“The Post”

“The Post”

Photo credit: Kris Tripplaar for The Washington Post

“I was minding my own business, making a movie called Ready Player One, coming out March 30th, 2018 in a theater and drive-in near you. And I was absolutely, you know, just totally involved in that when I got a call from Stacey Snider and Amy Pascal who suggested I read a script that Amy had found from a brand-new reader who had never sold anything before in her entire life, Liz Hannah, 31 years old. She had written a story about Katharine Graham, who she has always been quite admiring of. And I, you know, was reluctant to say I’d read the script, but they kind of – Stacey and Amy – said, ‘But I think you’ll change your mind once you get to page 30.’ And I did. I started reading it, and by page 30, I started saying, ‘Okay, Ben Bradlee will be Tom Hanks and Katharine Graham will be Meryl Streep,'” said Steven Spielberg at a panel discussion on the just released movie The Post moderated by film critic Ann Hornaday at The Washington Post office building in downtown Washington, DC.  “And it all started to come together because this could not have been a more relevant story for our time that really made me look back and say, ‘My god, how does history repeat itself?’ And so literally, I gave it at that point to Kristie Macosko who has been in my life for 20 years, producing my films and co-running my company.”

“The Post” is a 2017 American historical drama political thriller directed and produced by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. Set in the early 1970s, the film stars Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Carrie Coon, and Matthew Rhys. The Post depicts journalists from The Washington Post and The New York Times who published the Pentagon Papers regarding the involvement of the United States government during the Vietnam War.  A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government.

“There was no Daniel Ellsberg in the original screenplay,” said Hanks who plays uber editor Ben Bradlee.  So he did an awful lot of research and he and Spielberg met with Ellsberg to be sure on what the Pentagon Papers were all about for the clarity of the audience.  “So we had a lot of research just out of the gate. But I think the main thing I was concerned about was everybody knows Watergate, but nobody knows the Pentagon Papers. And nobody knows the fact that the Pentagon Papers was the precedent that allowed The Washington Post give them the courage in the victory of the publication of the Pentagon Papers, to even pursue through Woodward and Bernstein, the money trail leading up to Nixon’s impeachment and resignation. And so it was important for the audience to understand the significance and everything that Ellsberg told us.”

“We’ve done a number of interviews for this film,” said Odenkirk who plays Ben Bagdikian, the Washington Post reporter who wrote about the Pentagon Papers, “and there’s a lot of talk about the relevance and the issues the film brings up or talks about. It’s about so much. It’s about government and secrets and it’s a history lesson and it’s about journalism and seeing people do it and it’s about a woman’s personal interior journey to own her power and then this also societal status journey. But really, I was thrilled, and we all were every day, at the way Steven made it a fun story to hear and to imagine. When I’d see him set up the shots, you’d picture it and you’d just think, ‘Oh, man. That’s going to be fun to watch.’ And it puts dynamic throws relief onto aspects of the story that make it just a rip-roaring tale and I thought, ‘I just want to make sure people know that.’ It’s just a really fun movie to watch. This is just really great storytelling and it’s fun to be a part of.”

 

“I feel as if some of your performance’s magnitude is due in part to the source material herself, Katharine Graham. What was it like portraying such an iconic woman and how did you do so?” Hornaday asked Meryl Streep. “Well, I had a great bible to go to. I read her autobiography, which as you probably know won a Pulitzer Prize when she published it at 79 years of age. It took her 16 years to research and more, it’s so beautifully written as a book. It’s so introspective, so layered, so compassionate and tough on herself and the way it identifies a certain time when the highly educated, wealthy women’s only expectation would be, as she says in her book, ‘to make her husband comfortable and her children as well.’  She was delivered into this moment in history and made a pivotal decision that would affect the entire country and the progress of the government’s attempt to control the press. We went right to Watergate from there, and we went to a world in which women had many many more opportunities and doors opened than when she came to that position. So I thought, what a wonderful woman, what an emblematic life and what a great opportunity to try to give her to the world because you know the film that we know about that time is All the President’s Men and she’s hardly in there. I think she’s mentioned, but glancingly and she was pivotal.”

Marty Baron and Tom Hanks

Final thoughts from Spielberg: “You should start by letting the experience wash over you because if you are vetting the experience as you’re having the experience, you’ll never have the experience. So I think first thing, you have to sit in the seat, be an audience and just let it happen and then you need to process it when it’s over. But I made this film for audiences to—this is a drama and it’s a very important drama in the sense of—I don’t like to use “important” because I don’t even call our stuff important but it’s important for an audience to understand that before they see the relevance or the ironies of history, that they sit down and understand that our intention was to do a character story about principally two people: Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee and all of the other people that affect their lives and whose lives they affect.”

 Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson arrive at “The Post” Washington, DC Premiere at The Newseum  (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)

 Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Marty Baron, Kate Capshaw and Steven Speilberg  (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)

“The Post” opens today in select theaters and January 12th nationwide: