Steven Spielberg directs Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in The Post, a thrilling drama about the unlikely partnership of Katharine Graham (Streep), the first female publisher of The Washington Post, and its driven editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks), as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents. The two must overcome their differences as they risk their careers—and their very freedom—to bring long-buried truths to light.
The Post marks the first time Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg have collaborated on a project. In addition to directing, Spielberg produces along with Amy Pascal and Kristie Macosko Krieger. The script was written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer and features an acclaimed ensemble cast including Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, David Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Jesse Plemons, Matthew Rhys, Michael Stuhlbarg, Bradley Whitford and Zach Woods.
FIRST AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
SUPREME COURT RULING: NEW YORK TIMES V. UNITED STATES 403 U.S. 713
EXCERPT FROM JUSTICE HUGO BLACK:
“In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. In my view, far from deserving condemnation for their courageous reporting, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other newspapers should be commended for serving the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw so clearly. In revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam war, the newspapers nobly did precisely that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do.”
“Some people enjoy competition and dustups, and I wish I did, but I don't.
But once you have started down a path, then I think you have to move forward. You can't give up.”
~Katharine Graham, Publisher of The Washington Post
Throughout American history, there have been catalytic moments in which ordinary citizens must decide whether to put everything on the line–livelihoods, reputations, status, even freedom—to do what they believe to be right and necessary to protect the Constitution and defend American freedom. With The Post, multiple-Academy-Award®-winning director Steven Spielberg excavates one such moment. The result is a high-wire drama based on the true events that unfolded when The Washington Post and The New York Times formed a pragmatic alliance in the wake of The Times’ incendiary exposure of the Top Secret study that would become known to the world as the Pentagon Papers.
Though scooped by The New York Times, The Washington Post takes up the story that has brought legal threats and the power of the White House down on The Times—as huge personal stakes collide with the needs of a shocked nation to know what its government is hiding. In the balance might hang the fate of millions, including thousands of U.S. soldiers fighting a war their government does not believe can be won. In just a few days of crisis, pioneering but inexperienced Post publisher Katharine Graham will weigh her legacy against her conscience as she gains the confidence to lead; and editor Ben Bradlee must press his team to go beyond the ordinary, knowing they could be charged with treason for carrying out their jobs. But as they do, the underdogs at The Post become unified in a battle far larger than themselves—a battle for their colleagues and the Constitution—one that underscores the necessity of a free press to hold a democracy’s leaders accountable, even as it challenges Graham and Bradlee to their most private inner cores.
With The Post, Spielberg comes together with an extraordinary mix of actors at the top of their game. At the center of the ensemble piece are the performances of Streep and Hanks as Graham and Bradlee—one a untested leader learning to stake her ground as a woman in a shifting world; the other a hard-nosed newsman evolving from chasing down stories to fighting for the very principles of truth—who discover they can push one another to their best. Behind the scenes, Spielberg reunites with his close-knit band of award-winning collaborators including cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, editor Michael Kahn, production designer Rick Carter and composer John Williams, with the legendary costume designer Ann Roth joining the circle.
It all adds up to a recreation of 1971 that seems to unfold with mounting suspense in real time. Throughout his career, Spielberg has been drawn to visiting those moments on which historical transformations turn in films ranging from Empire of the Sun and Schindler’s List to Munich, Lincoln and Bridge of Spies. The Post turns Spielberg’s lens for the very first time on 1970s America, the same era in which he first became one of America’s eminent filmmaking voices. Its relentlessly brisk narrative is a story of personal connections and courage, but it also brings Spielberg into the world of newspaper reporting at a critical moment for the nation and the world, a realm on the cusp of change with the rising power of women and the coming of corporatization. Most of all, the story provides a riveting context for a timeless dilemma: when must one speak out to expose a grave national danger even knowing the stakes are unfathomably high?
“Steven made this story into a thriller,” says producer Amy Pascal. “He has an innate ability to make historical moments dynamic and of the moment. You are on the edge of your seat watching this movie, but it also reminds us of the timeless duty to tell the truth.”
Adds producer Kristie Macosko Krieger: “This movie is about the power of the truth, but it's also a personal story of a woman’s transformation from a housewife to head of a Fortune 500 company. It’s a personal story inside a historical story of giant stakes and that’s what made it so compelling to all of us.
What are the Pentagon Papers?
In March of 1971, New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan obtained extraordinary access to a top-secret, 7,000-page report rife with damning government secrets. The document, originally prepared at the behest of then-U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in 1967, had the prosaic title, “History of U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-66.”
However harmless it sounded, the report would set off shattering shockwaves that continue to this day. The document—soon to gain global renown as the Pentagon Papers—uncovered a dark truth: that vast, wide-ranging deceptions about the deadly war in Vietnam had spanned four presidential administrations, from Truman to Eisenhower, Kennedy to Johnson. The Pentagon Papers revealed that each of those Presidents had repeatedly misled the public about U.S. operations in Vietnam, and that even as the government was said to be pursuing peace, behind the scenes the military and CIA were covertly expanding the war. The Papers provided a shadowy history loaded with evidence of assassinations, violations of the Geneva Convention, rigged elections and lies in front of Congress.
These revelations were especially explosive news at a time when American soldiers, many drafted into service, were still in mortal danger at every moment. Ultimately, the war in Vietnam, which the U.S. would exit in 1975, took the lives of 58,220 U.S. service members and directly caused the loss of more than a million lives. The Pentagon Papers exposed the deceptions that led to many of their deaths.
The source behind The New York Times’ breaking Pentagon Papers news story was by all accounts a brilliant military analyst at the RAND Corporation—a high-influence, government-financed think tank—turned whistleblower: Daniel Ellsberg, who had been part of writing the secret study in the first place. Ellsberg had served as a Marine and spent two-years working in Vietnam with the U.S. State Department. Yet he’d become increasingly disillusioned by the glaring disparities between what he saw happening in the field, what was going on behind closed Washington doors, and all that the American people did not know about the war’s conduct and prognosis.
In 1969, driven to act on behalf of the soldiers despite peril to himself, Ellsberg and his RAND colleague Anthony Russo began furtively photocopying all 7,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers. They did so sheet by sheet, taking the document out of its secure vault at RAND each night and carrying their concealed quarry in a briefcase to a Xerox machine in the office where Russo’s girlfriend, Lynda Resnick – who owned her own advertising agency – worked. (Resnick was already involved in the antiwar movement).
Though Ellsberg considered this in his own mind as an act of high patriotism, some would soon call him “the most dangerous man in America.”
The New York Times Exposé and the Legal Battle:
Once he had a full copy beyond the vault, Ellsberg initially thought he would try to go through official channels to get the Papers into the public eye. But when he failed to get anywhere with several members of Congress, he determined his next best option was to leak the classified material to The New York Times. In March of 1971, Ellsberg cautiously invited reporter Neil Sheehan—who had first started reporting from Saigon at age 26 and was renowned for his hardnosed coverage of political and military affairs—to take a look at what he had. Though Sheehan could make Ellsberg no promises, he offered to take the Papers back to his bosses at The Times.
The Times recognized the consequential and incendiary nature of the Papers. Defying legal advice, publisher Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger and managing editor Abe Rosenthal decided to move forward, carefully considering their responsibility both to the public and the national interest. Setting up a clandestine operation in a hotel, a team of reporters spent three months scouring the Papers in depth, preparing for how to tell a very complex story—one complicated further by the fact they feared the F.B.I. could be on their trail. The decision was made to publish in the most non-sensational manner that they possibly could.
Nevertheless, the minute The New York Times hit the newsstands on Sunday, June 13th, 1971 with the first front-page headline, “Vietnam Archive: Pentagon Study Traces 3 Decades of Growing U.S. Involvement,” havoc ensued. News editors at every other major city paper, knowing they’d been scooped big-time, started scrambling to launch their own investigations. Meanwhile in Washington, gears started accelerating quickly to prosecute not only Ellsberg but The New York Times and anyone who might attempt to bring the Papers’ secrets to light.
On June 15th, the Nixon administration asked a federal court for an injunction to halt any further publication by The Times, arguing that such publication would endanger national security. They got their request.
The Washington Post’s Decision:
With The New York Times barred from publishing further, other newspapers began jockeying to gain access to the documents and write their own stories and analysis. The Washington Post, long seen as a local underdog to the larger, more nationally-focused New York Times, took up the mantle immediately as assistant managing editor Ben Bagdikian, a former colleague of Ellsberg at RAND, chased down another complete copy of the Papers. It then fell to publisher Katharine Graham—then the only woman in a position of power at a major national newspaper—to give the go ahead or put on the brakes. Under intense pressure and against advice that she could torpedo the future of the newspaper, then on the verge of an initial public stock offering, she nevertheless gave editor Ben Bradlee the green light to start printing stores.
On June 18th, The Washington Post became the first to publish material from the Pentagon Papers following the injunction against The Times—at the cost of being enjoined in the legal action. That same day, the Department of Justice sought an immediate restraining order and permanent injunction against The Washington Post, though this time the order was denied by the federal judge who heard the case. Meanwhile, the courage of The Times and subsequently The Post only served to spark more stories in The Boston Globe, The Chicago Sun-Times and others as the importance of the moment took on a life of its own.
On June 30th, the Supreme Court weighed in, reversing the injunction against publication. The majority opinion held that publishing the Pentagon Papers was in the public interest and that it was the duty of a free press to serve as a check on government.
Ellsberg and Russo were indicted under Espionage Act charges, with Ellsberg facing a potential 115 years in prison. His trial began in January of 1973, just as the Watergate scandal was breaking. The two would become irrevocably linked as revelations came out that the Nixon White House had illicitly authorized spying on Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in an effort to discredit Ellsberg. Ultimately, on May 11, 1973, the judge in the case declared a mistrial due to what he deemed serious government misconduct. All charges against Ellsberg and Russo were dropped.
By that time, the story of the Pentagon Papers had become about far more than a single, controversial act of conscience; it had become about the great power that comes from many such acts in unity and about the power of telling the truth, no matter the threats and perils surrounding it.
Chasing the Story: The Screenplay
The story of the Pentagon Papers is many stories – the story of how four Presidential administrations lied to the nation about the circumstances of the war for more than 20 years, the story of why former U.S. Marine and military consultant Daniel Ellsberg blew the whistle, the story of how The New York Times handled a spectacular and incendiary scoop, the story of the decisive litigation, not to mention the story of the ongoing implications for the media, the First Amendment and democracy itself. But Liz Hannah’s page-turning screenplay for The Post came at it from a fresh angle, honing in on the roiling human intrigue and magnetic personalities at the center of The Washington Post’s consequential decision to enjoin the battle to publish.
Hannah had long been fascinated by the life and times of legendary Washington Post publisher Katharine (Kay) Graham, who in the early 70s was striving against the grain, the first woman to head a major national news organization. She was fascinated by how Graham evolved from the heir of a growing newspaper into a true leader among journalists. A spark went off when Hannah came across the story of how Graham willfully chose to risk both her paper and career—at the most vulnerable moment for both—by continuing to publish the Pentagon Papers after a court ordered the New York Times to stop. This was the story for which she’d been searching. It was a profoundly formative moment in Graham’s life and in the nation’s life, and one as full of complex characters and twist-and-turns as a tale of espionage.
“I’d read Graham’s memoir Personal History and I wanted her voice to be heard. But I kept trying to figure out how because I didn’t want to write a biopic,” Hannah explains. “It wasn’t until I read Ben Bradlee’s memoir and encountered this momentous decision to publish the Pentagon Papers that I understood how to proceed. I decided to tell the story of the two of them in the context of Graham coming-of-age as she set the future course of The Post. There was so much drama and risk-taking that the narrative just flowed.”
The stakes Graham and Bradlee faced were colossal. They included: the reality that young men were still being drafted into service in Vietnam with increasingly high casualty numbers; the anxiety that the charges they could face included treason; the legacy and even future existence of The Washington Post; the concern they were putting their staff and families at immense risk; and the inner worry that they might be betraying friends.
It was the buildup to that risk-taking—and the bravery it inspired across The Post and American journalism—that became the linchpin of Hannah’s script. In the writing, it became as much about how and why people choose to act as about the colorful life of an ambitious, scrappy 1970s newspaper. Hannah also approached the structure as a high-stakes love story, a platonic union of a yin-and-yang publisher and editor who forged an unbreakable loyalty when the hazards for both were at their greatest. “The publication of the Pentagon Papers is the moment Kay and Ben’s relationship is forged, when their trust and partnership becomes their strength,” Hannah says. “I see it as the love story of soulmates who shared a common quest.”
Soon the screenplay was garnering buzz. When Amy Pascal read it, she recalls: “I thought to myself, this story needs to be told. Part of what I loved about Liz’s script is that it was about a wife and mother who didn’t think she’d ever have a real job, who was dismissed by nearly everyone in her life—and suddenly she has to make one of the most consequential decisions in history. It forever changed her industry and her life, and she becomes the first woman to run a Fortune 500 company. I really cared about that story.”
The story also drew the attention of Meryl Streep, who in 2017 has marked her 40th year on screen, even before Spielberg was on board. “I was familiar with the stories about The Washington Post and Watergate from Alan Pakula’s All The President’s Men, where Kay Graham makes a brief but fleeting appearance. But I really didn’t know much about her,” she recalls. “But Liz’s script really seemed to capture the flavor of that time. I found it incredibly compelling. And a story that hasn’t been told.”
Spielberg also had a visceral reaction to the script. Despite being in the midst of intensive preparation for the special effects-heavy Ready Player One, this deeply historic, and human, story called to him. “Liz’s writing, her premise, her critical study and especially her beautiful, personal portrait of Graham got me to say: ‘I might be crazy, but I think I’m going to make another movie right now,’” he recalls. “It snuck up on me.”
Kristie Macosko Krieger, who has worked with Spielberg for two decades, remembers: “We just turned everything around in a day. I called everybody and said, ‘let’s wrap it up in Italy, we’re going to make a movie in New York in 11 weeks.’”
It all came together at an unusually brisk pace, even for Spielberg whose work ethic is renowned. The two leads he wanted to cast as Graham and Bradlee—Streep and Hanks—each expressed immediate interest. Almost miraculously, both had openings in their schedules. Here was an opportunity for three gifted artists in film today to work in partnership and all were determined to move ahead full speed.
Especially interesting to Spielberg was the risk-taking involved, which made the story equal parts thriller, drama and character study of a woman uncovering the ringing strength of her voice. “The Washington Post took a huge chance publishing after the judge told The New York Times to halt,” he says. “The timing couldn't have been worse. The Post was kind of bleeding out and they needed to go public to remain solvent. And in the middle of it all was Graham, who had to make the biggest decision of the newspaper’s history. I saw the story being as much about the birth of a leader as about the growth of a national newspaper.”
Spielberg then brought in Academy Award®-winning screenwriter Josh Singer (Spotlight), known for his ability to write viscerally about the lives of reporters, to expand Hannah’s screenplay. Recalls the director: “I sent the material to Josh and he really responded to Liz’s script, and he went right to work. We had many conversations together and we read both Graham and Bradlee’s books and we got fired up about the possibilities of where this story could go. Josh did such deep research in a short amount of time. I've never seen anything like it and I think part of it is because he studied law, then started writing for The West Wing. He understands the importance of finding the truth, and finding the details of the truth, not just the broad strokes of an historical story. He was inexhaustible in talking with the people who were there.”
“It was great to be able to bring Josh and Liz together. I don’t think I’ve seen two writers work with each other better than they did,” adds Pascal.
“Liz’s script was about two human beings on an intimate journey, an incredible script,” Singer says. “What we then wanted to do was add in more history and a strong sense of the timeline to show how remarkable these few days were and bring the audience deeper into that world. We move beyond Kay and Ben to see what’s going on with the Nixon tapes and with The New York Times and it all helps create more context for Kay’s massive moment of decision-making.”
Singer kept Graham and Bradlee’s relationship at the center of the writing. “Their evolution is the centerpiece of the story and the way Liz wrote it, it was honest and true,” he says. “Their bond is like a young marriage in a way. Ben and Kay have been working together for five years but up to now they’ve never faced any serious hardship. Now they’re facing their first big test and they push each other to the point that you think they’re going to break – and what’s beautiful to watch is that instead they come out stronger.”
Also important to Singer was drawing a direct line from The Washington Post’s decision to keep publishing the Pentagon Papers to the newspaper’s fearless reporting on Watergate (which became the subject of Pakula’s cinematic classic, All The President’s Men.) “This is the origin story of the Watergate investigation in a sense,” Singer notes. “Without this team in place the Watergate reporting may not have happened. The Pentagon Papers basically changed the way the paper operated and led to that possibility.”
The script was a further opportunity for Singer to look at a different side of journalism—the courage not just to hunt for attention-grabbing stories but equally so to have the audacity to publish what powerful people might not want published, to hold authorities to account. The Post is decidedly not about breaking a news story; and it was essential to make clear that The New York Times got the scoop on the Pentagon Papers.
“The New York Times led the way on this story,” states Pascal. “In fact, our movie starts with Ben Bradlee going crazy because he hears yet again there’s a story The Times has that he doesn’t. He’s a competitive journalist through and through and The Times getting this major story drives him bananas. But what is interesting is that he goes from caring about not getting the story to caring more about how to bring people the full truth. It becomes a different kind of cause for him, for Kay and for The Washington Post.”
For more perspective, Singer closely consulted a range of technical advisors with firsthand insight. Chief among them were: Steve Coll, a 20-year Washington Post veteran as reporter and managing editor, currently a New Yorker staff writer and dean of the Columbia School of Journalism; Len Downie who was The Washington Post’s managing editor under Bradlee and succeeded him as executive editor in 1991; Andrew Rosenthal, former editorial page editor of The New York Times and son of Abe Rosenthal; and R. B. Brenner, a former Washington Post editor, now the director of the Journalism School at the University of Texas at Austin. Members of the Graham and Bradlee families made further contributions.
This, notes Spielberg, was markedly different from his many films set in a faraway past. “With a lot of the historical films I’ve made, the people involved are no longer living. There’s nobody I could interview or have Tony Kushner interview for Lincoln,” he observes. “But for this film, we were able to learn from people who were part of that extraordinary time in 1971. We benefited from getting to know Don Graham, his son Will, Lally Weymouth, as well as Daniel Ellsberg and principals of that era who changed the course of history. It was manna from heaven being able to sit in a room and talk to the people who were there.”
Coll, who knew Graham and Bradlee personally, especially enjoyed the focus on the duo at this crux juncture. “The Washington Post greatly benefitted from having these two charismatic leaders,” he observes. “By 1971, Graham had been growing. She had been in charge of the paper for several years and was still shedding her skin and remaking herself as a forceful leader. The events the film captures are a turning point in her life. They tested her values like nothing before because it required her to decide whether she was willing to put this business, her father’s business, at grave risk for editorial principle.”
Going to jail was a very real possibility for publisher and reporters alike, Coll emphasizes. Perhaps even worse for Graham was the prospect that her family’s paper could go under. “There was a risk Graham could face contempt charges, even prison. And there was also the business risk because this was happening just as the paper was selling shares in an initial public offering,” Coll explains. “For those of us lucky to know Kay at this time, we saw her grow and grow into the great strength she showed at this trying moment.”
The casting exhilarated Coll. “I cannot think of a better match than Meryl Streep. Hearing her voice, watching her walk brought Mrs. Graham back to life. And Tom Hanks not only looks the part, he’s internalized Ben’s way of walking, reacting, joking.” Len Downie concurs: “Meryl not only looks, acts and sounds like Mrs. Graham, she even seems to think like her. And Tom captured Ben Bradlee’s swashbuckling quality. All the actors playing the editors and reporters embody the people I knew. It’s uncanny.”
As the script developed, Spielberg brought his own insights to bear, in his own distinctive way. Explains Pascal: “I’ve spent most of my life developing scripts, talking about character and plot, but that’s not the way Steven does it. He does it from the inside. He wants to know things like: How do the characters walk? Where do they throw their coat when they walk in the room? You can see in real-time the script becoming a movie in his mind. Watching that has been one of the most thrilling things I’ve been a part of.”
Another joy for Spielberg was telling a story that is about a powerful woman while surrounding himself with powerful women in the production. “There is an empowering side to this story as you watch this woman find her voice and also her sense of personal commitment,” he says. “I loved being surrounded on the set every single day by remarkable women: our great producers Amy Pascal and Kristie Macosko Krieger, as well our great co-writer Liz Hannah and a whole talented company of actresses. It was really exciting.”
Krieger notes that Graham remains a pathfinding figure for many women in 2017. “In this day and age, it's still challenging for women to rise up in a male-dominated culture,” she points out. “We're getting better every day, but there's still room for growth. Graham opened things up as a pioneer so that we might all feel comfortable raising our voices and being strong women. So it felt right that we had so many amazing women working together to get this movie made. At one point, we realized that there were more women than men on set, and that’s the first time that’s happened for me. It seemed to be Kay Graham’s spirit at work.”
An Unlikely Partnership: Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee
While the tension of The Post surrounds the fight to publish the Pentagon Papers, it is also very much a portrait of partnership, about how the sum of people working together is far greater than individual talents. At the core of that story are two profoundly divergent people who nevertheless push and pull at one another to do their finest work: Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee. This iconic alliance gave the filmmakers the chance to unite Streep and Hanks. The results were galvanizing. “The first day Tom and then Meryl walked into the newsroom set, jaws dropped because they had so completely become Kay and Ben,” recalls Amy Pascal. “They are both the kind of actors who just transform into characters, and it was astonishing.”
Graham would go on to become one of the most influential women in America, a groundbreaker who unexpectedly shattered the glass ceiling to become head of The Washington Post Company’s media empire, then willed herself to become the grand dame of bold journalism. But at the time of the Pentagon Papers, she was still finding her feet, still learning how to operate as the only woman with a seat at the table.
The Washington Post had been in Graham’s family since 1933, when her father, the financier Eugene Meyer, acquired it. In 1946, Meyer was succeeded as publisher by Graham’s husband, Phil, who by emphasizing investigative reporting grew the paper from a hometown rag to one of national stature. In 1963, when Phil Graham committed suicide after a bout of severe depression, he left the paper to Katharine, then a 46-year-old mother of four. Though friends and experts beseeched her to let someone with more experience run it, Graham took up the mantle, saying she wanted to do it for her children and the family legacy.
“She was thrilled when her father gave the paper to Phil—and she thought her father had made a brilliant decision because of how smart Phil was. She talks about that in her autobiography. She adored and respected her husband and that’s why she thought trying to follow in his footsteps was the right move to make,” explains Spielberg.
Graham’s son, Don Graham—who served in Vietnam and now is Chairman of Graham Holdings Company—says: “My mother thought about her father, she thought about her husband and she decided she would try to run the business, the paper that they had put so much care into.”
Graham herself would later write: “Sometimes you don’t really decide, you just move forward, and that is what I did—moved forward blindly and mindlessly into a new and unknown life.
This ‘new and unknown life’ would bust open barriers. It was still a time when women reporters were barred from the swanky D.C. clubs where journalists had access to power peddlers. But no one could deny Graham entry as head of The Post. Nevertheless, she had to do a lot of soul-searching to hold her own. Raised in a conservative realm where women were traditionally deferential, she would later confess that she had to work mightily to claim her confidence, writing that she suffered “from an exaggerated desire to please, a syndrome so instilled in women of my generation that it inhibited my behavior for many years.”
She was still in search of greater confidence when she was thrown headlong into the Pentagon Papers dilemma. Don Graham observes: “The central thing about my mother was how self-doubting she was, which
I have to say, Meryl Streep captures very nicely. A lot of CEOs and newspaper publishers are pretty conceited. I could cite names and places, but Kay Graham was always the world capitol of self-doubt.”
Adds Graham’s daughter Lally Graham Weymouth, now a senior associate editor of The Washington Post: “I think it was really hard for her because she had been just a mother. I mean she was just taking us shopping or for walks in the park and she did some charity events, but she was not a journalist. She did not work professionally before my father died … I think it was extremely difficult, because she really didn’t have the background, as she herself would openly admit.”
Nevertheless, Graham, in the midst of her own personal evolution, would have to prove her guts and resolve–and make it crystal clear she was ready to unreservedly back her staff and the foundations of free speech. Later, Graham would become even more famed for urging her staff to uncover the truth of illegal actions by the White House during the Watergate scandal. But the decision to publish the Pentagon Papers was a watershed moment, one that set a course and cemented The Post’s reputation as an esteemed journalistic institution whose masthead now reads “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”
While the external story is a matter of history, it is the internal story of Graham’s rise that Streep hones in on in The Post. She began her research with Graham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir. “It’s so beautifully written, so deeply felt that it’s one of the most compelling autobiographies I’ve read,” she says. “From it, I really got a sense of something her children and friends also talked about with me: that she was not always the confident Katharine Graham that people came to know as the first woman head of a Fortune 500 company. She was once someone very unsure of herself and the product of her time, a time when women weren’t expected to do much outside the realm of good works, good child raising and household keeping. It’s hard to really imagine how different that time was unless you lived through it. And I did. I was on the cusp of the rising opportunities for women, and I certainly benefited from many of them. But she was in the vanguard, so she was not completely comfortable with taking the reins of leadership.”
She continues: “She took a stand when it was very difficult for her to do that, when she was not only doubted by her adversaries, but also by her friends. I think it’s a particularly lonely thing to do, to take a stand under those circumstances. Everybody in this story does that. Every single person takes a risk. And that more than anything I think this is the story of the film: how ordinary people can really move the needle and change the course of history. Big things can come from one little person.”
Embodying Graham—whose stately physique often made her appear more in control than perhaps she felt—was also a key to the interior. “For me, it wasn’t as important to try to look precisely like her, as it was just to capture something of her personal grace – and also the tentativeness that was there behind decisions. It was a very interesting challenge,” says Streep.
To others, the transformation was haunting. Observes Kristie Macosko Krieger: “Meryl was so devoted to getting it right, she talked to as many people as she could who knew Kay in this period of her life. She worked a lot with Steven and she consulted with Josh and Liz and kept going until Meryl was just gone and Kay Graham emerged. The day we did a hair and makeup test, she came out in her power suit and there was Kay Graham. It was crazy. It's definitely not an imitation; she just captures the spirit of Graham.”
Also intriguing to Streep was the depth of Graham’s bond with Bradlee, which became a pillar for her to lean on when it looked like everything could fall apart. “I like that their friendship is platonic—you rarely see this in a movie. You rarely see just the working friendship of a man and a woman,” she notes. “I think that Katharine adored Ben. Without any hint of romance, I think she really felt like he was a part of her.”
That closeness based on shared aims was something resonant to explore with Hanks. She found him to be surprising. “Everyone knows Tom has the reputation of being the nicest guy in Hollywood. And he is very nice. But,” she interjects, “he’s also really smart, crackerjack smart. And I think that’s the quality he most shares with Ben: that crackling wit and the feeling he’s always a few steps ahead of everybody in the room. You see in Tom that part of Ben’s personality that wants more, more, more from everybody.”
The Post also marks Streep’s first real collaboration with Spielberg. “Steven works very hard, and he thinks very hard, but it’s like play for him, because he has the absorption and freedom of a child,” she observes. “It’s improvisatory, his filmmaking, which shocked me. I don't know what I was expecting, but we came in and there was no rehearsal. That really surprised me. Instead you just go in and start shooting and he just keeps mixing it up. It was so spontaneous and really thrilling. People were on their toes, believe me.”
Spielberg says of Streep: “The extent to which Meryl plumbed the depths of Katharine Graham … I don’t know how she did it and I’m the director.”
