Amanda Seyfried on Creating and “Stepping” into Marion Davies

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“As an actor, you fuse your essence in with any character, but the first thing I had to do was find things that I related to, find things that were similar, find ways to fall in love with her” – Amanda Seyfried

In an acting career that began in soap operas in the late 1990s when she was a teenager to starring in Oscar-winning films, Amanda Seyfried has grown into a actress known for her versatility in acting roles in a variety of genres. She received her first Academy Award nomination for acting in David Fincher‘s Netflix film Mank, about Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, for her role as Golden Age of Hollywood actress Marion Davies. In a conversation with Netflix Queue (by way of the podcast Present Company), Seyfried spoke about getting into character as Davies and how their careers are similar.

To portray Davies, Seyfried made sure to study the actress’ work but also made sure to try to determine what the off-camera Davies would be like. She explains, “As an actor, you fuse your essence in with any character, but the first thing I had to do was find things that I related to, find things that were similar, find ways to fall in love with her — and that was really easy. The rest was just accent and trying to hear her voice in her movies and find the backstage version of her. At the end of the day, we were creating her based on an essence that I have and that she has. That was helped by long conversations with David.”

As a comedienne in Hollywood’s Golden Age, Seyfried often played “ditzy” comic roles. Seyfried, whose breakthrough role was playing a similar character in the 2004 comedy Mean Girls, can relate to how that colors others’ perception. She says, “The first role that anybody saw me as was Karen Smith [in Mean Girls]. It’s one of my favorite experiences of all time, but of course people saw me as the ditzy blonde because of that. I got a lot of auditions to play ditzy blondes or big-boobed teenagers. I imagine it was difficult for Marion to play against that — the madcap comedian, the ditzy blonde. She was playing a lot of the same characters. People just assume that’s who she was.”

Another aspect of the film that helped Seyfried get into character is the Oscar-nominated costume design, including the various ensembles that Seyfried wears as Davies. She says, “The first time I stepped into the entire costume with the hair and the makeup, everything was very specific. Down to which ring I was going to wear on which finger, what kind of purse I would have and what would be in it, the shoes — everything was meticulous. I was transformed. Stepping into that character every night, it took me that much further. It took me to 110 percent of Marion Davies.”

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