The Director’s Guild of America in Hollywood was packed to the brim last night in anticipation of Steven Spielberg’s new film, The Post. Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks were in attendance for the post-screening Q&A, along with screenwriters Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, production designer Rick Carter, and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.
Spielberg humbly told the audience that he got all of his first choices for the film. He gave thanks to his casting director Ellen Lewis and said he’d always wanted to work with Bradley Whitford. “It was one of my favorite cast pictures that I’ve ever worked on.”
Talking about the 1970s visual language of the film, Spielberg said there wasn’t a lot of time for him to do much pre-visualisation and he relied on his production designer Rick Carter to present locations that were authentic to the period. He said, “I knew this was a thriller, a news room adventure story, and I used a zoom lens.”
With no time to build extensive sets, Carter found the printing house used by Broadway’s Playbill in White Plains to serve as the printing room for the Washington Post. Spielberg said he was surprised to see how it worked and joked that he was obsessed with the printing machine.
At the Q&A hosted by Vanity Fair’s Rebecca Keegan, Streep said working for the first time with Spielberg was a surprise because of “how improvisatory, spontaneous, and living the process of making the movie is.” She joked that while she had never worked with Spielberg before, Hanks had done so, “150 times.” She added, “There was a boys story and a girls story and I felt a little bit isolated and out of the fun. I wasn’t invited to the pie.” Regarding Spielberg’s craft and his camera work, she says, “I got so excited coming to work every day.”
On the era in which Katherine Graham was publisher at the Post, Streep reminded us that “it was customary in certain circles when people would have dinner parties and important topics came up, the women excused themselves,” referring to the dinner scene in the film where the women leave the dinner table when the men start talking about important issues. The three-time Oscar winner said she had read Graham’s autobiography, Personal History, and spoke to her son, Don. “She was very uncertain. At work, she had so many people thinking she didn’t deserve to be where she was.” She added, “What the world was like, I try to tell young women how different it was very recently, in those leadership circles.”
Hanks, who plays Ben Bradlee in the film, told the audience he had met the real Ben Bradlee in the ’90s and he was still “the man.” “The man I met was curious and interested in what you had to say. A conversation flew by. He didn’t pontificate.”
The Post will be released on December 22 and recounts how the publisher and editor of The Washington Post risked their careers to expose three decades of a government cover-up relating to the Vietnam War. The paper would ultimately win the right to publish after facing court battles and Nixon’s resistance. The durability of the First Amendment would prevail. Speilberg’s film couldn’t come at a more perfect time, as today’s press and journalists are attacked for reporting “fake news.” Streep packs power as Kay Graham, and her key scenes cued applause from the enthusiastic audience. Hanks is fantastic and Spielberg delivers an edge of seat newsroom thriller that is vitally relevant. When Keegan asked Spielberg who the film was made for, he replied, “Everyone who has been thirsting for the truth for the last 13 months.”
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