Co-star Carrie Coon was also struck by Streep’s dedication. Coon observes: “On set, Meryl’s always at work. So while you’re having a conversation, she's also got her ear bud in listening to Kay’s dialect before a scene. My husband, Tracy Letts [also seen in the film], said in a speech the mistake we make about somebody like Meryl is assuming that she's somehow magical when in fact, Meryl is an incredibly hard worker. And that's the inspiring thing about watching Meryl on set. You see that she feels a tremendous responsibility to her character and has her own kind of fear about living up to her own expectations.”
Sums up Don Graham: “I think if my mother could see Meryl Steep portraying her, she would feel this was pretty great.”
While Graham was in the process of finding herself in 1971, Bradlee had a reputation that preceded him: as the quintessential, no-nonsense newsman—hard-charging, tenacious and fiercely independent. Graham herself had hired Bradlee in 1965 as deputy managing editor but he quickly ascended in the ranks, garnering a reputation for hiring the most talented reporters and driving them to reach their potential.
Recalls Lally Graham Weymouth of Bradlee: “He was brash, charming and very, very self-confident. He thought he was always right, but the reporters loved him, which I think is an important ingredient in any executive editor. And he attracted great talent for that reason. My number one impression of him was the adulation and adoration of the reporters.”
Spielberg, who at one time was Bradlee’s neighbor and had many conversations about film and world events with him (though never about the Pentagon Papers), says: “Ben was the Commander in Chief of The Post newsroom. He was the captain of that ship, the same way he had once been the captain of a ship in World War II. And he ran it like a kind of a benevolent military operation. He was a tough guy, but he also had a sweet spot in his heart. He liked people and as impatient as he sometimes could be, he kept everybody together as a family. He turned The Post into one of the greatest news families in history.”
Over time, Bradlee and Graham’s unlikely rapport—his gruff relentlessness and her reticent charm—would become as much the stuff of newspaper legend as the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. Both shared the same aim, says Don Graham: “They each wanted to make The Post as great a paper as it could be.”
For Tom Hanks, who is also a writer, exploring the full complexity of Bradlee’s world was up there with his most gratifying challenges. He dove into research, going to personal sources as much as he could. “There's a lot of information on Ben Bradlee out there, not the least of which comes from his autobiography,” notes Hanks. “There’s tons of interview footage, but most importantly there are dozens of people who worked with him who I was able to talk to, including his wife Sally Quinn. We talked about who he was, why she loved him and what he was giving himself over to at The Post. Eventually I found and heard so much material on Ben that I was actually frustrated because I couldn’t put it all in the movie.”
Quinn, a journalist who became Bradlee’s third wife in 1978, says of their meeting: “I had breakfast with Tom and we talked about Ben. I said to him, ‘you have the one quality that Ben had that you can't invent or pretend to have: authenticity. You are absolutely who you are and Ben was absolutely who he was.’ And that was intrinsic. Without that quality, I don't think he could have done it.”
Yet the role was also rife with potential pitfalls, especially because Bradlee’s persona was twined with the cinematic legend of All The President’s Men, as played by Jason Robards. Hanks hails Robards' performance in that film but at the same time says he wanted to approach the man in a different way. “I was not intimidated because Jason had done it,” Hanks says. “But I was challenged by the problem of trying to find some other avenue into who the man was. I looked for a crack I could jump into that hadn’t been covered. It turned out to be this idea people emphasized to me that Ben knew how to command a room.”
Hanks continues: “Ben obviously had great journalistic instincts but he was also a great motivator of people, someone who could not just cajole his staff but also push them forward. He loved his job, but most of all he loved the effects of his job: to find the truth, get it right and put it out there to let people decide for themselves. He was also crazy competitive and so I could see how incredibly frustrated he would be by the fact that The New York Times got to the Pentagon Papers story first. He did not want to be the editor of a second-rate backwater newspaper.”
When Quinn came to the set, the degree to which Hanks had taken on Bradlee’s distinctive persona sparked deep emotions. “I saw Tom wearing his Ben wig, and I could see he’d really done his homework. He had all the ‘Ben movements’ down and he was doing this sort of cocky thing that Ben did, jutting his chin out. I looked at him and I just fell apart, I absolutely fell apart,” she recalls. “I started sobbing. I had no expectation this would happen, but then Steven saw me and he came running over and put his arms around me and then Meryl came over and then Tom came over. And Tom has this big barrel chest, so I just I put my head on his chest and it felt like Ben. I said to him, ‘I just feel he's come back to life.’”
Like Streep, Hanks was interested in evincing a male-female rapport between Bradlee and Graham built on reverence rather than romance. “In the course of these events, Ben gained so much affection for her and also respect for what she risked,” Hanks observes. “She had to earn her gravitas and in this moment, it was all on her. She was the boss and she had to make the call and that’s when she became the Kay Graham of legend. In light of all the doubt and danger she was facing, when Kay said ‘publish’ I think Ben was more than relieved. He felt an incredible rush of admiration for her.”
Collaborating with Streep in moments that defined two epic lives was particularly intense. Hanks describes: “There are moments between Ben and Kay that I will put up as some of the most harried moments that I've ever been asked to make manifest on a set. And the extraordinary thing about Meryl is that there's not a moment in which she is not reacting to you. She is bouncing off of everything that you give her. Yet none of it is pre-ordained. She's not trying to railroad you into a specific moment. She's trying to find the moment along with you. And man, that's a high country when you're working with somebody like that.”
The working relationship between Spielberg and Hanks was already strongly established from their prior collaborations on Bridge of Spies, Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can and The Terminal, but Hanks notes that the director never stops amazing him. “Steven is a great regulator of the tempo and tambour of a scene,” he says. “He will ignore moments that you think are important and come in specifically on moments that you didn't even see as being all that necessary. For example, at times he would come up to me and ask for a little more voice, or at other times he would come by and say, ‘don’t be so sure of yourself.’ He is able to do things with the story more than the sum of what comes out of us as actors. Steven remains at the absolute top of his game”
Spielberg says in turn: “This is the fifth film Tom and I have made as an actor-director partnership, and Tom continues to surprise me every time we work together. I didn't know he had this character in him, but he does and it was great to watch him create his version of Ben Bradlee.”
“Steven has such a love of actors,” veteran casting director Ellen Lewis says. “Right off, he knew he wanted Matthew Rhys to play Daniel Ellsberg, Bruce Greenwood for Robert McNamara and Sarah Paulson for Mrs. Bradlee, and that was a great start.” Ultimately, Spielberg and Lewis would assemble an ensemble, some 20 strong, that encompasses some of today’s most exciting actors, many of whom have been part of the television renaissance underway in the early part of the 21st Century.
They include: Alison Brie (GLOW), Carrie Coon (The Leftovers), David Cross (Mr. Show), Bruce Greenwood (American Crime Story: The People v. O. J. Simpson), Tracy Letts (Indignation), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Sarah Paulson (American Crime Story: The People v. O. J. Simpson), Jesse Plemons (Bridge of Spies), Matthew Rhys (The Americans), Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me By Your Name), Bradley Whitford (Get Out) and Zach Woods (Silicon Valley). Also tapped from Broadway are Tony winner Jessie Mueller, along with Stark Sands, Rick Holmes, Pat Healy, Philip Casnoff, John Rue, Jennifer Dundas and Will Denton.
Alison Brie portrays Katharine Graham’s eldest child, Lally, who was just 23 during the events in the film. Brie loved playing a young woman who is not afraid to question or call out her mother but is also deeply devoted to supporting a woman she knows is breaking the mold of her generation. “Lally, like her mother, is fiercely intelligent. She's opinionated and she certainly doesn't hold back those opinions. She has a very candid relationship with Kay. That was so fun to play because she challenges her mother,” Brie explains. “She’s the kind of person who tells it like it is and sometimes that's just what her mother needs.”
Spielberg was gratified to have Brie in the role. “I followed her on Mad Men and saw her in Mud and I think she's an extraordinary actress so it was great to be able to cast her as Lally,” he says.
No matter their ties, mother and daughter have to navigate a major generation gap. Perhaps few generations have been as divided as the parents who came of age amid the Depression and children of the socially shifting 60s and 70s. “We're right in the midst of the women’s movement and that’s where Lally and her mother bump heads,” says Brie. “Kay grew up in a very traditional family but Lally really represents that younger generation who felt they had to be much more vocal about women’s rights.”
Brie was thrown right into it – taking on Streep as Graham on her first day on set – but says Streep set her at ease by diving into the scene so completely that Brie was entranced. “You really feel Meryl is living and breathing this person and she’s in the moment with you. When I looked in her eyes, I could see that Kay is constantly fluctuating between feeling confident and feeling terrified. It was thrilling to watch.”
Says Streep of the rapport between Lally and Kay: “You never feel quite as stupid as you do around your own children—because they will correct you on every point! I do love their mother-daughter relationship because it feels very real to me. And Alison brings a lot of feeling to the role.”
Carrie Coon joins the cast as the late Washington Post editorial writer Meg Greenfield, who was renowned for her sparkling wit and garnered the Pulitzer Prize in 1978. As another pioneering woman who made her way to the top of journalism in that male-dominated era, Greenfield bonded with Graham. She also penned a pivotal op-ed column in 1971, entitled “The Conflict of Two Great Estates: Some Reflections on the Pentagon Papers,” that analyzed the Supreme Court’s arguments in favor of the publication.
Coon felt particularly drawn to the script’s emphasis on Graham’s evolution. “What makes it so personally relevant to me is that it’s about a woman coming into her own under tremendous pressure. I was intrigued by how Kay’s leadership was forged in this crucible that was also such a critical time in our democracy.” She says of the link between Greenfield and Graham: “I think they became friends because you need allies in situations like this. They were both women in situations where men usually had the power.”
It wasn’t that easy to research Greenfield, who eschewed the spotlight. “She was never out there for her own self-promotion,” says Coon. “I had a very slim book she wrote called Washington, which she never finished, and there was also a beautiful introduction to the book written by Katharine Graham. I also had one interview that Meg did with Charlie Rose close to the end of her career after she’d won the Pulitzer.” But Coon also drew on stories that the film’s journalist consultants, as well as Graham’s grandson Will, shared. “Will told me some great stories about how Meg was an advocate for him throughout his life. Having personal contact like that is always so enriching when you're bringing a real person to life.”
David Cross, the stand-up comic turned actor recently seen in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (and who previously worked with co-star Bob Odenkirk on Mr. Show), plays another highly regarded member of The Washington Post team: managing editor Howard Simons. A reporter since the 1950s, Simon would later become the curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Simons is also a key character in All The President’s Men, played by Martin Balsam in that film.
Cross was most intrigued by the script’s inside view of events usually seen from the outside. “I knew about the Pentagon Papers but I wasn’t aware of what happened at The Washington Post,” Cross says. “I knew nothing about Kay Graham’s ascension to a leadership role in the middle of it.”
Also exciting for Cross was how Hanks went out of his way to bond with the entire ensemble portraying The Post staff – rallying the troops much as Bradlee himself had done. “Tom’s genuineness was one of the keys to this being a fun, loose, copacetic set. Early on, he invited all the people playing editors and reporters to his place in New York for big lunch—which helped us build better relationships on screen. He’s a guy who remembers everybody’s names and asks everyone ‘how are you doing?’ There’s no pretense.”
Another historical figure who plays a role in The Post is one of the most controversial men of the 20th Century: General Robert S. McNamara, a Defense Secretary under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, often considered the architect of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. McNamara was directly responsible for decisions expanding the war, the consequences of which would haunt him until his passing in 2009. He would ultimately issue an apology to Americans, saying, “We were wrong, terribly wrong.” It was also McNamara who first commissioned the study on the Vietnam War that became the Pentagon Papers. McNamara also considered Graham a dear friend, which only twisted the knot she faced even more.
Taking the role is Bruce Greenwood, known for playing American presidents in such films as Thirteen Days, National Treasure: Book of Secrets and Kingsman: The Golden Circle—and as Captain Pike in the rebooted Star Trek films and Gil Garcetti in The People Vs. O.J. Simpson. Greenwood notes that he saw McNamara as having a fatal flaw: “He was a force of nature who could not not make a decision. He’d rather make a bad decision than wait and make no decision, and he ran afoul of that mindset in his life.”
Greenwood found McNamara’s complicated relationship with Graham fascinating. “They had tremendous respect for one another. Bob had been there for her after her husband died and was a close friend in the hardest period of her life,” he notes. “But Kay also had a son [Don] who went to Vietnam and when she discovered that McNamara knew the war couldn’t be won militarily, I think she couldn’t reconcile that. Her son came home but tens of thousands of others didn’t, all while McNamara knew the U.S could not win. That had to feel like a betrayal.”
There was no lack of reading material on McNamara, and Greenwood especially relied on Deborah Shapley’s Promise and Power: The Life and Times of Robert McNamara. He also poured over footage. “Even after the production was over I kept studying McNamara, because I still wanted to understand him,” Greenwood confesses. “He was such a complex guy.”
Carrie Coon’s husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and actor Tracy Letts (Homeland) embodies another pivotal force at The Post: Frederick “Fritz” Beebe, chairman of the board of The Washington Post Company in 1971. A former Wall Street lawyer who worked for The Post since 1933, Beebe is still considered a father figure of the paper today (he passed away at age 59 in 1973.) He was deeply trusted by Graham; and, though at first skeptical of the idea of publishing the Pentagon Papers, Beebe ultimately left the choice to the publisher. Says Letts: “Fritz was a very important presence in Kay’s life, an avuncular presence and a legal counsel, but also clearly accepting of her as the one running the company.”
As someone devoted to drama, Letts especially enjoyed observing Spielberg at work. “I love that he comes from the school where he’s still editing in his head. We didn’t have to do a lot of coverage because he knows exactly how he’s going to cut it all together. That fact that he is also a funny, sweet man who models inspiring behavior on set and embraces ensemble work, allowed us all to work to the best of our ability.”
