“It’s going to be a short entrance and probably exit, not that I didn’t enjoy it,” laughs Eric Roth in his exclusive interview with Gold Derby (watch the video above) about his foray into film producing with “Mank” for Netflix. Roth is such an industry veteran that he won the Writers Guild of America’s lifetime achievement award back in 2012. With screenplay credits going back five decades, including his Oscar-winning screenplay for 1994’s “Forest Gump” and 2018’s “A Star is Born” earning him his fifth Best Adapted Screenplay nomination, “Mank” represents 76-year-old Roth’s debut as a film producer. He now has his first Oscar in the Best Picture category for his first time in contention.
“I don’t know the line producing aspect,” he admits, summing up his role as “being the eyes and ears behind the eyes and ears.” Roth admittedly has a decade’s worth of experience producing television and was nominated six consecutive years as an executive producer of “House of Cards” and “The Alienist,” which will be eligible for further Emmy consideration this summer with its second season. He explains about his role on those dramas, “I always was very specific in working only with the writers. That was my job. I would work with the head writer and the writers’ room, give notes and do what I do best.”
“Mank” marks Roth’s first collaboration with David Fincher since “House of Cards.” He explains, “We set out together — David and I, when he asked me to join him — to protect the screenplay, almost at all costs, to try to make sure that his dad’s voice was heard — Jack Fincher, his father who died 17 years ago. This is one of the few scripts he wrote.”
Roth notes that Fincher’s films like 1999’s “Fight Club” and 2007’s “Zodiac” have grown in reverence over time and he expects “Mank” to follow suit. “An audience will come along if not now, at some time,” he adds after explaining, ” ‘Mank’ is revered in some ways as a great art film and hasn’t been considered a potentially popular favorite.” Roth concludes, “It’s very austere, interesting, incredibly well-directed. To me, it’s as close to a work of art that I’ve ever been involved with.”
Now scheduled for an October 2021 release, “Dune” will be Roth’s next credit. He says with reference to director and his co-screenwriter Denis Villeneuve, “He’s made something special. I hate to say ‘Lord of the Rings,’ but I feel that way about it, but I’m biased. It’s a really unique movie and it’ll be incredibly popular.”
Martin Scorsese is currently directing Roth’s script for “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which is headlined by Jesse Plemons, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. Roth teases, “It will be one of the first movies that almost exclusively has Native Americans in it. If you see a street scene, there will be 90 percent Native Americans and 10 percent Caucasians and others and this probably will be the most — and I know Marty will be able to pull it off — probably the most important movie made that I’m aware of about Native Americans, so it’s really a gamechanger.”
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