David Fincher’s ‘Mank’ Called Out for Stars’ 29-Year Age Gap: ‘You Erase’ Women

Critics note that 62-year old Gary Oldman plays the 43-year-old title character while 33-year old Tuppence Middleton plays his 43-year-old wife

Last Updated: December 11, 2020 @ 12:33 AM

David Fincher’s period drama “Mank” shines a light on the personal and professional drama of Hollywood’s golden age, but as a lot of women pointed out after it debuted over the weekend on Netflix, it also inadvertently shined a light on Hollywood’s enduring problems with sexist and ageist casting decisions.

The film, which covers the battle between screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and director Orson Welles over the writing credits for “Citizen Kane,” stars 62-year-old Gary Oldman as Mankiewicz, who in reality was only 43. That works in part because Mankiewicz was, famously, an alcoholic whose dangerously excessive drinking made him look decades older than he was, and ultimately killed him at age 55.

But as noted by writer Emily Nunn, Mank’s wife, who in real life was the exact same age, is played by 33 year old Tuppence Middleton.  The two of them had been married since 1920 (which means had she really been 33 in 1940, when the film largely takes place, she would have been 13 when she got married.) “We don’t feel invisible,” Nunn tweeted. “You erase us.”

Nunn goes on to note that “there doesn’t seem to be a single woman over 40 in the cast,” which a quick glance bears that out. And speaking of age discrepancies, it isn’t just the casting of Sara Mankiewicz, the film also downshifted the age of the other prominent female role, Marion Davies, the silent era Hollywood star whose longtime relationship with publisher William Randolph Hearst inspired a large part of the plot of “Citizen Kane.” Davies was the exact same age as the Mankiewiczs, but here’s she’s played by 35-year old Amanda Seyfried while Hearst is played by the very age-approiate 74-year-old Charles Dance.

And as a lot of people inspired by Nunn’s observation pointed out, this kind of vast age gap between actors and actresses is all too common in Hollywood.

To be honest, we have a difficult time disagreeing with any of this. It’s not like there’s a lack of talented, award-worthy actresses over 40 who could go toe to toe with Gary Oldman onscreen. (looking at you, Meryl Streep. Or Jane Fonda. Or Nicole Kidman.) Casting either historically too-old or age appropriate men for all the male roles while casting decidedly younger for all female roles feels like a choice, not a requirement of the script. Do better, Hollywood.