Bob Odenkirk, famed as over-the-top criminal lawyer Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, takes a dramatic turn with another real-life role: the late Ben Bagdikian, an award-winning journalist who joined The Washington Post in 1970 – and whose past relationship with Daniel Ellsberg and the Rand Corporation led him to chase down his own copy of The Pentagon Papers. Later, Bagdikian would become the Dean of the University of California Berkeley School of Journalism.
“Ellsberg decided to trust Bagdikian to follow through on publishing the papers and to bring a second set of the papers to a Congressman who would read them into the Congressional Record, which is exactly what happened,” Odenkirk explains. Though Bagdikian knew he might face grave legal consequences, Odenkirk believes most people would support his decision to keep digging and reporting. “I think most Americans regardless of political view would say, ‘I want all of the truth. I would like to have access to all of the facts about what my government is doing.’ That’s what Ben was trying to do.”
As soon as he won the role, Odenkirk leapt into research, reading Bagdikian’s autobiography and watching footage. He drilled into the connection between the reporter and Bradlee, who was his polar opposite. “Bagdikian wrote that early on as a reporter he had learned to blend in. He felt his job was to be a good listener and to not intrude his personality too much into the moment. By contrast, Bradlee had a huge personality and enjoyed not hiding it at all.”
Working with Hanks cemented that concept. “Tom’s a blast. He is really the epitome of an actor being in the moment. His energy is always right here and right now on the set. So acting with him, you get to play the moment fresh every single time which is what every actor most wants,” Odenkirk comments.
Sarah Paulson, a Golden Globe and Emmy winner for the role of Marcia Clark in American Crime Story, takes on Ben Bradlee’s wife, Antoinette “Tony” Bradlee. Beloved for her charm and known as one of Washington D.C.’s preeminent social hostesses in the 50s and 60s (one who was said to have drawn the admiration of John F. Kennedy), Tony would have an indelible impact on Ben, though their marriage would not last. They would divorce in 1973, with Tony returning to her passion for the fine arts.
In The Post, it is Tony who gives Ben insight into Graham’s difficult position. “Tony is trying to be supportive to Ben in a very heightened moment,” says Paulson. “But Tony is also the one who finally says to Ben you need to think about what this is costing Kay. For Ben, as a hard newsman, it was easy to just say this is what is morally right. But Tony shows him the stakes are different for Kay, especially as a woman.”
Though Tony Bradlee lived in a time and world in which she was expected to be an adjunct to her husband, Paulson honed in on her individuality. “I found in my research that she was a very formidable woman, yet with an effortless sort of devil-may-care attitude,” she says. “She was a ceramicist and she wasn’t all that interested in the political scene. She did it well—she put on the dress and she’d have the people over to parties—but she wasn’t going slave away in the kitchen. She had her own life.”
A major lure of the role was the chance to work opposite Hanks. “I think what's so beautiful about Tom playing Bradlee is that behind that hard exterior you’ve got Tom’s big, beating heart that infuses every choice he makes as an actor. He’s incredibly smart but he leads with his heart. Even when he's playing a man who is tough and hard-nosed, he's leading with his feeling. As an actor you feel that in your scenes with him.”
Graham has intrigued Paulson since she first read her autobiography years ago. “It was incredibly inspiring when I was young,” she says, “to fathom that a woman could be in such a powerful position. She was the first female publisher of a newspaper that size in our country’s history, all while dealing with the weight of family history, surviving as a widow and raising her children under a big spotlight.” Watching Streep personify Graham was a revelation. “Meryl is a vessel in a way. She's permeable. Anything she decides to do becomes tangible and real,” Paulson observes.
One of the biggest casting challenges was finding the right actor to undertake Daniel Ellsberg. He remains a figure seen by some as traitorous and to others as a hero of transparency. The real Ellsberg had many layers. He was graduate of Harvard, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, a Ph.D. in economics and a Pentagon official who spent two years in Vietnam before he began working at the Rand Corporation where he contributed to the study that became the Pentagon Papers – before blowing the whistle on that same study.
Taking on the role is Matthew Rhys, who is best known for playing a Soviet “sleeper agent” on the acclaimed television series The Americans. Rhys sees Ellsberg and Graham on similar paths, each compelled to act in risky, potentially law-breaking ways despite being upstanding citizens. “They were both forced into a situation where they had to make these enormous decisions, with great consequences as to what would happen to vast numbers of people, and also to themselves. Both were pioneers made in the moment,” he observes.
Ellsberg could no longer live at peace with what he knew to be true about the war believes Rhys. “The extent of the lying that was going on to Congress and especially to the American people bothered him deeply. There’s one very simple moment in the movie when Ellsberg is asked about Vietnam and he says ‘everything is still the same.’ In other words, this is an unwinnable war and that never changed. He had the courage to say that and to say that what several Presidents have done in Vietnam is wrong for the country.”
A great pleasure of the role was traveling to California to spend time with Ellsberg. Rhys knew he didn’t want to try to imitate the man, but he did get a deeper sense of his essence. “Meeting Ellsberg was incredible because I discovered he’s more of a force than I realized. I wasn’t expecting this whirlwind encyclopedia of information and knowledge of every administration since then until now. He is incredibly smart and there is still an absolute fire burning in him,” he observes.
He also had one big question for Ellsberg: “I asked him, during this period when you were the subject of an FBI manhunt, were you scared? And he said: ‘No, I wasn’t, because I had such conviction in what I was doing.’ And that was a real key into which he was. He wasn't a panicked, angst-ridden guy cowering in a motel. He was sure about what he was doing and ready to sacrifice so that the truth could prevail.”
Portraying New York Times managing editor, Abe Rosenthal—a Pulitzer Prize winner who worked for the paper for 56 years—is Michael Stuhlbarg, also seen this year in Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water (and who worked with Spielberg in Lincoln). Stuhlbarg notes that Rosenthal started the ball rolling by taking the biggest risk of all. “From what I’ve read about Mr. Rosenthal, there was never any question in his mind that he would publish the Papers, but he had quite a fight on his hands amongst all the other people who were quite concerned about it doing damage to the paper’s reputation, among other things,” he explains.
Rosenthal certainly knew the leadership at The Washington Post, but he may not have yet seen them as the competition. “I don’t think Abe necessarily felt like The Post was anything more than a little family paper at the time, and they hadn't necessarily up till that point proved they were more than that,” Stuhlbarg continues. “He and Kay Graham would occasionally have a meal together, because they were in the same business, but I don’t think Abe felt threatened by her.”
It thrilled Stuhlbarg to portray a news legend. “As I understand it, Rosenthal was very forthright and after the highest level of journalism. We only see glimpses of him, but it was fun to try to represent some of the energy he was known for. It was in his DNA being a reporter, and he took his responsibilities seriously.”
Rosenthal’s son, the journalist Andy Rosenthal, visited the set of The Post and lent his insights. He explains the role his father played: “The decision to publish the Pentagon Papers was a huge one, because The Times knew that it was going to have an immense impact. They were confident they were not harming national security in that it was all historical information; it wasn’t about strategy, tactics or troop movements. The publisher of The Times, Arthur Sulzberger, was a retired marine and the idea of publishing all these secret documents was extremely unnerving for him. But his editors, led by my father, were persuasive. In the end, he decided to do it against the advice of their lawyers. And the impact was instantaneous … In terms of our understanding of what happened in Vietnam it was incredibly important. In terms of journalism, it was even more important, because it set these ground rules, although there’s still a lot of tension about them.”
He also recalls the prevailing atmosphere of fear among all involved, including their families: “I remember even though I was 15 and I didn’t really know everything that was going on, my father would come home and talk about it and we were really afraid that he would end up in prison.”
The look and feel of the atmosphere on set jibed with Rosenthal’s memories of the period and especially the people involved. “Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep did a great job giving the flavor of what these two people were actually like,” he says. “I was swept away by the whole thing.”
Bradley Whitford, a two-time Emmy winner for his roles in The West Wing and Transparent, plays one of the few characters in The Post not directly based on a real person: Arthur Parsons, an amalgam of several people then preparing The Washington Post for its initial IPO. In the film, it is Parsons who takes up the opposing argument to protect the newspaper’s future by not publishing the Pentagon Papers. For Parsons, to publish would be to play Russian roulette with the future of everyone working for the newspaper.
Explains Whitford: “Parsons believes Graham will be putting at risk all of the people who work at The Post – and also risk all the potentially important stories that they could do down the line. Even worse, she will be taking this risk right at the very moment of the company’s IPO. So Parsons is in a tough position. He needs to let Graham and Bradlee know what the potential outcome is, even if it is hard for them to hear.”
Reflecting the prevailing attitudes of the time, Parsons is also a man not entirely comfortable around powerful women. Notes Whitford: “It was unusual in 1971 for someone like Arthur Parsons to be confronted by a woman who is in charge and has the final say – and that is a very interesting attitude to play with.”
Parsons may be the film’s clearest antagonist, but it is also his vehemence against publishing that impels Graham to take her stand. “There is a reluctance, given where Kay comes from, to make this decision but that’s part of what makes her work so wonderfully as the hero of the movie,” says Whitford. “She’s a reluctant hero who then, under pressure, makes just about the bravest choice a person can make.”
The World of The Post
The dynamism of The Post emerges not only out of the mounting tension of its characters. It is equally forged by the film’s pacing and intent focus on the visual details of its world of 1970s powerbrokers and reporters—which each tell their own piece of the story. Spielberg worked with a crack team, most of whom he has been collaborating with for decades, to conjure the atmosphere. Vital to that team is Janusz Kaminski, his trusted cinematographer and an accomplished filmmaker in his own right (and a two-time Oscar® winner for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan).
“Janusz is a painter with light and the way that he and Steven work together is wonderful,” says Pascal. “One of his ideas was to show that Kay was the one woman in a room filled with men and that story is being told visually in every scene.”
The pair also focused on reflective surfaces throughout. “This movie is about reflecting back on our history,” says Krieger, “so Janusz and Steven worked together to highlight reflections, for example, in the ceiling of the newsroom or even in a phone booth, which becomes part of the storytelling.”
Kaminski and Spielberg chose to shoot on 35mm film, a nod back to 70s filmmaking but also a way of enlivening the richness of every detail. “I wanted with Janusz to make the film look like it was not a contemporary film but rather shot in the early 1970s,” says Spielberg. “It was all about color temperature and palette and coordinating Janusz’s lighting with Ann Roth’s brilliant costumes.”
Spielberg also relished the freedom of shooting a character-focused drama after a special effects epic, trading the intricate storyboarding that such films demand for a more free-form vision. “In terms of where we put the camera, I kind of played it by ear, which was really fun for me. I love to do that when I can,” he says.
Says Meryl Streep: “The look of this film makes what happens in offices and dinner parties feel compelling and so propulsive you can’t wait to see what happens next. Janusz and Steven work seamlessly. They see with the same pair of eyes.”
The task of re-creating The Washington Post’s offices, where much of the film’s action unfolds, fell to two-time Oscar®-winning production designer, Rick Carter. He brought cast and crew right into the milieu. “You just couldn’t believe the realism of his set,” says Pascal. “It even seemed to have cigarette butts from 1971. Yet nothing was overdone. Sometimes you see period movies in which the details become more important than the storytelling but everything Rick does is always in service of the movie.”
For Spielberg, so engrossed in the minute details of production, it was seeing others react that brought it all home. “I remember I invited a friend of mine who still works for The Washington Post, Richard Cohen, to come watch us shoot, and he showed up on the set, walked onto the newsroom floor, looked around and immediately his eyes filled with tears. He said, ‘this is the place.’”
Carter threw himself into research to depict an era of publishing entirely unlike our own – an era in which newsrooms had not a single computer, lined instead with clacking typewriters and corded telephones. While film-lovers might remember the bustling innards of The Washington Post from All The President’s Men, Carter soon learned that The Post offices were located in an entirely different building with different décor in 1971. He poured over the few archival photographs that still exist.
“We found about 10 photographs to guide us but we didn’t have photos that would show everything, so it’s partly an impression of what it would have been like. One thing we saw is that The Post newsroom at that time was a vast, transparent place,” he describes. “It was completely open—a hodge-podge of desks, typewriters, Rolodexes, telephones, carbon copies of stories everywhere, ashtrays. It looked to me very much like the end of one era and the beginning of another, which in a way is what the movie is about.”
Carter had a clear aim in his design: “I wanted to create a room where the actors could immerse themselves, right away, in the reality of a 1971 newsroom. Whenever I work with Steven, what I try to design for him is a kind of a backlot mentality where everywhere that he looks, he can be in the world of the story.”
The first challenge was searching for a suitable locale to serve as the frame for his work. Ultimately, Carter scouted out an empty office building in White Plains, NY about to be turned into luxury condos. Just before the renovation, the film production moved in and used the blank slate to forge the world of The Post. “It gave us a place where we could bring in all the detail necessary,” Carter says.
For Carter, the individual offices are an indelible part of each character. At the center of the action is the all-seeing hub of Bradlee’s editorial office. “Ben works in an utterly transparent room,” notes Carter. “It’s like he's the ship's captain, looking out over all of the people working with him. I found that Tom really responded to being able to see everyone in the newsroom. And Janusz found creative ways to light everything so that Bradlee’s world feels personal yet you’re also taking in all that’s going on around him.”
Just as their personalities contrasted, so too do the offices of Bradlee and Graham. Says Carter: “Rather than being out in the open like Ben, Kay’s office was hidden away in the executive suite. We had documentation from the 60 Minutes stories and a few photos. Ben and Kay were quite different, but an important aspect to me was to show how they complemented each other, so you see them coming together in the newsroom. They realize that some things they can't do on their own, they can do better together.”
The Mid-century typewriters were a special thrill for Tom Hanks who has an obsession with vintage typewriters. “The sound of them is especially fantastic,” he notes. “Newsrooms don’t sound that way anymore. You really get the essence of a newsroom at that time with that gorgeous white noise in the background.” The newsroom felt so real that Hanks began to literally inhabit it. “I took naps on the couch there like Ben Bradlee did,” he confesses. “Rick Carter is a genius at creating sets that feel alive like that.”
