BetteBack May 27, 1997: Orson Welles Project Boasts Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Bette Midler, Madonna, and Edward Norton

Doylestown Intelligencer
May 27, 1997


Duels – Hollywood can’t get enough of’cm this year. We’ve seen a couple of volcano pics (“Dante’s Peak” vs. “Volcano”) square off, and a pair of Stove Prefontaine bios (“IVelontaine” vs. Robert Tbwne’s upcoming “Pre”) go head to head.

Now two projects alx>ut the legendary Orson Welles and his making of “Citizen Kane” are eyeballing each other. Except the duel’s fairly one-sided and the victor all but declared.

The Kane with an edge, “RKO 281,” will boast one of those dazzling, big-gun casts that Hollywood is known for, with Dustin Hoffman, Marlon Brando, Edward Norton, Meryl Streep and Madonna lining up for key roles.\\

A well-connected source says “RKO 281” will go before the cameras this August, probably for Sony Pictures, with Ridley Scott (“Thelma and Louise”) directing.

Written by Chicago-based scribe John Logan, it’s about the scrappy relationship between the 25-yearold Welles and the gifted-but-boozy screenwriter Herman J.

Mankiewicz, and how the making of “Citizen Kane” – a thinly disguised portrait of newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst – brought Hearst’s wrath down upon Welles and the film’s producer, RKO, when it opened in 1941.

Everyone in Hollywood, it seems, has been reading Logan’s script over the past few weeks and agreeing how good it is.

The other project, “Mank,” a portrait of Mankiewicz that also focuses on his relationship with Welles and the making of the film classic, is hanging in there for now.

Propaganda Films and director David Fincher (“Seven”) hope to shoot it in black and white for $19 million, with Kevin Spacey as Mankiewicz. – “We’re malting this movie,” says Propaganda president Steve Golin, adding somewhat hopefully, “I don’t know that there
isn’t room in the market for both films.”

Golin’s optimism isn’t widely shared. In early April a literary agent and a former Propaganda executive agreed that “Mank” is “on hold,” as the agent put it.

“They’re waiting to see what happens with the Scott film.” The “Mank” script, by ex-journalist Jack Fincher, the director’s father, is a richly drawn portrait of a gifted alcoholic. But a Paramountbased producer remarks, “My understanding is that “281 ‘is a better
script than “Mank.'” It’s also a matter of demand, he says.

“Dueling volcano movies are one thing, but I don’t think there’s room for two “Citizen Kane‘ movies. I don’t think anyone else does either.”

Especially with Scott’s film boasting Norton as Welles Hoffman as Mankiewicz, Brando as Hearst, Madonna as Hearst’s long-suffering lover Marion Davies, and Streep as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. (A columnist has reported that Bette Midler may play Hedda’s archrival Louella Parsons.)

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