TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz "Met" His Famous Grandfather for the First Time Thanks to 'Mank'

Gary Oldman in Mank; Herman Mankiewicz. Inset: TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, Herman’s grandson.
Courtesy of Netflix; JC Olivera/Getty Images;ohn Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Gary Oldman in Mank; Herman Mankiewicz. Inset: TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, Herman’s grandson.

David Fincher’s film stars Gary Oldman as Herman Mankiewicz and centers on his career in Hollywood and work on the script of Orson Welles' 'Citizen Kane.'

Ben Mankiewicz, TCM host and grandson of the eponymous Mank, was brought to tears just from seeing the title card of the Netflix movie. He was born 14 years after Herman Mankiewicz died, but the name still holds weight for Ben and his relatives. "The word 'Mank' was uttered, I don't know, 81 times [in the film]," he says. "Nearly every member of this family has been called 'Mank.' It was legitimately a surreal and moving experience."

The film follows Herman Mankiewicz's career and his work on the script of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane. But some aspects of the movie were altered, Ben says, to enhance the narrative. "The 1934 race for governor was not a significant part of my grandfather's life. … [The filmmakers] used that, I think, to demonstrate his seriousness about other issues." Director David Fincher and actor Gary Oldman did capture, however, an intangible aspect of Mank's nature — "his warmth and his spirit." Since he didn't get to meet Herman, Mank's grandson says he thought of his late father: Herman's son, Frank. "I wanted to ask him [if he could] see his dad in Gary Oldman," he says. "My real strong sense, based on the way my father described it, was 'yes.' "

Though he views the movie as a wonderful experience, for Ben it wasn't about the cinematic legend behind Citizen Kane. "I saw it less about who wrote the movie," Mankiewicz says. "It was my grandfather. It's more about the story of a Hollywood writer, whose self-destructive tendencies ultimately got the best of his brilliance."

This story first appeared in the Jan. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.