Following Carter’s mandate to fill the environs with the remains of a real working newspaper, prop master Diana Burton hunted down many authentic artifacts, including a word-for-word copy of the Pentagon Papers, which she was able to explore in person in Washington, D.C. “The Papers are one of the stars of the picture,” Burton notes, “so we had to have something close to authentic. We made one full set: 44 volumes, 7,700 pages in all. I went down to the National Archives and actually handled them, so I was able feel the kind of paper they were printed on so what we made was historically correct.”
Another extraordinary prop Burton scoured the earth for was the Xerox machine Daniel Ellsberg uses to stealthily copy the papers in a nearby advertising agency. “As if I was a journalist, I used three sources to confirm the actual machine used, a Xerox 914. Even then it wasn’t easy to find,” notes Burton. “We located one at the Xerox Museum in Rochester. They lent it to us with a warning: we couldn’t plug it in or it would burn up. So we had to rig the light and the action of the paper coming out but it was a spectacular find.”
Carter’s designs and Burton’s props for The Post transported those who had been there in haunting ways. “My first day on set was almost an out of body experience,” Post veteran Steve Coll recalls. “With all the extras looking like 1970s reporters, all the black phones, all the cigarette smoke lingering in the air it was so real. The appetite of these filmmakers for accuracy was impressive.”
The team also recreated the circa-1971 New York Times building. Carter’s team used the General Society of Mechanics and Trades building on Exchange Place to forge The Times’ façade, as well as the secret newsroom where Abe Rosenthal edited the first Pentagon Papers story. Carter took one look at the magnificent globes flanking the General Society’s entrance and was sold. “The globes are part of the iconography of The Times,” Carter says. “They emanate light, and that’s a perfect metaphor for what the news should be.”
After fitting five additional globes onto the façade, painting The Times logo typeface onto the opaque glass, and attaching The Times plaque to the facing wall, the old building came to life. The result was so time-transporting that the current New York Times even published a story about the transformation.
Carter also toured Graham and Bradlee’s former Georgetown residences to get a sense of their layouts, which he recreated on soundstages at Brooklyn’s Steiner Studios. Other key locations include The New York Post’s Bronx printing presses, which stand in for the vintage presses of The Post, as well as the Brooklyn State Courthouse and Columbia University’s Low Library, which serve respectively as the Federal Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. Outside Low Library, Spielberg shot the emblematic moment when Graham and Bradlee emerge from the courthouse, where the Justices woukld eventually ruled 6-3 in their favor.
The printing press, outfitted with authentic, old school linotype machines, was a favorite for Streep. “Rick really knocked it out of the park by finding and bringing in all these old movable-type printing machines that no longer exist. It was thrilling to do the scene there with the real typesetters. It was like stepping back in time. It gave me the chills,” she says.
A wooded enclave near White Plains became the marine base in Hau Nghia Province, Vietnam, where military strategist Daniel Ellsberg first became disillusioned about the war’s reality, setting in motion his audacious actions. Spielberg and Kaminski approached the sequence with the intensity of a team that has recreated both World War I and II battles on screen with blistering authenticity.
For costume designer Ann Roth—a legend in her own right with a 6-decade career encompassing somewhere near 200 film and theatre credits and an Oscar®—similarly meticulous research went into every thread and button. “The main thing I took into consideration was that these characters are real people. So it was possible to see what they actually wore. We were able to do that because of the wealth of photos available,” Roth says.
Krieger says of Roth’s contribution: “She is a craftsperson of the highest caliber. She does her research and she figures out how to transform with clothes. She also really collaborates with actors, helping them to disappear into their characters. She did it flawlessly on this movie with a very large and broad range of characters.”
Roth and her team didn’t slavishly copy the existing photos but used them as inspiration, especially dressing Streep as Graham, whose demure style at times belied her growing leadership skills. After consulting such books as The Georgetown Set: Friends and Rivals in Cold War Washington by Gregg Herken, and Georgetown Ladies Social Club: Power, Passion and Politics in the Nation’s Capitol by C. David Heyman, Roth mixed her research with her artistic sensibilities and intuition, working closely with Streep. The outfits Streep wears – including Graham’s “retirement party” caftan, her suit at the board meeting, the dress she chooses for the stock exchange – are based in reality but bring something more.
Streep reflects on Roth’s work: “Ann is just a genius designer. I can’t even think how many films I’ve worked with her on, all the way back to Silkwood. For Katharine, we had a lot of archival material to draw upon but we also talked a lot about how to present her. She was very tall, which gave her a sort of patrician grace. She had a bearing that was intimidating to some people, even as self-conscious as she was. So we worked hard to get to that distinctive quality. I’m a shorty, so I had to sort of build it up a little bit to get that.”
When it came to dressing Hanks, Roth notes that in 1971 Bradlee didn't yet adhere to the dapper style for which he was later famed. “He was in a preppy mode at that time, more like his Harvard days. It was only later on, after Watergate, that he began to dress more like an English gentleman,” she explains.
Krieger adds: “I think Ann had a lot to do with how deeply Tom was able to inhabit Ben. Her clothing choices gave him some of that bravado. He walked and talked differently in her clothes.”
For Bradlee’s editorial staff, Roth had the benefit of a photo archive that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eugene Patterson, a character in the film, donated to Emory University. “We were able to see all the staff in exactly what they wore during this period. It was a tremendous help in researching the era so that everything was as realistic and authentic as possible, which is exactly what Steven wanted,” says Roth.
The cast took Roth’s costumes–and her knowledge of the era--into their toolboxes with great appreciation. Sums up Alison Brie: “Ann is a living legend and I think everyone on set kind of fell in love. She's someone who tells it like it is and she knows the 70s. Not only that, some of the stuff I was wearing were her own pieces from her closet. I wore a pair of her own shoes, and maybe even a dress that had been hers. Her costumes are not an approximation. These are real fashions and that means so much to an actor.”
After production wrapped, editor Michael Kahn and composer John Williams began their work stitching the story’s final structure together and setting its rhythms. This marks the 44th year of collaboration between Spielberg and Williams as well as their 29th project together. “John usually plays everything he's going to perform with the full orchestra on the piano for me first. But the timing was so crunched on this film, this is one of the few times I've gone to a John Williams scoring session having not heard a note,” Spielberg notes. “Yet, as usual, I loved every note. John brought a beautiful restraint to the score, but it is also tremendously strong musically when needed.”
Even before that, as principal photography came to a close, Spielberg made an emotional speech that honed in on what made The Post so special for him. “This is a true ensemble of actors, and I want to do it again,” Spielberg said, adding: “This has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my entire career.”
He also recognizes that what this ensemble conjured on the screen reflects a conversation already murmuring across America. “This is a very good time to explore the virtues of a free press, to engage in an honest conversation about what contributions the press at its most principled can make to our democracy,” Spielberg concludes.
ABOUT THE CAST
For almost 40 years MERYL STREEP (Katharine Graham), has portrayed an astonishing array of characters in a career that has cut its own unique path from the theater through film and television.
Streep was educated in the New Jersey public school system through high school, graduated cum laude from Vassar College, and received her MFA with honors from Yale University in 1975. She began her professional life on the New York stage, where she quickly established her signature versatility and verve as an actor. Within three years of graduation, she made her Broadway debut, won an Emmy for (Holocaust) and received her first Oscar nomination (The Deer Hunter). She has won three Academy Awards and in 2017, in a record that is unsurpassed, she earned a 20th Academy Award nomination for her role in Florence Foster Jenkins. Her performance earned her the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Actress, and Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations.
Streep has pursued her interest in the environment through her work with Mothers and Others, a consumer advocacy group that she co-founded in 1989. M&O worked for ten years to promote sustainable agriculture, establish new pesticide regulations, and ensure the availability of organic and sustainably grown local foods.
Streep also lends her efforts to Women for Women International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Donor Direct Action, Women in the World Foundation, and Partners in Health.
She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and has been accorded a Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government and an honorary César. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute, a 2008 honor from the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and the 2010 National Medal of Arts from President Obama. In 2011, Ms. Streep received a Kennedy Center Honor, and in 2014 the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She holds honorary doctorates from Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Dartmouth, and Indiana Universities, the University Of New Hampshire, Lafayette, Middlebury, and the Barnard College medal.
Her husband, artist Don Gummer, and she are the parents of a son and three daughters.
TOM HANKS (Ben Bradlee) is an award-winning actor, producer and director. One of only two actors in history to win back-to-back Best Actor Academy Awards®, he won his first Oscar® in 1994 for his moving portrayal of AIDS-stricken lawyer Andrew Beckett in Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia. The following year, he took home his second Oscar® for his unforgettable performance in the title role of Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump. He also won Golden Globe Awards for both films, as well as a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award® for the latter.
Hanks has also been honored with Academy Award® nominations for his performances in Penny Marshall’s Big, Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, and Robert Zemeckis’ Cast Away, also winning Golden Globes for Big and Cast Away.
Hanks was most recently seen in James Ponsoldt’s The Circle.
In 2013, Hanks starred in Academy Award® and Golden Globe nominated film Captain Phillips, for which he received SAG, Bafta and Golden Globe nominations as well as in AFI’s Movie of the Year Saving Mr. Banks with Emma Thompson.
His other feature credits include the Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachoski film Cloud Atlas, Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, the animated adventure The Polar Express, which he also executive produced and which reunited him with director Robert Zemeckis; the Coen brothers’ The Ladykillers; Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal, Catch Me If You Can and Bridge of Spies; Sam Mendes’ Road to Perdition; Frank Darabont’s The Green Mile; Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle; Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own; Ron Howard’s Apollo 13, The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, Splash, Hologram for a King and Inferno, Clint Eastwood’s Sully; and the computer-animated blockbusters Cars, Toy Story, Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3.
Hanks’ work on the big screen has translated to success on the small screen. Following Apollo 13, he executive produced and hosted the acclaimed HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, also directing one segment, and writing several others. His work on the miniseries brought him Emmy, Golden Globe and Producers Guild Awards, as well as an Emmy nomination for Best Director.
His collaboration with Steven Spielberg on Saving Private Ryan led to them executive producing the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, based on the book by Stephen Ambrose. Hanks also directed a segment and wrote another segment of the fact-based miniseries, which won Emmy and Golden Globe Awards for Best Miniseries. In addition, Hanks earned an Emmy Award for Best Director and an Emmy nomination for Best Writing, and received another Producers Guild Award for his work on the project.
In 2008, Hanks executive produced the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries John Adams, starring Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson. It won 13 Emmy Awards as well as a Golden Globe and a PGA Award. More recently, Hanks and Spielberg re-teamed for the award-winning HBO miniseries The Pacific, for which Hanks once again served as executive producer. The ten-part program won eight Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Miniseries, and brought Hanks his fourth PGA Award.
In 2012, Hanks executive produced the HBO political drama Game Change which was awarded Emmy and Golden Globes for Best Miniseries/Television Film as well as earning several other awards and nominations. In 2013, Hanks served as host, narrator and historical commentator for the two hour National Geographic television movie based on the best-selling book Killing Lincoln. In 2013, Hanks and Playtone produced the Emmy nominated CNN documentary series, The Sixties, and in 2014, the HBO miniseries, Olive Kitteridge, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Elizabeth Strout. In 2015, Olive Kitteridge won eight Emmy awards, including Outstanding Limited Series, three Critics' Choice Television Awards, a DGA award and a SAG award. In 2015, Hanks and Playtone produced The Seventies and in 2016, The Eighties.
In 1996, Hanks made his successful feature film writing and directing debut with That Thing You Do, in which he also starred. He more recently wrote, produced, directed and starred in Larry Crowne, with Julia Roberts. Under his and Gary Goetzman’s Playtone banner, they produced 2002’s smash hit romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding, with Hanks wife Rita Wilson. Other producing credits include Where the Wild Things Are, The Polar Express, The Ant Bully, Charlie Wilson’s War, Mamma Mia!, The Great Buck Howard, Starter for 10 and the HBO series Big Love.
In 2013, Hanks made his Broadway debut in Nora Ephron’s Lucky Guy. His performance earned him Drama Desk, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle, and Tony nominations.
In 2002, Hanks received the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He was later honored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center with the Chaplin Award in 2009. In 2014, Hanks received a Kennedy Center Honor.
Award winning actress SARAH PAULSON (Tony Bradlee) has built an impressive list of credits in film, television and on stage. Paulson's Emmy win for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie was earned for her portrayal of attorney Marcia Clark in the critically acclaimed mini-series The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Also for this role, Paulson received a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild award, a Critics Choice Award as well as a Television Critics Association award.
Upcoming, Paulson will be seen in Danny Strong’s Rebel in the Rye, Gary Ross’ Ocean’s 8 and will soon begin lensing Liz Garbus’s narrative-film Lost Girls.
Paulson appeared in the seventh installment of Ryan’s Murphy’s award winning television series, American Horror Story" and received four consecutive Emmy nominations for her roles in the franchise: Sally in AHS: Hotel; Bette and Dot Tattler, conjoined twins, in AHS: Freak Show; Cordelia Foxx in AHS: Coven; and Lana Winters in AHS: Asylum. Paulson has also earned two additional Critics Choice Awards for her roles in the anthology.
Paulson was seen in Alex Lehmann’s Blue Jay, Todd Haynes’ critically acclaimed Carol, Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave,” Jeff Nichols' Mud and Martha Marcy May Marlene alongside Elizabeth Olsen.
Paulson received her first Emmy nomination and second Golden Globe nomination for her role as Nicolle Wallace in HBO's critically acclaimed telefilm Game Change. Her additional film credits include The Spirit; Mary Harron's The Notorious Bettie Page; Down with Love What Women Want; The Other Sister and Diggers.
