mank was capable of more than he himself did, and she’d remind him of what he’d promised to do. He needed that extra kick sometimes. David wanted Rita to have an innate sense of goodness. I loved that there’s not a romance between her and Mank — it’s a soulful friendship that neither expects.”
How did you work with Gary Oldman to build that familial relationship between Rita and Mank?
“I’d actually met Gary when I was about two years old on the set of Bram Stoker’s Dracula . My dad was in Hook  and those two films were being shot on the same lot in L.A. Then, years later, at the Heavenly Bodies Met gala [in 2018], I was at the valet and saw Gary and his wife Gisele [Schmidt]. I told him how much I admired him. Who would have thought that years after, I’d be playing this character who so admires his character? On Mank, we’d laugh and joke around between takes and then when they said ‘action’, he’d just go back to being Mank. I’d have to pinch myself sometimes because I’d forget that I had to respond. He was amazing.”
How did those intricate period costumes help you get into character?
“Rita isn’t a Hollywood starlet, so she’s not done up all the time, but she wants to look presentable. She has little jewelry, she wears small heels but also brogues, and she’s slightly more sporty sometimes. She wears suits, but [often] they’re quite disheveled — for instance, if Mank and Rita have been up for hours writing and they’re sweaty. David would say, ‘Don’t touch them up unless you’re adding more sweat. Don’t make them look perfect.’ I liked the idea of roughing up that time period.”