Paulson received her first Golden Globe nomination for her performance in Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. She made her return to the stage in 2013 in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Lanford Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning play Talley’s Folly. She previously starred on Broadway in the two-hander Collected Stories opposite Linda Lavin, and as Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, alongside Jessica Lange. On stage she also appeared opposite Alfred Molina and Annette Bening in Cherry Orchard, as well as in Tracy Letts’ critically acclaimed Killer Joe.
BOB ODENKIRK (Ben Bagdikian) is an Emmy® Award-winning comedy writer, producer, actor and New York Times bestselling author. For his work on Saturday Night Live, Odenkirk garnered an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program" in 1989. The "Motivational Speaker" sketch Odenkirk wrote for his friend Chris Farley, which originated at Second City in Chicago, was recently named by Rolling Stone magazine as the best SNL sketch of all time. In 1993, Odenkirk earned another Emmy Award for writing on The Ben Stiller Show.
In 2015, Odenkirk reprised the character he created in the hit drama Breaking Bad, playing the title role in AMC's Better Call Saul, which has earned him two Critics' Choice TV Awards and nominations for an Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Award. The third season of the acclaimed drama premiered on Monday, 1pril 10, 2017.
Odenkirk co-created and starred in Mr. Show with Bob and David, which ran on HBO for four years and has been called "the American Monty Python." As an actor he has brought many film and television characters to life, including "Stevie Grant" in The Larry Sanders Show, ex-porn star "Gil Bang" in Curb Your Enthusiasm, "Ross Grant" in Alexander Payne's acclaimed feature Nebraska, and "Bill Oswalt" on the FX series Fargo.
Over the years Odenkirk has been instrumental in helping emerging comedy writer/performers get their work on the air. He was an executive producer of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim's first Adult Swim series Tom Goes to the Mayor and was a consultant on their subsequent shows Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and Check it Out! with Dr. Steve Brule. In 2013, Odenkirk teamed up with the young comedy group The Birthday Boys to executive produce their sketch show on IFC, which ran for two seasons.
In 2016, Odenkirk was seen in the 4-part sketch show With Bob and David, which he starred in and executive produced with David Cross. He was most recently seen in Girlfriend’s Day for Netflix.
Odenkirk also co-wrote, along with David Cross and Brian Posehn, the New York Times bestseller Hollywood Said No! a collection of their unproduced screenplays. In October 2014, McSweeny’s published a book of Odenkirk's comedy writing titled, A Load of Hooey.
TRACY LETTS (Fritz Beebe) is an American playwright, screenwriter and actor who received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play August: Osage County and a Tony Award for his portrayal of George in the revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? He has written the screenplays of three films adapted from his own plays: Bug and Killer Joe, both directed by William Friedkin, and August: Osage County, directed by John Wells.
Later this this year, Tracy will appear in Steven Spielberg’s The Post alongside Tom Hanks, Allison Brie, Meryl Streep, Sarah Paulson, and his wife, Carrie Coon. The film, was selected as the “Best Film of 2017” by the National Board of Review.
Most recently, Letts starred as Saoirse Ronan’s father in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. The film also starred Laurie Metcalf, Lucas Hedges and Beanie Feldstein. The film was released by A24 on November 3rd and broke Rotten Tomatoes records with 100% positive reviews, making it the best-reviewed movie to date on the site. Lady Bird was selected as one of the “Top Ten Films of 2017” by the National Board of Review and was nominated for an International Press Academy Satellite Award.
Letts was also seen alongside Debra Winger in The Lovers which follows a married couple (Letts and Winger) who, amid an impending divorce, find themselves falling in love again. The film was directed by Azazel Jacobs and co-starred Aidan Gillen and Melora Walters. The Lovers was released by A24 in May 2017 and was nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award for “Best Screenplay,” as well as for “Best Film” at the London Film Festival.
Also in 2017, Tracy lent his voice to Amazon Studio’s just-out Comrade Detective.
On the small screen, Letts also can be seen starring in HBO’s Divorce alongside Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, Molly Shannon and Talia Balsam. The show was renewed for a second season and will premiere on HBO on January 14, 2018.
In addition to his acting credits, Tracy is a renowned playwright. Tracy is currently preparing and rehearsing his new play The Minutes, produced by Scott Rudin. The play premiered in Chicago on November 2017 to rave reviews, prior to its Broadway transfer in March 2018.
Letts was also seen alongside Rebecca Hall in Antoni Campos’ biographical drama Christine which premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and was released on October 14, 2016. The film follows Christine Chubbock (Hall) who committed suicide on air in 1974 as she struggles with depression and frustrations in trying to advance her career.
Letts co-starred opposite Logan Lerman in Indignation, James Schamus’ directorial debut based on the Philip Roth novel of the same name. He appeared in the 2015 comedy-drama The Big Short directed by Adam McKay and based on the book: The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis. The film was nominated for five academy awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Bale, and Best Adapted Screenplay, winning the last.
In 2013 and 2014, during Seasons three and four of Showtime’s hit Homeland, Letts played CIA Director Andrew Lockhart. He was nominated, with the rest of the cast, for an “Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series” award from SAG in 2013.
Tracy resides in Chicago with his wife, Carrie Coon and is an active member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company.
BRADLEY WHITFORD (Arthur Parsons), a classically trained stage actor, gained overnight fame as the sarcastic yet vulnerable, Josh Lyman, on NBC’s The West Wing.
He was most recently seen starring in the Blumhouse horror-thriller, Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele, which premiered to rave reviews at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. He also appeared in Megan Leavey opposite Kate Mara and Edie Falco.
Upcoming is Warner Brothers and Legendary Entertainment’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, in which he stars alongside Millie Bobby Brown, Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga. Additionally, Whitford recently wrapped production on: A Happening of Monumental Proportions, the directorial debut of Judy Greer which features an ensemble cast including Jennifer Garner, Allison Janney, Common, and Anders Holm; an independent film, Three Christs, the Jon Avnet-directed adaptation of the Milton Rokeach book The Three Christs of Ypsilanti; and Unicorn Store, Brie Larson’s directorial debut.
Whitford recently joined director Todd Robinson’s political drama, The Last Full Measure, alongside Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan, Christopher Plummer and William Hurt.
Last year, Whitford was seen in the film, Other People, written and directed by SNL writer, Chris Kelly, co-starring Jesse Plemons, Molly Shannon, Zach Woods, and June Squib. The film won the “Grand Jury” prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and earned four Independent Spirit Award nominations this year. Prior to that, he starred in HBO’s Lyndon B. Johnson biopic, All The Way, opposite Brian Cranston.
Whitford’s additional film credits include Sony Pictures Classic’s Hank Williams biopic, I Saw The Light, Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks, The Cabin in the Woods, the gritty true-crime drama An American Crime, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Little Manhattan, Kate and Leopold, The Muse, Bicentennial Man, Scent of a Woman, A Perfect World, Philadelphia, The Client, My Life, Red Corner, Presumed Innocent and My Fellow Americans.
On the small screen, Whitford has a recurring role in the award-winning comedy series, Transparent, for which he won both a 2015 Primetime Emmy Award and a Television Critics’ Choice Award for “Best Guest Performer in a Comedy Series.” Last year, he was featured in an episode of National Geographic’s Years of Living Dangerously.
Additional television credits include Chicago Justice, Mom, Better Things, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Happyish, Trophy Wife, The Good Guys, Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, ER, The X-Files and NYPD Blue. His performance on The West Wing earned him a 2001 Emmy Award as well as Golden Globe Award nominations in 2001 and 2002.
Growing up in Wisconsin, Whitford studied theater and English literature at Wesleyan University and attended the Juilliard Theater Center. Whitford received rave reviews for his return to the stage in the Broadway production of Boeing, Boeing opposite Mark Rylance and Christine Baranski. He appeared on Broadway in Aaron Sorkin’s A Few Good Men, Measure for Measure at Lincoln Center Theater, and the title role in Coriolanus at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C.. Off-Broadway he starred opposite Kathy Bates Curse of the Starving Class and Three Days of Rain at the Manhattan Theatre Club.
BRUCE GREENWOOD (Robert McNamara) was seen most recently in Ryan Murphy’s hit series American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson He is currently appearing in Spectral, a sci-fi thriller opposite James Badge Dale and Emily Mortimer and recently finished filming Gerald’s Game, an adaptation of the Stephen King 1992 bestselling novel directed by Mike Flanagan from a script he wrote with Jeff Howard, and Kodachrome.
Greenwood will soon be seen in Dirty Dancing, ABC’s three-hour musical television event that follows in the footsteps of the 1987 hit film.
He currently can be seen in Gold, opposite Matthew McConaughey for director Stephen Gaghan, and recently portrayed CBS News President Andrew Heyward in Truth, Jamie Vanderbilt’s newsroom drama starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford.
In 2015, Bruce had a recurring role on the critically acclaimed TV drama Mad Men playing the love interest of Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) in the show’s final season. In 2014 starred in Andrew Niccol’s military drama-thriller Good Kill opposite Ethan Hawke, Elephant Song and Endless Love and reprised his role as Captain Christopher Pike in the Paramount Pictures blockbuster Star Trek: Into the Darkness.
Greenwood’s other credits include five films for acclaimed Canadian director Atom Egoyan: Queen of the Night, Devil’s Knot, Exotica. The Sweet Hereafter, and Ararat, as well as Flight, The Place Beyond the Pines, Dinner for Schmucks, Mao’s Last Dancer, National Treasure and I’m Not There
He is well known for his outstanding portrayal of President John F. Kennedy in the drama Thirteen Days, which earned Greenwood a Golden Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor. In 2005 he starred opposite Philip Seymour as Truman Capote’s partner, writer Jack Dunphy, in Capote which earned him a Screen Actors Guild Nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. In 2006, he appeared in Tony Scott’s thriller Déjà vu.
Among Greenwood’s earlier films are I, Robot, Being Julia, Double Jeopardy, Meeks Cutoff, Barney’s Version, Donovan’s Echo, Firehouse Dog, Hollywood Homicide, The World’s Fastest Indian, Eight Below, Rules of Engagement, Racing Stripes, Here on Earth, The Lost Son, Thick as Thieves, Passenger 57 and Wild Orchid.
Greenwood also enjoys a diverse and successful career in television, including the ABC Horror/Drama series The River, the Hallmark Hall of Fame holiday movie A Dog Named Christmas,” and the David Milch HBO series John from Cincinnati. Other television credits include a regular role on St. Elsewhere, The Larry Sanders Show and The Magnificent Ambersons.
Welsh-born MATTHEW RHYS (Daniel Ellsberg) is best known for his Emmy-nominated role as Philip Jennings in the FX drama, The Americans. He also starred as Kevin Walker in the ABC series Brothers & Sisters and as Dylan Thomas in The Edge of Love. Rhys was born and grew up in Cardiff and educated at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. While studying at RADA he appeared in the BBC series Back-Up and House of America, and starred in the Welsh language film Bydd yn Wrol (Be Brave.)
Rhys also starred in the New Zealand television drama Greenstone. He appeared in Julie Taymor’s Titus, Whatever Happened to Harold Smith, Taliesin Jones and Very Annie Mary. He also starred in the TV series Metropolis and appeared on London’s West End opposite Kathleen Turner in stage adaptation of the film The Graduate. Other credits include The Abduction Club, Tabloid, The Lost World, Patagonia and the long running TV series, Columbo.
In 2012, Rhys appeared in a BBC adaptation of Dickens’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood. That same year he appeared Off-Broadway in New York in a revival of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger. Other stage roles include Romeo and Juliet at Cardiff’s New Theatre, King Lear with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and MacBeth at the Young Vic.
Recent films include Burnt, En mai, fais ce qu’il plait and Jungle Book.
ALISON BRIE (Lally Graham Weymouth) stars in the Netflix comedy drama GLOW. She appeared in the sitcom Community and in the long-running TV drama Mad Men. She is the voice of a character on the animated series BoJack Horseman.
Brie has appeared in numerous films including Scream 4, The Kings of Summer, The Five-Year Engagement, The LEGO Movie, Get Hard, Sleeping with Other People and How to Be Single. Other TV credits include American Dad, Comedy Bang! Bang! High School USA and Teachers. She also appeared on the ITV British Series, Dr. Thorne.
Brie was born in Hollywood, California and graduated from the California Institute of the Arts with a BA. She also studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
CARRIE COON (Meg Greenfield) is one of Hollywood’s most exciting emerging talents. This year, Coon made history, receiving the first ever double nomination at the TCA Awards for Individual Achievement in Drama for her recent work in the third installment of FX’s Fargo starring opposite Ewan McGregor, and for her work in the third and final season of the HBO series The Leftovers as ‘Nora Durst’ opposite Justin Theroux. Coon can next be seen alongside Holly Hunter in Strange Weather and Steve McQueen’s heist thriller Widows.
Earlier this year, Coon completed lensing on Jonathan and Josh Baker’s Kin alongside Zoe Kravitz, James Franco and Dennis Quaid. Prior to that, she lensed Karen Moncrieff’s The Keeping Hours opposite Lee Pace, as well as Christian Papierniak’s Izzy Gets The F*Ck Across Town opposite Haley Joel Osment and Alia Shawkat. Both films premiered at the 2017 Los Angeles Film Festival.
Coon’s breakout role was in the highly critically acclaimed film Gone Girl opposite Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and Neil Patrick Harris.. On television, Coon’s credits include Intelligence, Ironside, Law And Order: SVU and The Playboy Club.
On stage, Coon’s regional credits include Our Town and Anna Christie at The Madison Repertory Theatre, four seasons with American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin, and Reasons to be Pretty and Blackbird with Renaissance Theaterworks,
Coon made her Chicago debut in Magnolia at the Goodman Theater, directed by Anna Shapiro, followed by The Girl in the Yellow Dress at Next Theatre and Tom Stoppard’a The Real Thing at Writers Theatre. In 2013, after performing in Three Sisters and The March at the renowned Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, Coon reprised the role of Honey in their production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on Broadway, for which she received a Tony Award nomination for Featured Actress as well as a Theater World award.
More recently in 2015, Coon had her off-Broadway debut as Louise in Placebo at Playwrights Horizons, and in 2016, she returned to Steppenwolf in Chicago where she starred as the title role in Mary Page Marlowe.
Coon’s regional theater credits include Our Town and Anna Christie at The Madison Repertory Theatre, four seasons with American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin, and Reasons to be Pretty and Blackbird with Renaissance Theaterworks,
Emmy Award winner and Grammy Award nominee DAVID CROSS (Howard Simons) is an inventive performer, writer, and producer on stage and screens both big and small.
Named one of the Top 100 Stand-Up Comedians of All Time by Comedy Central, Cross last toured the world with Make America Great Again! The tour spawned a Netflix special which premiered in August 2016, and a Grammy-nominated CD of the same name. Cross had last toured in 2009 with a solo stand-up show in support of his New York Times Bestseller, I Drink for a Reason. That hugely successful comedy show was filmed at Boston's Wilbur Theater for a special, entitled Bigger and Blackerer, which premiered on EPIX in April 2010 before being released on CD and DVD. His previous comedy special, David Cross: The Pride is Back, aired on HBO in 1999, and was named one of the 25 best stand-up comedy specials and concert films of all time by Rolling Stone in July 2015.
Cross has released two other comedy albums – the Grammy Award- nominated, “Shut Up You Fucking Baby” and “It's Not Funny.” In 2003 he released the DVD, Let America Laugh, a documentary film of his groundbreaking stand up tour of alternative, indie rock clubs.
He recently wrapped production on Bliss. Last year, IFC premiered the long-awaited third season of the comedy Todd Margaret, created by and starring Cross as an ill-equipped American who finds himself running the London sales office of the energy drink company for which he works.
Cross reteamed with his Mr. Show collaborator and co-creator, Bob Odenkirk, to create Mr. Show with Bob and David, a four-episode revamp of the iconic sketch comedy series, which premiered November 2015 on Netflix. In September 2013, David Cross and Bob Odenkirk released the book, Hollywood Said No! Orphaned Film Scripts, Bastard Scenes, and Abandoned Darlings from the Creators of Mr. Show.
In 2014, Cross released the indie film Hits, which he wrote and directed. He appeared in the independent features, Kill Your Darlings, and the ‘dramedy’ It's a Disaster. Other film credits include Abel, Year One, Christopher Guest’s Waiting for Guffman, Men in Black and Men in Black II, Ghost World, Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Pitch Perfect 2, I’m Not There, and provided his vocal talents for several animated films, including Megamind, the Kung Fu Panda series and Curious George.
On television, Cross reprised his beloved role as Dr. Tobias Fünke on the fourth season of Arrested Development on Netflix, which will begin filming its long-awaited fifth season this summer. Cross was twice-nominated as part of the Arrested Development ensemble cast for a Screen Actors Guild Award. He will next be seen in the third season of Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, reprising his guest arc as lawyer Russ Snyder.
Cross’s introduction to the TV scene came with The Ben Stiller Show, where Cross honed his comedy writing skills and shared a 1993 Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Writing in a Variety or Music Program.
The original Mr. Show with Bob and David received three Emmy Award nominations for both Writing and Music & Lyrics. Cross also served as a writer and contributor for Tenacious D. He also wrote, produced and starred in the Comedy Central animated series Freak Show, which he co-created with H. Jon Benjamin.
JESSE PLEMONS (Roger Clark) is best known for his role Landry Clarke in the TV series Friday Night Lights, a natural fit, as Plemons played football in high school. He’s also known for his roles as Todd Alquist in the award-winning crime series Breaking Bad and as Ed Blumquist in the second season of the FX series Fargo. Texas born, Plemons began acting as a youth in the films Varsity Blues, All the Pretty Horses, Like Mike and Flyboys as well as guest appearances on the TV series, Judging Amy, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Grey’s Anatomy and recently HBO’s Olive Kitteridge among many other TV roles.
More recent film credits include Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, Scott Cooper’s Black Mass and Stephen Frears The Program. Next up Plemons will appear in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman.
MICHAEL STUHLBARG (Abe Rosenthal) stars in Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name and Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water. He also plays a lead opposite Ewan MacGregor on TV’s Fargo. His most film credits include Miss Sloane, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, Trumbo, Danny Boyle’s, Steve Jobs, Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Hitchcock, Pawn Sacrifice, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo.
In 2008, Stuhlbarg starred in the Coen brothers’A Serious Man. He was nominated for a Golden Globe and received the Robert Altman Award (shared with the Coens) at the Independent Spirit Awards for his performance. Among his many other film credits include Afterschool, Cold Souls, Body of Lies, The Grey Zone and A Price Above Rubies.
Stuhlbarg is familiar to television viewers for his recurring role on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire—he and the cast were honored with a SAG Award for Best Ensemble in a Drama Series. The actor has also guest- starred on such series as Ugly Betty, Damages and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and in the telefilms The Hunley and PBS’ Alexander Hamilton.
Michael is also an established stage actor, and for his work in the Broadway production of Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman, he was nominated for a Tony Award and received a Drama Desk Award. His additional Broadway credits include roles in The Invention of Love, Cabaret, Taking Sides, Saint Joan, Timon of Athens, The Government Inspector and Three Men on a Horse.
Off-Broadway, Stuhlbarg was seen in Hamlet, The Voysey Inheritance (for which he received an Obie Award, a Callaway Award and a Lucille Lortel Award nomination), Twelfth Night, The Winter’s Tale, A Dybbuk, Richard II, Woyzeck and many 0ther productions. Stuhlbarg is a B.F.A. graduate of the Juilliard School, and is a member of theLAByrinth Theater Company.
ZACH WOODS (Tony Essaye) is an actor/comedian and co-star of the HBO comedy series Silicon Valley. He was a regular on the NBC series The Office and has also appeared on HBO’s Veep and USA’s Playing House.
A native of New Jersey, Woods began performing at age 16 with an improv group The Upright Citizens’ Brigade and the improv group The Stepfathers.
Woods also appeared on television in The League, Arrested Development and The Good Wife. Film appearances include The Loop, The Other Guys, Spy, Ghostbusters and Mascots.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
STEVEN SPIELBERG (Director/Producer), one of the industry’s most successful and influential filmmakers, is Chairman of Amblin Partners. Formed in 2015, Spielberg leads the content creation company in partnership with Participant Media, Reliance Entertainment, entertainment One, Alibaba Pictures and Universal Pictures.
Spielberg is also, collectively, the top-grossing director of all time, having helmed such blockbusters as Jaws, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, the Indiana Jones franchise, and Jurassic Park. Among his myriad honors, he is a three-time Academy Award® winner.
Spielberg took home his first two Oscars®, for Best Director and Best Picture, for the internationally lauded Schindler’s List, which received a total of seven Oscars®. The film was also named the Best Picture of 1993 by many of the major critics organizations, in addition to winning seven BAFTA Awards and three Golden Globe Awards, both including Best Picture and Director. Spielberg also won the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award for his work on the film.
Spielberg won his third Academy Award®, for Best Director, for the World War II drama Saving Private Ryan, which was the highest-grossing release (domestically) of 1998. It was also one of the year’s most honored films, earning four additional Oscars®, as well as two Golden Globe Awards, for Best Picture – Drama and Best Director, and numerous critics groups awards in the same categories. Spielberg also won another DGA Award, and shared a Producers Guild of America (PGA) Award with the film’s other producers. That same year, the PGA also presented Spielberg with the prestigious Milestone Award for his historic contribution to the motion picture industry.
He has also earned Academy Award® nominations for Best Director for Lincoln, Munich, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Additionally, he earned DGA Award nominations for those films, as well as Amistad, Empire of the Sun, The Color Purple and Jaws. With eleven to date, Spielberg has been honored by his peers with more DGA Award nominations than any other director. In 2000, he received the DGA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He is also the recipient of the Irving G. Thalberg Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Hollywood Foreign Press’s Cecil B. DeMille Award, the Kennedy Center Honor, and numerous other career tributes.
In 2012, Spielberg directed Academy Award winner Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, with a screenplay by Tony Kushner. The DreamWorks Pictures/Twentieth Century Fox film, in association with Participant Media, garnered 12 Academy Award nominations and earned $275 million worldwide. The film won two Oscars, including Daniel Day-Lewis’ third Oscar for Best Actor playing the iconic 16th President, as well as Best Production Design.
Spielberg’s 2015 dramatic thriller Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks received six Academy Award® nominations including Best Picture with Mark Rylance winning for Best Supporting Actor. That same year, he was also an executive producer on Jurassic World, which earned over $1.6 billion worldwide. Directed by Colin Trevorrow and starring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, it was the fourth film in the Jurassic series. A follow-up to the blockbuster, directed by J.A. Bayona, will be released on June 22, 2018.
Following The Post, he has Ready Player One based on the popular science-fiction novel by Ernest Cline which will be released in theaters on March 30, 2018.
Spielberg’s career began with the 1968 short film Amblin, which led to him becoming the youngest director ever signed to a long-term studio deal. He directed episodes of such TV shows as Night Gallery, Marcus Welby, M.D. and Columbo, and gained special attention for his 1971 telefilm Duel. Three years later, he made his feature film directorial debut on The Sugarland Express, from a screenplay he co-wrote. His next film was Jaws, which was the first film to break the $100 million mark at the box office.
In 1984, Spielberg formed his own production company, Amblin Entertainment. Under the Amblin Entertainment banner, he served as producer or executive producer on such hits as Gremlins, Goonies, Back to the Future I, II, and III, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, An American Tail, Twister, The Mask of Zorro and the Men in Black films. In 1994, Spielberg partnered with Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen to form the original DreamWorks Studios. The studio enjoyed both critical and commercial successes, including three consecutive Best Picture Academy Award® winners: American Beauty, Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind. In its history, DreamWorks has also produced or co-produced a wide range of features, including the Transformers blockbusters, Clint Eastwood’s World War II dramas Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, the latter earning a Best Picture Oscar® nomination, Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers, and The Ring, to name only a few. Under the DreamWorks banner, Spielberg also directed such films as War of the Worlds, Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can and A.I. Artificial Intelligence.
Spielberg has not limited his success to the big screen. He was an executive producer on the long-running Emmy-winning TV drama E.R. produced by his Amblin Entertainment company and Warner Bros. Television for NBC. On the heels of their experience on Saving Private Ryan, he and Tom Hanks teamed to executive produce the 2001 HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, based on Stephen Ambrose’s book about a U.S. Army unit in Europe in World War II. Among its many awards, the project won both Emmy and Golden Globe Awards for Outstanding Miniseries. He and Hanks more recently reunited to executive produce the acclaimed 2010 HBO miniseries The Pacific, this time focusing on the Marines in WWII’s Pacific theatre. The Pacific won eight Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Miniseries.
Among the shows Spielberg also executive produced were the Emmy-winning Sci-Fi Channel miniseries Taken, the TNT miniseries Into the West, the Showtime series The United States of Tara, NBC’s Smash, TNT’s Falling Skies, as well as CBS’ Under the Dome and Extant. He was also executive producer on the HBO Films’ movie All The Way starring Emmy winner Bryan Cranston and the Netflix docuseries Five Came Back. He is currently executive producer on CBS’s Bull which was renewed for a second season. His Amblin Television is a producer of FX’s The Americans, which has received several Emmy nominations including two wins for Margo Martindale for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. The series also won a Peabody Award in 2015.
Apart from his filmmaking work, Spielberg has also devoted his time and resources to many philanthropic causes. He established The Righteous Persons Foundation using all his profits from Schindler’s List. He also founded the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which in 2006 became the USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education. The Institute has recorded more than 53,000 interviews with survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides and is dedicated to making the testimonies a compelling voice for education and action. Additionally, Spielberg is the Chairman Emeritus of the Starlight Children’s Foundation.
LIZ HANNAH (Screenwriter and Co-Producer) Originally from New York, Liz came to Los Angeles to attend graduate school at the prestigious AFI. After graduating with an MFA in Producing, Liz spent the next few years working in development. Since leaving to write full time, Liz has found success in both features and TV. Her screenplay for The Post was ranked second on the 2016 Black List. It is her first produced screenplay.
JOSH SINGER (Screenwriter and Executive Producer) received an Academy Award® for his screenplay of Spotlight, which won the Oscar for Best Picture of the Year. Singer has worked as writer and editor on the hit TV series The West Wing and also wrote scripts for Law&Order: Special Victims Unit, Lie to Me and the Fox sci-fi series Fringe.
Singer graduated magna cum laude from Yale University and worked for a while in TV for the company that produced Sesame Street. He also received degrees from Harvard Law and Business Schools. He is currently working on a screenplay First Man for director Damien Chazelle.
AMY PASCAL (Producer) is the Founder and CEO of Pascal Pictures, a film and television production company based at SONY. In addition to this summer’s smash hit Spider-Man: Homecoming, on which Pascal served as a producer, the company was also a major force behind the recent Ghostbusters re-launch.
Pascal has an impressive upcoming slate of films, including: Aaron Sorkin’s feature directorial debut, Molly’s Game, a film adaptation of Molly Bloom’s underground poker memoir to debut in December 2017; an animated Spider-Man film to be released in 2018; The Girl in the Spider’s Web, which is the sequel to Stieg Larsson’s successful The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy; and the live-action adaptation of Barbie based on Mattel’s iconic fashion doll.
Pascal grew up in Los Angeles where she still currently resides with her husband and son.
KRISTIE MACOSKO KRIEGER (Producer) is an Academy Award®, PGA Award and BAFTA nominated producer whose working relationship with director Steven Spielberg spans over 20 years. She is currently in post-production on the upcoming Spielberg directed film Ready Player One, based on the best-selling book by Ernest Cline. Most recently, Krieger served as executive producer of The BFG and produced the Academy Award® nominated film Bridge of Spies. Additional producing credits include Lincoln, War Horse, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Krieger began her career with the USC Shoah Foundation, where she served as head of worldwide publicity. She joined the staff of DreamWorks Studios in 1997. She currently serves as part of the senior leadership team at Amblin Partners where she is involved with all aspects of Spielberg’s productions and helps guide the strategic direction of the company. Krieger, a graduate of UC Davis, resides in Los Angeles with her husband and son.
TIM WHITE (Executive Producer) is a founder and managing partner of Star Thrower Entertainment. Most recently, Tim executive produced Steven Spielberg’s The Post starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. Tim produced Matt Spicer’s Sundance award-winning Ingrid Goes West starring Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen and executive produced Taylor Sheridan's Cannes award winner Wind River with Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, both of which were released theatrically in August of 2017.
Additionally, Tim produced Rob Reiner’s LBJ starring Woody Harrelson, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Richard Jenkins, which was released in November of 2017. Tim is currently producing George Ratliff’s Welcome Home with Aaron Paul and Emily Ratajkowski along with his brother and partner, Trevor White's film, A Crooked Somebody, with Ed Harris, Rich Sommer, Amy Madigan, Joanne Froggatt and Clifton Collins, Jr. Both films are set to be released in early 2018. Tim is a graduate of Williams College.
TREVOR WHITE (Executive Producer) is a founder and managing partner of Star Thrower Entertainment. Most recently, Trevor executive produced Steven Spielberg’s The Post starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. Trevor produced Rob Reiner’s LBJ starring Woody Harrelson, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Richard Jenkins, which released in November 2017, as well as Matt Spicer’s Sundance award-winning Ingrid Goes West starring Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen. He also executive produced Taylor Sheridan’s Cannes award winner Wind River with Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen.
Trevor recently directed his second feature film (his first was Jamesy Boy) titled A Crooked Somebody, starring Rich Sommer, Clifton Collins Jr., Ed Harris, Joanne Froggatt and Amy Madigan, due out in April 2018. He is also currently producing George Ratliff’s Welcome Home with Aaron Paul and Emily Ratajkowski, due out in early 2018. He has many other film and television projects in various stages of development and production, including a television series at Amazon. He is a graduate of Cornell University.
ADAM SOMNER (Executive Producer) co-produced Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, Bridge of Spies and The BFG. He served as Executive Producer on Spielberg’s soon to be released Ready Player One and on recent Paul Thomas Andersons’ films Inherent Vice and The Master. He just completed work on Anderson’s most recent film shot in London with Daniel Day-Lewis.
Somner was Associate Producer on Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tin Tin, and co-producer of War Horse. He also co-produced Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street and Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings. Other recent credits include Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father.
Among many credits as First Assistant Director are Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, There Will Be Blood, Kingdom of Heaven, Munich, War of the Worlds, Seabiscuit, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and many other films.
TOM KARNOWSKI (Executive Producer) was working in early 2017 on preparations for The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara to be helmed by Steven Spielberg in Italy. At the moment it was decided to postpone that production, Mr. Spielberg instead immediately moved forward with The Post and Tom went to New York to prep it, where it started shooting a quick nine weeks later. Before that, Karnowski had recently wrapped Star Wars: The Last Jedi for Lucasfilm in London, directed by Rian Johnson, and prior to that, served as Executive Producer/UPM on The Light Between Oceans in New Zealand for DreamWorks, directed by Derek Cianfrance. Other credits are the crime thriller A Good Day to Die Hard, starring Bruce Willis for 20th Century Fox which shot in Budapest and Moscow, and The Man With The Iron Fists, which shot in China and was directed by RZA. Karnowski also served as Executive Producer on supernatural thriller Season of the Witch, starring Nicholas Cage, the vigilante action film Max Payne, starring Mark Wahlberg, and the prehistoric epic 10,000 BC, directed by Roland Emmerich. Karnowski has also served as Co-Producer on the post-modern caper film The Brothers Bloom, starring Rachel Weisz, Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody, directed by Rian Johnson and the acclaimed thriller The Illusionist, starring Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti, directed by Neil Berger.
Karnowski’s earlier feature film career encompassed an extensive range of credits as Producer, First Assistant Director, Associate Producer and Production Manager. In 1982, he received a Saturn Award nomination for best writing from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films for his first feature film credit, The Sword and the Sorcerer, which he co-wrote and co-produced.
JANUSZ KAMINSKI (Director of Photography) has created some of the most lasting and memorable images in cinema history.
A native of Poland, Kaminski has enjoyed a long and illustrious collaboration with Steven Spielberg, first with the 1993 made-for-television film Class of ’61, on which Spielberg was executive producer. Together they went on to combine their talents on Schindler’s List (for which Kaminski won his first Academy Award® for Best Cinematography), The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Amistad (Oscar® nomination), Saving Private Ryan (for which he received his second Academy Award), A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, Catch Me if You Can, The Terminal, War of the Worlds, Munich, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, War Horse, Bridge of Spies, The BFG and the upcoming Ready Player One.
Among Kaminski’s other credits as cinematographer are How Do You Know, Funny People, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Oscar® nomination), Jumbo Girl, Jerry Maguire, Tall Tale, How to Make an American Quilt, Little Giants, The Adventures of Huck Finn, Killer Instinct, and The Judge among many others.
Kaminski’s directing credits include Lost Souls and Hania (on which he also served as cinematographer). He is also directing and working as cinematographer on American Dream.
RICK CARTER (Production Designer) in 2013 won an Academy Award® for his design of Steven Spielberg's Lincoln. In 2010, he won the Oscar for his otherworldly production design on James Cameron’s top-grossing mega-hit Avatar. Carter received his first Oscar® nomination for his work on Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump and for Steven Spielberg’s historic epic War Horse.
Carter has also collaborated with Spielberg on such diversely set films as Munich, War of the Worlds, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Amistad, and the blockbusters Jurassic Park and its sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
He has also been Zemeckis’ production designer of choice on the films The Polar Express, Cast Away, What Lies Beneath, Death Becomes Her and Back to the Future, Parts II and III.
Carter most recently designed Star Wars – Episode VII” with JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg’s BFG.”
MICHAEL KAHN, A.C.E. (Editor) is one of the most acclaimed film editors of all time. He won Academy Awards® for editing Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, all of which were directed by Steven Spielberg. With seven Oscar® nominations, he is the most honored editor in motion picture history. Additionally, he has won 2 BAFTAs and has been nominated for 4 others. Kahn recently edited Spielberg’s combination live-action animated feature The Adventures of Tintin and Academy Award® nominated Spielberg films War Horse and Lincoln.
During his more than four decades of illustrious work, Kahn has distinguished himself as the editor of many now-classic films, including Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Color Purple, Empire of the Sun, Always, Ice Castles, Raiders of the Lost Arc, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Bridge of Spies, The BFG and Ready Player One.
In addition Kahn edited Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Munich, The Terminal, War of the Worlds, Catch Me if You Can, Alive, Arachnophobia, Fatal Attraction, The Goonies, Poltergeist, 1941, The Eyes of Laura Mars and The Return of a Man Called Horse.
SARAH BROSHAR (Editor) was delighted to co-edit The Post with her mentor Michael Kahn. She started operating the Avid with Michael on The Adventures of Tintin and continued to hone her craft as First Assistant Editor on War Horse and Lincoln while also editing independent feature films. Sarah served as Additional Editor on Bridge of Spies and The BFG. She is currently in post-production on Ready Player One. Sarah is a graduate of the American Film Institute and Northwestern University.
In a career spanning more than five decades, JOHN WILLIAMS (Composer) has become one of America’s most accomplished and successful composers for film and for the concert stage. He has served as music director and laureate conductor of one of the country’s treasured musical institutions, the Boston Pops Orchestra, and he maintains thriving artistic relationships with many of the world’s great orchestras, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Mr. Williams has received a variety of prestigious awards, including the National Medal of Arts, the Kennedy Center Honors, the Olympic Order, and numerous Academy Awards, Grammy Awards, Emmy Awards and Golden Globe Awards. He remains one of our nation’s most distinguished and contributive musical voices.
Mr. Williams has composed the music and served as music director for more than one hundred films. His 45-year artistic partnership with director Steven Spielberg has resulted in many of Hollywood’s most acclaimed and successful films, including Schindler’s List, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the Indiana Jones films, Saving Private Ryan, Amistad, Munich, Hook, Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Empire of the Sun, The Adventures of TinTin and War Horse. Their latest collaboration, The BFG, was released in Summer of 2016. Mr. Williams composed the scores for all eight Star Wars films, the first three Harry Potter films, Superman, JFK, Born on the Fourth of July, Memoirs of a Geisha, Far and Away, The Accidental Tourist, Home Alone, Nixon, The Patriot, Angela’s Ashes, Seven Years in Tibet, The Witches of Eastwick, Rosewood, Sleepers, Sabrina, Presumed Innocent, The Cowboys, The Reivers and Goodbye, Mr. Chips among many others. He has worked with many legendary directors, including Alfred Hitchcock, William Wyler and Robert Altman. In 1971, he adapted the score for the film version of Fiddler on the Roof, for which he composed original violin cadenzas for renowned virtuoso Isaac Stern. He has appeared on recordings as pianist and conductor with Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Jessye Norman, and others. Mr. Williams has received five Academy Awards and fifty Oscar nominations, making him the Academy’s most-nominated living person and the second-most nominated person in the history of the Oscars. His most recent nomination was for the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He also has received seven British Academy Awards (BAFTA), twenty-three Grammys, four Golden Globes, five Emmys, and numerous gold and platinum records.
Born and raised in New York, Mr. Williams moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1948, where he studied composition with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. After service in the Air Force, he returned to New York to attend the Juilliard School, where he studied piano with Madame Rosina Lhevinne. While in New York, he also worked as a jazz pianist in nightclubs. He returned to Los Angeles and began his career in the film industry, working with a number of accomplished composers including Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, and Franz Waxman. He went on to write music for more than 200 television films for the groundbreaking, early anthology series Alcoa Theatre, Kraft Television Theatre, Chrysler Theatre and Playhouse 90. His more recent contributions to television music include the well-known theme for NBC Nightly News (“The Mission”), the theme for what has become network television’s longest-running series, NBC’s Meet the Press, and a new theme for the prestigious PBS arts showcase Great Performances.
In addition to his activity in film and television, Mr. Williams has composed numerous works for the concert stage, among them two symphonies, and concertos for flute, violin, clarinet, viola, oboe and tuba. His cello concerto was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and premiered by Yo-Yo Ma at Tanglewood in 1994. Mr. Williams also has filled commissions by several of the world’s leading orchestras, including a bassoon concerto for the New York Philharmonic entitled “The Five Sacred Trees,” a trumpet concerto for the Cleveland Orchestra, and a horn concerto for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. “Seven for Luck”, a seven-piece song cycle for soprano and orchestra based on the texts of former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove, was premiered by the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood in 1998. At the opening concert of their 2009/2010 season, James Levine led the Boston Symphony in the premiere Mr. Williams’ “On Willows and Birches,” a new concerto for harp and orchestra.
In January 1980, Mr. Williams was named nineteenth music director of the Boston Pops Orchestra, succeeding the legendary Arthur Fiedler. He currently holds the title of Boston Pops Laureate Conductor which he assumed following his retirement in December, 1993, after fourteen highly successful seasons. He also holds the title of Artist-in-Residence at Tanglewood.
One of America’s best known and most distinctive artistic voices, Mr. Williams has composed music for many important cultural and commemorative events. “Liberty Fanfare” was composed for the rededication of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. “American Journey,” written to celebrate the new millennium and to accompany the retrospective film The Unfinished Journey by director Steven Spielberg, was premiered at the “America’s Millennium” concert in Washington, D.C. on New Year’s Eve, 1999. His orchestral work “Soundings” was performed at the celebratory opening of Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. In the world of sport, he has contributed musical themes for the 1984, 1988, and 1996 Summer Olympic Games, the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and the 1987 International Summer Games of the Special Olympics. In 2006, Mr. Williams composed the theme for NBC’s presentation of NFL Football.
Mr. Williams holds honorary degrees from twenty-two American universities, including Harvard University, The Juilliard School, Boston College, Northeastern University, Tufts University, Boston University, the New England Conservatory of Music, the University of Massachusetts at Boston, The Eastman School of Music, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and the University of Southern California. He is a recipient of the 2009 National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the United States Government. In 2016, Mr. Williams received the 44th Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute – the first composer in history to receive this honor. In 2003, he received the Olympic Order, the IOC’s highest honor, for his contributions to the Olympic movement. He served as the Grand Marshal of the 2004 Rose Parade in Pasadena, and was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in December of 2004. Mr. Williams was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2009, and in January of that same year he composed and arranged “Air and Simple Gifts” especially for the first inaugural ceremony of President Barack Obama.
ANN ROTH (Costume Designer) is one of the most celebrated costume designers in films and theater. An Academy Award winner for The English Patient and BATFA recipient for The Day of the Locust, Roth has won Tony Awards for The Nance and Shuffle Along.
In 1964, Roth first designed the costumes for the Peter Sellers film, The World of Henry Orient, the beginning of her six decade-long career. Among Roth’s many notable credits are Midnight Cowboy, Klute, Mandingo, Murder By Death, Marathon Man, Hair, The Goodbye Girl, Coming Home, Rollover, The World According to Garp, Silkwood, Places in the Heart, Sweet Dreams, The Morning After, Heartburn, Biloxi Blues, Working Girl, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Postcards from the Edge and The Talented Mr. Ripley.
More recently she designed the clothes for The Hours, Cold Mountain, The Stepford Wives, The Good Shepherd, Julie & Julia, Angels in America, , Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Ricki and The Flash, The Girl on the Train and The Only Living Boy in New York.
Theater credits for Roth are also long and distinguished and include Play It Again, Sam, Tiny Alice, The Royal Family, First Monday In October, HurlyBurly, The House of Blue Leaves, The Odd Couple, The Year of Magical Thinking, Death of A Salesman, The Nance, The Book of Mormon, I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers, It’s Only A Play, A Delicate Balance, Fish in the Dark, The Front Page and many others.
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